The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Whole wheat bread

bobku's picture

Whole wheat bread

I want to start baking some whole wheat breads. Can I pretty much take reciepes that I have now with white flour and substitute whole wheat flour and maybe add some vital wheat gluten? I realize texture will be different and most wheat bread recipies usually use some white flour but I'm interested in doing 100% whole wheat. Do you think this will work? Can I take my Kaiser rolls recipie and just substitute whole wheat?

Nim's picture


I usually make 100% whole wheat bread and I use Laurel's Bread Book recipes; I have also used white flour recipes from this site and just substituted whole wheat and the results have been good. In fact, I have never added wheat gluten either. I I must however say that my breads are almost exclusively "active dry yeast". I am just venturing into sourdough and will bake my first one in a couple of days. Will share how that turns out with whole wheat. I am using Peter Reinhart's recipe.



Soundman's picture

Hi bobku,

Short answer: yes you can make this substitution, but it helps to either soak the whole grain first, or use sourdough as a leavening agent.

Longer answer (but just a skim of the relevant issues): it would help to know if you are baking commercially yeasted breads or sourdough. The reason for the question is the issue of phytic acid in whole grains (which can prevent mineral absorption when the enzyme phytase isn't present). Soaking or sprouting whole grains, or leavening with a sourdough culture (which is acidic) helps release phytase from the grain that in turn breaks down the phytic acid (or phytate), enabling our bodies to make use of the minerals in the grain.

There are lots of posts on TFL about or concerning phytic acid, so search. Also, the following link is to a very informative article on the subject of whole grains from lots of interesting angles:



Nim's picture

Thanks, David

That is a great is a wonderful read.

Soundman's picture

Hi Nim,

Glad you found it helpful. When I first found out about phytic acid I got quite concerned that I was cheating my wife and me out of important nutrients. That article really clarified what had become a very muddy issue in my head. Now that I'm almost strictly a sourdough baker, I think I've resolved the issue. ;-)


charbono's picture


I would not recommend substituting more than about 25% whole wheat without making other changes to the recipe.


            a.  Assuming we're talking about hard wheat, you'll probably need at least 10% more water and more time for it to be absorbed.  A higher-protein spring wheat will generally be more absorbent than winter wheat.


            b.  Strengthen the gluten using some combination of the following techniques:


                        1.  Moderate acidification. Use a preferment, sourdough, buttermilk, or vinegar.


                        2.  Several, gentle stretch-and-fold's during fermentation.


                        3.  Mixing 50-75% of the flour and all of the water for several minutes.


                        4.  Long kneading, if one wants a fine crumb.


                        5.  Adding vital wheat gluten.  Unless extended kneading is also done, the VWG will merely add chewiness. 


                        6.  Using ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).


                        7.  Don't neglect the salt.   On a warm day, also put a little salt in your WW poolish.


            e.  WW ferments quickly, and the gluten degrades quickly -- resulting in what's called low fermentation tolerance.  Avoid long proofing.  Don't wait for the dough to double. 


            f.  The higher hydration mentioned above necessitates a longer cooking time at a lower oven temperature.  This will also let the yeast give more push.


I should also mention that WW flour freshness is critical.