Whole Grain Loaves without Vital Wheat Gluten, and Highlights from the Mill City Bread Festival

whole grain homemade bread

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When we wrote Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day in 2009, we made a strategic choice. We knew that most of our readers liked their bread light and fluffy, and our refrigerator storage technique could be unforgiving when you used a lot of whole grains. For some of our tasters, whole-grain bread made from wet dough stored in the fridge could be a little too dense for their taste. So we lightened things up a bit, by boosting the gluten in our whole grain doughs that appear in that book, using vital wheat gluten (VWG). Well, I’ve been experimenting on whole-grain doughs stored without VWG, and I’ve been pleased with the results. Here’s a simple alternative recipe for whole grain loaves without the added gluten. Plus, highlights from our appearance at the Mill City Bread Festival. Here’s what I made at the Mill City Bread Festival this past Saturday, about a 50% whole grain dough–as you can see, you need a little extra water when you swap in whole grains:

3 cups plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water, about 100ºF (25 oz./710g)

1 package (2¼ teaspoons) granulated yeast (instant or active dry)

1½ tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt (can decrease to 1 tablespoon to taste)

3½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour, measured by the “scoop-and-sweep” method (17 oz./490g)

3 cups Whole Wheat Flour, measured by the “scoop-and-sweep” method (13½ oz./385g)

Flour, cornmeal, or parchment paper

1.  Mixing and storing the dough:  In a 5-quart container or bowl, mix yeast, water, and salt. Add the flours, then use a wooden spoon, stand mixer, or high-capacity food processor to mix until uniformly moist. This will produce a loose dough.

2. Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours.

3. The dough can be shaped and baked the day it’s mixed, or refrigerated in a lidded container (not completely airtight) or a bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap for up to 10 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.

4. On baking day, sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour. Cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece. Cover the remaining dough and refrigerate for up to 10 days—flavor will develop during storage.

5. Shape and bake as directed in our Master Recipe post.

That recipe is about 50% whole-grain, but you can even experiment with a 100% whole grain swap in our white flour recipes. I’ve found that most of our 4-pound dough recipes made with white flour can be changed to whole wheat, but you need to increase the liquid by 1/4 cup. When I go 100% whole-grain, I often swap a couple of tablespoons of oil or melted butter for the same amount of water, and add a tablespoon of sugar or other sweetener–both of those act as tenderizers. For 100% whole-grain dough, limit the refrigerator-storage to 5 days. 

It actually is just that simple. The dough doesn’t hold it’s shape quite as well as when you use vital wheat gluten, but it’s not bad at all. Here’s the slashing step on a free-form loaf bread, painted with water and sprinkled with seeds:

whole wheat, homemade

…and it baked up beautifully:

gorgeous whole grains

I’ve even found that you can braid with this kind of dough, so see what you think about converting our challah dough from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, using this same simple switch:

whole grain challah

So if you’re not wild about adding gluten to our whole grain dough, try this alternative, and check back here if you have any question about your results.

Highlights from last Saturday’s Mill City Farmers Market Bread Festival (photos courtesy of Mill City Times):

Jeff measuring the water

Jeff at 2014 BreadFest

Jeff tossing pizza

Pizza with arugula

Awesome sausage from Red Table Meat, which has a booth at the market:

Crazy shape pizzas

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74 thoughts on “Whole Grain Loaves without Vital Wheat Gluten, and Highlights from the Mill City Bread Festival

  1. Hi Jeff and Zoe this is absolutely beautiful bread I’m mixing a batch for parents now my mom never enjoyed baking but is a fantastic cook I’ve been trying to convince them they could make pizza and bread with your books so ,I had them for lunch to show them how easy they in their 70s could have fresh bread ,pizza etc. They were so excited and loved everything lol now they are enjoying all your wonderful recipes thank you so much its been so fun to share with them I’m soooooo excited for your new gf book can’t wait you guys have truely changed so many people of all ages and allergies lives god bless you and your family’s christine

  2. Hi Jeff would there be a chance someday of you guys coming to San Francisco, Sacramento area on a book tour? If so do you now dates and where thanks

    1. In the past, we had no trouble getting TV slots in the Bay area, with appearances on KPIX-5 in 2008, then KGO-7 in 2009 and 2011. Unfortunately, the closest we came for our most recent book tour was coverage, but no appearance, on KPIX again, in 2013 (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2013/11/02/narsai-david-food-wine-report-new-books-on-bread-wine/). The publisher will cover tour travel expenses if we have television or other high-traffic exposure, but given that there are fewer cooking segments on local TV than ever before, it’s not looking great. Check our Events page for upcoming appearances (we’ve never been to Sacramento), at http://artisanbreadinfive.com/events.

      Hey, do you know anyone in the media biz? 🙂

      1. Hi Jeff we in Sacramento would love to have you guys so I’m gonna work on that media biz pray I come up with someone to help I’ll keep in touch Christine

      2. My plan is to get expensives covered gf is huge in Sacramento and San Francisco and perfect time would be your gf book most of population is gf or going gf in areas I believe with out a dought you guys would do incredible sales here you guys have been such a huge help to every person who has messaged you and your kindness and support towards everyone has proven your characters and you deserve all the help we can give to expose you

      3. Wow, thanks Christine. The largest crowd we ever drew was probably 250 or so at a presentation we did for the Mother Earth News Festival in Pennsylvania. The largest TV audience we probably ever reach is on WGN-TV in Chicago, with is syndicated to many, many cities. Similar to our appearance on Daytime (based in Tampa FL), which is syndicated to 100 cities. We’ve done lots of cooking school appearances for 20 or 30, but the publisher would never fund travel monies for that…

      4. You are so welcome let’s hope I can pull it off do you know with out posting info your sales in northern Calif and about number people bought books because of gf interest

  3. Thanks for this whole grain variation! I’m gonna try it over the weekend. I make your master white bread all the time with my cast-iron loaf pan, a great all-around bread!! We love your pizza dough and half-whole-wheat flatbread recipes, too. In fact my family is considering having this be the Fall season of Flatbread. Keep up the great work.

  4. I recently bought the New Artisan book and I am trying to get everyone I know to bake their own bread – it’s not your mother’s bread – as well as improve my own results. I’ve made pizza, cinnamon rolls, 50% whole wheat, nutty 10% whole wheat and white bread (with some flax meal for fiber). Recently, I have been trying to improve the looks with big slash marks and dark crust. But, I am making much more bread than my family can consume (lots of experiments). But, I imagine you are making much more than I. What do you do with all your surplus bread?

    1. Bread crumbs in the food processor, bread pudding, stuffing. Enter “bread pudding” into our Search Bar, then do “stuffing.”

    2. Hi Dan,
      I’m going to jump in and say that ABin5 makes for great bread crumbs and for use in recipes (mmm, French toast). But before you get to that, have you tried freezing the extra loaves? I’ve had pretty good results.

      1. But Cindy – coming out of the freezer won’t be ‘fresh bread’ – just bread. When I can ‘hunger’ for fresh bread in the evening, mix it in the morning and bake it the next evening – I have fresh bread – and I have anticipated it for that day. Or, alternatively, if I pull the dough out of the refrigerator when I get home from work and let it rise while either fixing dinner or settling down from the day and then bake it – I am good. And, yes, I have been known to bake bread over my lunch hour.
        I imagine the freezer does work.
        What I have been doing is trying to identify families at church who would take the excess of my experiments. I have two goals – to offload fresh bread and to evangelize to people Jeff hasn’t reached yet.
        But, I thought that while I have some surplus (2-3 pounds of bread a week), I would guess that Jeff has several times that in excess supply – and I am sure they don’t all go into bread crumbs and bread pudding (Jeff is too thin).

      2. Thanks for the kind words, Dan!

        I actually don’t have much excess–I match my baking to our consumption. Now that my kids don’t take sandwiches to school, our demand’s much lower and I actually switched to storing half-batches, believe it or not! That takes care of the excess problem.

  5. OK that’s OK we were wondering we just believe the area doesn’t know about your books enough timing for all you offer is perfect people are finally fighting back about all the bad ingredients in our bread and refuseing to buy your method makes it so easy for any one of any situation and experience level there’s so many situations your books would be perfect weather people eat wheat or gluten free

  6. People are doing lots with your recipes and even making a business off it so I feel its time we all help get you guys more exposure you deserve it I’ll keep in touch we are working hard to make this happen christine

  7. This is a great recipe! Made it last night as my first “Bread In 5” attempt. It came out very good. The bottom crust was not as crispy as I’d like, even though I took the parchment out after 20 minutes as suggested. Cooked on a ceramic pizza stone. Ideas?

    I used bread flour for the white flour and am wondering why you use AP flour in your recipes? I ground my own hard white whole wheat just prior to making.

    Thanks so much for a super recipe!

    1. Lower the position of the stone in the oven? That will increase browning of the bottom crust (though it’ll decrease it on the top crust).

      We used AP simply because most people already had it in the house, and we wanted this to be easy. Bread flour’s a good white-flour choice too, usually you have to compensate for the protein with extra water (though probably not in this recipe, since it has less white flour than our basic recipe). See our FAQs tab above and click on “Flour varieties: Do I need to adjust the liquids when I use different kinds of white flour?”

      1. I cannot lower the baking stone any more or else there will be no room for the pan with water. I wonder if perhaps my stone is not a good one? Have had it for many years and never had any luck getting it to brown pizza either. Next batch of your bread I bake I am going to try my cast iron griddle to see how that works.

        I did see your information on the need to use more water with high protein flours. Lots of good information in the FAQs as well as your site. I just received the Healthy Bread book and the New Artisan bread book and will enjoy reading, learning and experimenting.

        I noticed the FAQs had a reference also to grinding one’s own flour. For many years I ground my white whole wheat in a dedicated coffee grinder (the type that has a canister attached). That works fine if not using 100% whole wheat, but in my opinion it doesn’t grind finely enough for 100% whole grain. I do have a large heavy noisy mill, but rarely use it for obvious reasons. A few months ago, I purchased a lovely KoMo grain mill. It is of a size that I can keep it on my countertop and it is very nice looking, being made of beechwood. The important thing is it grinds as finely as you care to make it, it’s relatively quietly, and the grain does not get really hot as with the other. Freshly ground wheat is the best, both from a taste and a nutritional standpoint, if one is able to go that far.

        Have you ever worked with Einkorn wheat? It is a non hybridized wheat that is apparently tolerated by some with gluten intolerances. I don’t have a gluten intolerance, but I just love the taste of this wheat. However, am finding it difficult to work with since it absorbs water so differently (it is much lower in gluten than most wheat). Just curious whether you have any experience.

        Thanks for your comments, your books and your website. It’s great that you and Zoe are so dedicated to sharing information. Your techniques make bread baking easily doable for the average person.

      2. Thanks… no, we haven’t tried Einkorn, but sounds like it’s worth experimenting with. If you haven’t checked your oven temp with something like http://ow.ly/8CVPU, you should do that. Wait till it’s up to full preheat.

      3. Made second loaf yesterday but this time used my cast iron griddle–perfect loaf and the bottom was nicely browned! Was amazed at how nicely the dough rose after going in the oven.

        Enjoying your updated book. So much good information. Thanks.

    2. Norma, did you realize it takes a whole lot longer to preheat your stone than it does to preheat your oven, and that your oven will say it’s preheated even though the stone is still far from it? I didn’t see the America’s Test Kitchen test myself, but I read that they recommend an hour. I actually don’t know if that’s an hour after the oven dings that it’s up to temperature or if it’s an hour after the ding.

  8. Hi Jeff,
    I want to try the 100% Whole Wheat sandwich Bread. I love my breads with seeds (sunflower and flax). Can I throw in a handful or will that ruin the dough? Thanks!

  9. I’d been looking for a recipe with sprouted wheat flour and couldn’t find one. So….I took a leap and used your light whole wheat bread recipe but I used 9 oz of sprouted wheat flour and 1/2 oz each of wheat germ and ground flax meal and 22 pz white flour with a little honey. Oh my goodness! What a yummy, slightly nutty, small crumb bread. Not too dense. Even my white bread husband likes it!!

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      Thank you so much for the note, so many of our readers have asked about using sprouted wheat flour. I have not yet tried it, so this is very helpful!

      Cheers, Zoë

  10. I suppose this shows I worry too much, or maybe that I don’t know how to use a calculator, but in ounces, your all-purpose flour in this recipe weighs more per cup than your whole wheat (as it’s supposed to,from what I’ve read) while in grams it’s your whole wheat flour that weighs more per cup (which is wrong, by what I’ve read).

    1. Hi Oliver,

      I just double checked Jeff’s numbers for this recipe and I got the same that is listed here.

      all-purpose flour = 5oz/140g per cup x 3 1/2 cups = 17.5oz/490g (Jeff rounded slightly, but not enough to effect the recipe at all)

      whole wheat flour = 4.5oz/128g per cup x 3 cups = 13.5oz/385g

      Hope that helps, Zoë

  11. I think this is absolutely wonderful.. have you ever tried using it without all purpose flour.. doesn’t it contain gluten?
    thanks

    1. Both all-purpose and whole wheat flour contain gluten; but yes, we have 100% whole wheat recipes in our books.

  12. Hi Zoe and Jeff

    I started baking bread using your techniques 3 months ago and I love it. I’m using the master recipe and the rye bread recipe from the healthy book. (Both modified, I replaced the GPF with oat flour)

    Have you ever experimented with protein powder to replace some of the flour (and possible the VWG as well).

    Would be interesting to get some feedback. I’ll experiment in any case. Thats part of the fun.

    Walter

    1. Hi Walter,

      I haven’t tried it, but it’s such an interesting idea. Please let me know how it goes and what kind of protein powder you use.

      Thanks, Zoë

  13. Hi Jeff,

    I’m wondering about making the 100% whole grain recipes in Healthy Bread without VWG since you say you’ve had luck baking with 100% whole grains and no VWG. Can the VWG simply be omitted or should WW flour be substituted and/or liquid added to recipe?

    Also, just want to confirm what you wrote above: if I wanted to try the buttermilk bread (pg 327 in ABin5) with 100% whole wheat flour, you would just suggest adding 1/4 c. extra water or buttermilk, using oil or butter in lieu of some of the water, and possibly adding some sugar or honey? No additional adjustments, to start at least?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Clare,

      You could also use the 100% whole grain bread from HBin5 and just use a portion of buttermilk or the liquid that is required.

      If you omit the VWG you will have to increase the flour and potentially adjust the water content to create an elastic dough that will keep its shape.

      Thanks, Zoë

  14. I would like to make the Milk and Honey Raisin Bread (p. 270 in HBin5) without vital wheat gluten. Do I simply replace the vital wheat gluten with an equal amount of unbleached AP flour? Do I need to make any other adjustments?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Lexi,

      Yes, you can make the dough by just adding more flour. It may require a bit more than an additional 1/4 cup of AP flour. It may not store in the refrigerator for quite as long.

      Thanks, Zoë

  15. Dear Zoe,

    As I was reading this recipe of yours my brother dropped me a message saying that I will get the new book in both Chinese and English version! I told him I want signatures! 🙂 I am so excited my heart is still pounding fast as we speak! Thank you thank you and thank you! Although I may not receive them before Xmas, but if they arrive by February it will be my best birthday gift ever!

    Looking forward to more of your inventions, you and Jeff are nothing but geniuses!

  16. Hi,Jeff
    i made the 5-minutes pizza before and it is very nice. Thank you for your sharing.In this Whole Wheat Flour recipe ,if i want it becomes sweet, how many honey or sugar should i put?

    Many thanks,

    sisi

      1. Ah, I see it now.

        You could try 2 tablespoons honey or sugar per batch for a tenderizing effect, and 1/4 cup for a sweetening effect. We have much more specific advice in our books (click on the book-images above to see them on Amazon).

        Other option- click on our “FAQs” page above for other information.

  17. So, if I wanted to make the master recipe with 100% whole wheat without vital gluten, all I need is an extra 1/4 cup of water. Thanks!

    However, what about all the other recipes? I know you said make adjustments, but is there a general rule you would have for converting all your recipes without using vital gluten? I know we have to experiment but what would be the general alternations? Like, what extra of what would need to be added per cup of white flour or if we are doing all wheat flour? I guess I am just trying to understand. Thanks!

    1. Hi Amy,

      The bread may be a touch denser and not store as long. How much you reduce the water is dependent on the type of flour in the recipe and what other ingredients you have. Start by reducing by a 1/2 cup and add as needed until you get a dough you like. We always suggest making 1/2 batches until you find a dough you like.

      Cheers, Zoë

  18. Thanks Zoe for the quick reply.
    Jeff, I read this post on eliminating the VWG, but I’m not getting what the difference is, aside from being a slightly smaller batch of dough.
    Are you changing the ratio to make a wetter dough?
    Can you just briefly explain what the difference is here from the master recipe? After reading it through a few times, I’m not quite grasping the difference. I am trying to at least lessen the amount of VWG. Thanks

    1. Hi Deb,

      If you are using less VWG, you will need less water. VWG is made from protein, so it absorbs quite a bit of water. If you are eliminating it, you’re dough will be too wet unless you reduce the water. The amount will depend on the recipe you are using and how little VWG. If you cut the VWG by half, you can try adding 1/3 cup less water to the dough. If that seems too dry, add more a tablespoon at a time.

      Thanks, Zoë

  19. I wanted to add sourdough starter to this recipe so I tried to infer the ingredients from two of your posts as follows:

    Note: All flours are organic
    2½ cups lukewarm water
    1½ cup all purpose sourdough starter
    1 teaspoon granulated yeast
    1½ tablespoons kosher salt
    2¾ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
    3 cups Whole Wheat Flour

    It came out pretty well, but not very sour and kind of dense. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have. I would also like to increase the whole wheat so I plan to change the starter to whole wheat starter (to start). Any suggestions?

    Finally, do I need the yeast at all or can I simply let it rise longer before refrigerating?

    1. We haven’t released our sourdough starter recipes and formulas to work with them, working on that, not sure when it’ll be out. But this looks like it should have worked. If dense, increase the water a bit and see what happens. Also as you say, can increase the starter.

      1. I reused left-overs ( over 1 cup left), added whole wheat starter (1 cup) and some yeast (1 1/2 tsps) and just 3 cups of whole wheat an 1 1/2 cup water and 1 tbs salt. Best yet. Dark and good crumb. Obviously hard to recreate, but whole wheat starter was a success.

      2. Hi Ronald,

        Thanks for the update, so glad it worked out. We’re testing starters right now and will publish what we come up with as soon as possible.

        Thanks, Zoë

  20. Hi!
    Hi!

    I’ve been baking your bread without vital wheat gluten with 100% of our local Indian flour (atta) and my family absolutely loves it. I just add a little oil and sugar as you suggested. I just have two questions.
    1 – no matter how much or how little water I put, the dough doesn’t have that stretchiness as in your videos. It stretches a little bit but breaks off. Is this just because of the kind of flour? How would this impact the end result?
    2 – the bread has very little rise in the oven. After the refrigerator I leave it for about 60 minutes when it spreads out like you describe but in the oven – really very little rise. Do I need to add more yeast? I’m using 1 tablespoon of dry active yeast. Or is it because my dough is a little extra wet?

    Please help. I love baking your bread and would be so happy if I could get it to a nice rounded dome.

    PS:- Atta info from Wikipedia – Most atta is milled from hard wheat varieties, also known as durum wheat, that comprise 90% of the Indian wheat crop, and is more precisely called durum atta.

    Hard wheats have a high gluten content, which provides elasticity, so doughs made out of atta flour are strong and can be rolled out very thin.

    Thanks in advance

    1. Not having used the atta flour, I can only guess that its grind is different than the U.S. flours we tested with. Try one without the vital wheat gluten–maybe there’s too much protein???

      In general, Indian flours are said to be better for flatbreads then for high domed loaves–that may be the problem.

  21. Hi,
    This bread looks so appetizing!!
    I tried it but I decreased the amounts to 1/4 of the quantity you suggested, for a single loaf.
    The dough did rise well after 2 hours, but as soon as I opened the lid it sank. I kept it in the fridge overnight and the next day it seemed to have risen again…but the same thing happened when I gently tried to get it out to shape and bake.
    What could be the reason?

    1. Hi RS,

      That is totally normal for the dough to collapse in the container and when you take some out. Just form the dough into the loaf, let it rest and bake it. The rise will mostly come from the oven spring while it is baking.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Thanks. It turned out great!!
        Also, I gave it 2 hours after taking out of the refrigerator and it got a good rise. What would you expect if you let it rise for longer (the second rise)? Would a longer second rise alter the flavor?

      2. Hi. If you had good result after 2 hours, I would stick with that. Letting it rise too much can result in over proofing and the bread will have no more rise in the oven and actually end up dense.

        Thanks, Zoë

  22. Will do! Thank you again.

    And my last question- Can I use the same dough to make soft dinner rolls? With a soft crust? If so, what would the modifications be?

    1. Hi RS,

      I would go with the challah or Brioche recipe for the softer buns. They have a lighter crumb and softer crust.

      Enjoy, Zoë

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