The Fresh Loaf

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Whole Wheat Mash Bread

bwraith's picture

Whole Wheat Mash Bread

Whole Wheat Mash Bread Crust and Crumb

Whole Wheat Mash Bread Just Baked

The Whole Wheat Mash Bread, as described in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, had a wonderful aroma as it baked. Based on the photos in the book, it came out about as it was intended. The bread was dense and slightly sweet, just as described, and the crumb texture was creamier with the mash.

I included some photos of the bread and a spreadsheet in html and xls formats that breaks out some of the details.

A preferment and a mash are mixed with some additional flour and other ingredients to form the final dough. Instant yeast is used in the final dough to speed up the rise. The idea is that the flavor is already in the preferment and the mash, so the final dough just needs to be raised, which can be done effectively and expediently with instant yeast.

I used a 50/50 mix of Wheat Montana Bronze Chief and Wheat Montana Prairie Gold. The Bronze Chief is a high protein hard red spring wheat. The prairie gold is a high protein hard white spring wheat. I may have needed more water, given my flour choice. Maybe the crumb would have been a little less dense and more tender if hydrated more, which might have suited my bread tastes a little better. However, the results look much like in the photo in Whole Grain Breads and dense was a word used in the description of the crumb in the book.


  • 60 grams (2 oz) Wheat Montana Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 60 grams (2 oz) Wheat Montana Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 1/2 tsp diastatic malt powder
  • 300 grams water

The idea is to raise the temperature to something slightly below 170F for 3 hours. I heated the water in a metal sauce pan and preheated my oven to 165F, which meant putting it at the lowest setting. The water in the sauce pan got to about 180F fairly quickly. It was taken off the burner and allowed to cool down to 165F, which only took about a minute with a bit of stirring. I then dropped in the flour and stirred it, using a wet spatula to clean the sides of the pan. The lid was placed on the pan (be careful the pan and lid is OK to put in oven, although the temperatures are fairly low) and the pan placed in the oven for 3 hours, then removed and allowed to cool for the rest of the evening. The change in flavor of the mash from when it was first mixed until put in the refrigerator was dramatic. It was much sweeter and also quite a bit darker in color. It seemed much like gravy, and I was lucky it wasn't thrown out, as my wife thought it was just some gravy that had been left out sitting in a pan. Fortunately, she decided there was enough gravy there to warrant placing it in a plastic container and putting it in the refrigerator.


  • 30g (1oz) 90% hydration white flour starter (use any starter, white, whole wheat, rye, etc.)
  • 110g (4 oz) Wheat MT Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 110g (4 oz) Wheat MT Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 150g (5 oz) water

Mix all ingredients and knead into a dough for a few minutes. Place in container large enough for at least a triple in volume. Allow to rise by double or a little more, which should take about 5-8 hours at 76F or maybe 7-10 hours at 70F. You can let it ripen more if you want stronger flavors, but the inoculation is high in this case, about 40% fermented flour in the final dough, so you may find that letting it ripen too much affects the texture adversely or makes it more sour than you'd like. I found the bread to be mild flavored, and my levain was allowed to rise to about 2.5x the original volume over about 6 hours.

Final Dough

  • 122g (4oz) Wheat MT Bronze Chief (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 122g (4oz) Wheat MT Prairie Gold (use any whole wheat bread flour)
  • 15g (0.5 oz, 1 tbsp) malt syrup (or honey, agave nectar, sugar, brown sugar, molasses, or don't use any sweeteners)
  • 15g (0.5 oz, 1tbsp) olive oil (or use another fat such as butter, or don't use any fat at all)
  • 9g salt (I thought this could have used a touch more salt than was specified)
  • 7g (.25 oz, 2.5 tsp) instant yeast
  • all of the levain
  • all of the mash

I have a new DLX mixer, which was used for the first time to mix the dough. It took a while to get all the ingredients to fully homogenize but was only using the roller attachment. I wonder if it would have worked better to use the dough hook. The dough seemed very stiff, and I ended up adding some water. The Wheat Montana flours are high in protein and so may need more water than the typical flour assumed in this recipe. Only about 1 ounce of water was added, as I didn't want to get too far from the recipe on the first try. However, in the future, I'll try adding more water to this recipe. It would be more difficult to work with, but I've generally preferred whole grain breads when the dough was at the higher end of the hydration spectrum.


The ingredients were mixed directly out of the refrigerator. After mixing, the dough was at about 70F. I let it rise for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to a little more than double, then shaped the loaf into a batard and placed on couche fabric dusted with a mix of rice flour and whole wheat flour. The shaped loaf rose another hour, was placed on a peel and slashed, and finally baked.


The loaf was baked for 20 minutes in a steamed brick oven preheated to about 450F, then turned off and sealed with towel covered wooden door. The oven door was opened after 20 minutes and the loaf baked in the open cooling oven, dropping from 425F to about 350F (air temperature) for another 30 minutes. The aroma as this bread baked was about as good as I've experienced. I don't know what accounts for the especially good aroma, but the one big difference is the mash.


The bread is a little dense and would be great with any sort of spread. I had put some honey and tahini on it this morning, which was delicious. The flavor is mild, but the sourdough and the mash give it a slightly sweet, slightly sour flavor that is different from other whole grain breads I've made so far. The crumb is creamy and dense at the same time. I would like to try this recipe again but with a little more water, maybe in a pan, and see what happens.


zolablue's picture

Great job and write up as usual, Bill.  Your bread is beautiful and indeed looks very much like the photo. 


I'm so interested to learn more about WW recipes but as you know I am not the biggest fan of some of the WW flours I've tried.  I wonder how the mash part makes this sweeter and what exactly the heat at that temperature does to impact that.  I know you generally prefer a mixture of white WW with the red so was that also the reason to try and mitigate some of that bitter flavor that red wheat can sometimes impart?


I think the Wheat Montana flour does need more water.  Remember when I thought I was making Thom Leonard Country French with 100% Golden Buffalo and the flour was just drinking up the water and then way later I realized I had used Prairie Gold?  That was kind of funny but also enlightening.


Why would you do it in a pan next time? 

bwraith's picture

Hi ZB,

The combination of white wheat and red wheat is my usual favorite combination. I've just found that I like some red wheat but not all red wheat in the breads I make that have a large quantity of whole wheat in them.

The pan would just be to make it easier to deal with a more hydrated loaf. The batard is pretty, but I picture having trouble with sticking couches and spreading, loaf without the pan, but I suppose you could make it more like a ciabatta also.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Your loaves are lovely and can be cut to a handy bread basket size.   You've got me thinking...  Reading through I was thinking more of pudding and wall paper paste than gravy, sorry.  Do you remember when all the cakes advertised "pudding in the mix?"  Something along those lines.

I can immagine mash results in a moister tastier loaf and the mash helps hold all the whole wheat together.  The same might be said of oat mash...   Or Cream of wheat/ samolina  or corn mash...   rice mash?  Does the mash in the dough give you the feeling it melts and reshapes during the bake or do you think it gives the baking loaf more support?

I have an old ceramic form with relief that might be interesting in an upside down kind of way.

Mini O

bwraith's picture

Hi MiniOven,

It was a little like pudding, but this had enough water to be closer to gravy. It was dark in color, almost exactly like gravy. I guess my wife didn't taste it, or she would've been shocked to discover it was quite sweet and not gravy at all.

The struan recipe in PR's WGB allows for the use of any type of mash. The multi-grain mash bread also mentions using a wide choice of other grains.

I guess the theory here is that certain enzymes in the wheat flour itself are not destroyed as long as the temperature is maintained below 165F, which allows the mash to sweeten as the enzymes break down the starch into sugars. Otherwise, enzymes would have to be added to the mash later, according to what I read.



JMonkey's picture

I *FINALLY* got my copy, and I'm itching to try something. As luck would have it, even before reading your post, I had tagged the mash bread as my No. 1 choice. I'm even more excited having read your blog entry. (No. 2 will be spent grain, since, luckily, I just met a guy in Corvallis who is an absolutely obsessive brewer -- so much so, that he's working to open a brew pub. I'm hoping for a beer for bread trade ... but I digress).

Alas, my convection oven will only go as low as 170, so I suppose I'll be doing the turn on, turn off every 10 minutes or so for the first hour. What a drag (though much less of a drag than what the early testers went through with their "burn your fingers, wear latex gloves" mash -- Peter really worked hard to perfect and simplify this one).

Did your oven go down low enough for the mash?

What a gorgeous and informative book this is! Peter, I've got to hand it to you, this was well worth the wait. The testing period GREATLY improved my baking. I can't wait to see what comes out of my oven with the book itself in hand.

On another note, Bill, I tried an interesting Poilane-style miche that a fellow on has been making for years. It turned out very, very well indeed. Once I find the cable that hooks up my Mac to my camera, I'll upload the recipe and the results.

bwraith's picture


I'm glad to hear you are also interested in exploring this ww mash bread. Maybe my understanding of whole grain breads is improving, given a more serious and seasoned WW baker picked out the same recipe. I was immediately curious about this one, found on a cursory inspection of the various recipes in WGB, but I'm sure there are lots of other good ones once I read the recipe section more thoroughly. I did read the earlier first part of the book up to the recipes, which helped a lot to understand what PR's thought process has been on these breads. I found his writing very informative and interesting both from a process and theory perspective and also from a cultural and historical perspective. The discussion of the cultural and historical background of his recipes has been enjoyable and thought provoking in all his books.

I would add a note of thanks to Peter Reinhart also. This is another great book. I've very much enjoyed the others, as well.

My oven does go low enough, fortunately. It was very simple and trouble-free. I just heated the water, let it cool to 165F, stirred in the flour, cleaned the sides, and placed it covered in the oven, also hovering at 165F or so, for three hours. The transformation was fascinating, as it was quite different after three hours - very sweet and dark with a nice aroma somewhat like oatmeal or cream of wheat.

I would think you could just heat the oven a little above 170F especially if you keep it there a while and thoroughly preheat the oven, then just turn it off and place the mash in there. Over the course of several hours, it should do about the same thing, even if it drops off from 170F down to 130F or so over the course of a couple of hours. I bet you could reheat after an hour, rather than every 10 minutes, if the oven drops too quickly, attending to it much less in the process.

I would love to hear about the miche you did. That is still my holy grail - the perfect miche.


kluttrell123's picture

I had the same issue! But, I figured out that my convection oven acutally does go lower if I use the "keep warm" temperature. That keeps it perfect for the whole 3 hours!

HogieWan's picture

As a homebrewer, I'd like to point out the the enzymes in barley malt are denatured when above 160F for an extended time. You may get much more sweetness if you stuck to 150-158 (common beer mash temps), and you'll probably need no more than an hour (could be done in 20 mins)

bwraith's picture


I'll have to give that a try. I could probably heat the oven to 165F and then just turn it off a little before putting in the mash to get those temperatures for the better part of an hour.

I think the discussion in PR's WGB says most enzymes denature above 170F and some below that. So, maybe it would work better to maintain in the mid 150s, just as you say. Interestingly, in a picture he has titled, "Controlling the temperature is critical when making mashes.", the temperature showing is around 155F.

The mash was very noticeably sweet even using 165F, for what it's worth, and clearly the texture and color had changed from a light brown paste to a dark brown gravy.


HogieWan's picture

every homebrew book I've read wil tell you the 160 is the limit. Of course, hitting 160 will not instantly denature the enzymes, but it will speed it up a lot. However, the lower the tempeture, the slower the conversion of starch to sugar

bwraith's picture


Thanks, I'll see what happens if I stay between 150-160F next time I try this. I should probably do one at 155 and one at 165 for the fun of it. It would be easier to compare side by side that way.


ericjs's picture

I know this discussion is quite old, but for others who come across it from a search, as I did:

Reinhart explains in his book, when he describes the temperature: "This allows alpha-amylase enzymes to function but denatures the beta-amylase which will help prevent gumminess."

possum-liz's picture

I'm a bit slow on this topic --I only joined a few weeks ago and I'm still exploring--So many comment,so many recipes, so many ideas!!

Has anyone tried keeping the temperature right for mashing by putting it in a wide mouthed (eg soup) thermos?

I'm looking forward to trying this one.