Q&A Whole Grain Breads

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Q: When I make the 100% whole wheat bread it doesn’t seem to rise as well as the other doughs, am I doing something wrong?

A: The short answer is no! It is nothing you are doing wrong, it is just the nature of whole wheat flour. Because there is so much bran and natural oil in the flour it is impossible to get enough gluten development to achieve a really good rise on the bread.

To get a higher sandwich loaf, we tend to overfill the loaf pan and let it rise for longer. If you go about 3/4 full and allow the dough to rise for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on the size of the pan, you’ll get a taller loaf. The whole wheat loaves in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day will do well with this approach.

Another way to get more rise in the bread is to add “vital wheat gluten” (also known as “vital wheat gluten flour,” to the dough. If you whisk in 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of dry grain ingredient you will have a much higher, lighter loaf of bread. It also contains vitamin C which helps to improve the dough and make it more elastic.  But you’ll need to increase the water in the recipe to adjust for the extra protein; that’s the kind of recipe testing we did for The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

“Vital wheat gluten” products are available from Bob’s Red Mill and Hodgson Mill. Both products are often in the baking section of typical supermarkets.

Q: My whole wheat loaf doesn’t get a good crisp crust! What can I do?

A: The naturally occurring oils in the flour, plus the added oil in the recipe will prevent this bread from ever getting a really crackly crust. You can bake the bread with steam to help with the crust, but it will eventually get soft again. If you want a bread with a crisp crust you will want to look for recipes with mostly white flour and no added oils.

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472 thoughts on “Q&A Whole Grain Breads

  1. Thanks all. The problem I had with the plastic wrap was even though it was loosely covered, I still think the plastic wrap caused the dough to flatten on top. The dough expanded quit a bit but it expanded more out to the sides than upward. I was wondering if omitting the plastic wrap would allow the dough to rise vertically more than horizontally.

    Also, I love your buttermilk bread but I wanted to make a healthier version. Can I just use your basic master recipe in HBin5 and substitute a cup of water for a cup of buttermilk?



    1. Lindsay– can’t hurt to try, but I don’t think it’s the wrap. Our stuff does tend to expand sideways rather than up; check our videos for the shaping technique, which can help. For a taller loaf, do it in a close-fitting Dutch oven (which contains the spread), see:
      Baking in a Dutch Oven: http://artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=552 or outdoors http://artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=627

      Same for a loaf pan– it contains sideways spread

      Should work with water, but buttermilk, especially non-fat, is a pretty healthful ingredient.

  2. Thanks Jeff. Sorry, I meant incorporating buttermilk into the master recipe in HBin 5. I was thinking of using 3 cups of water and 1 cup of buttermilk.

    1. Ah, I get it. I don’ think that will change much. Possibility is that it will increase baking time a little, and might need to turn down the oven heat, but maybe not. We went to 350 in the 1st book to prevent scorching, but may not need it (or that much turn-down) with this amount of buttermilk.

  3. My husband has just been diagnosed as diabetic. I decided I’d better check to see that all spelt flour was REALLY whole grain. Bob’s Red Mill and my local health food store said white spelt is not whole grain. Just thought you should know. I love your book and your bread. Thank you.

  4. Thanks Zoe. I live in Kingston, Ontario and found some gluten flour. Maybe I’ll try bread flour some time too.

  5. Can you add vital wheat gluten to any bread recipe? How would the master recipe in your first book turn out if gluten was used?

    1. Chewier, maybe a higher rise. You’d need more water in the recipe, not certain how much. 1/4 cup? But you can boost the protein content and “strength” of any dough this way. Question is whether that’s needed, a matter of taste.

  6. Can the Red Beet Buns on p. 180, in “Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” be made without the spelt flour? Can I substitute whole wheat flour for the spelt? thanks in advance for your help with this!

    1. Amy: You sure can, but will need a little more water and this is going to take some experimentation. Try 3 1/2 cups, that would be my guess. Jeff

  7. I started using you 1st 5 minute book and now have purchased your 2nd 5 minute book. I have been getting great results. I am allergic to wheat, but not gluten. In fact I get a very strong reaction to wheat. However I discovered about 15 years ago that I do not get any reaction to Spelt. Yes, I know it seems strange, or as the doctor once said, “you are just lucky!” I have been converting many recipes to Spelt for over 10 years. Most items I find little difference. Of course the secret is that I use White Spelt. Yes, I have bought this produce from Whole Foods for over twelve years. It is produced by Vita Spelt. http://www.purityfoods.com/catalog/16/flours
    Since I live in Colorado, I am baking at 5000 ft too. In most recipes I start by adding a heaping table spoon of white spelt per cup. I usually add a small amount of water too. I find that adding Xanthum Gum helps too. If there is sugar, I decrease that too. I made bread from your first book regularly for over a year using this method and it was great. Everyone loves the flavor and few even know that it is wheat free. I suspect that if you whip up some ideas many people will love the results! It works great in cookies, rolls etc too.

    1. Rick: Glad to hear you’re doing well with the spelt. Have you tried the spelt substitution on page 79 of the 2nd book? May need to dry that out a bit if you really prefer free-form loaves. Jeff

  8. I have not tied whole grain spelt for a while because it did not rise as well in the past in anything I have tried as well as the White Spelt. I also have not tried the vita wheat gluten because I am not sure if it will trigger the wheat allergy.

    The reason I bought the 2nd book is to try the gluten free items in the book. However in the past my experience with wheat free items has been that they do not have near the flavor as wheat items. Of course there are a lot of ingredients used to get around the gluten allergies in these recipes and so I want to give them a try. The bottom line is that when using the White Spelt I seem to get full flavor, I am concerned that will not be the case with the gluten free loaf.

    I sure do prefer the free form bread due to the fantastic crust I have been getting with white spelt from the 1st book in the Master recipe Boule. Although that recipe seems to be denser than I would like. Will that improve with the addition of 2 tablespoons of Xanthan Gum to the White Spelt?

    I also have not been baking recently due to the hot weather we have had in Colorado, but I am getting ready because we have been getting cool mornings with near 50 degree temperature swings each day. This is where the whole house fan becomes a necessity for the kitchen.

    1. Rick: If someone’s gluten-allergic, spelt doesn’t work: it has gluten, although less than in regular wheat. Spelt is a variety of wheat. You can try Xanthan with spelt, please let us know what you think– we haven’t tried it.

      Likewise with vital wheat gluten: if you have gluten allergies or sensitivities, it must be avoided. Jeff

  9. Thanks Jeff,
    I am wheat intolerant, but do not seem to have a problem with spelt. I also do not seem to have a problem with gluten in the other grains. I first tried spelt many years ago in a commercial loaf of bread. I had no reaction. I can now tolerate a small occasional amount of wheat, however if I get too much, I become dizzy and get ringing in my ears. That is how I started trying to bake using spelt, because I was getting no reaction. I understand that spelt is in the same family with wheat but for some reason it does not seem to effect me. When I bought your 1st bread book I started from the beginning using white spelt from Vita Spelt. This is easily available from Whole Foods in bulk or on line from Amazon. I have modified for the spelt as well as the 5000 ft where I live at in Colorado. The bread had been wonderful. Now I want to get a taller loaf that is slightly less dense. I will let you know how the Xanthan works in doing that for me.

    1. Hi Rick,

      Keep us posted on your trials with the spelt loaf made with xanthan gum. I will be very interested to see if that does it for you.

      Thanks, Zoë

  10. I can’t find vital wheat gluten (except a made in China … which I just don’t trust — I am not living in the states)

    I was wondering if thereof anything else I could add to help the rise of whole wheat breads … I just purchased your 2nd book – Healthy Breads – and am sorely disappointed to see all recipes calling for vital wheat gluten!

    Any suggestions you could offer much appreciated!!


    1. Patty: Where are you located? Assume China; how long will you be there? Can you get high-protein (bread) flour? That would help.

      If you’re in China, agree, you’re not going to find vital wheat gluten…

  11. Hi Jeff …
    Thanks for your quick rly … I’m not in China … am in the Middle East (UAE), there is an organics market here … am actively trying to get them to do a special order for me (they do stock other items from Bob’s) … unfortunately – seems the whole country is ‘gluten- free’ crazed.
    I do get some interesting flours imported from the UK at my local market (organic market is a 1 1/2 hour drive into Dubai) … will check to see if any are “high protein bread” flours. Would that ever be with a whole wheat flour?
    Thanks again for your help!

  12. Patty: It might, but without VWG you may find that these high-whole grain doughs don’t store very well, which is the crux of our method. Also will need to decrease the water- will take some experimentation. Jeff

  13. Have you tried using Atta flour? It’s a whole wheat durum flour, used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. I can get it for a very good price where I live. I’m guessing that because of the durum wheat’s higher protein that it will need more water than regular whole wheat flour, but it would be nice to know exactly how much more water it needs. (I have HBin5 on order.)

    1. Rusty: Haven’t used atta, but my guess is that you need to use about 1/4 to 1/3 cup more water in a batch, can experiment from there. Jeff

  14. Wanted to chime in regarding spelt. Like Rick, I am wheat-intolerant, and have spent the past two or three years experimenting with spelt flour. I buy both whole grain and white spelt from VitaSpelt (I have them ship me 25-pound bags).

    It sounds like Rick is converting the recipe by adding 1.5 Tbsp extra white spelt flour for each cup of flour called for. That works out to about 10% extra flour which is in the neighborhood of my general wheat-to-spelt conversion of ~15% less hydration.

    Rise times also often differ with spelt, and I am curious to see if they will here as well. I am working on my first batch and will report back.

    A question for Jeff and Zoe: it seems like in your method, you are calling to overproof the dough. I have done this before–by accident–and the result was not good (the dough never fully rose in the final proof). Is this what is going on here, and, if so, why does it work?

    I look forward to sharing my spelt findings with the rest of the community!

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with spelt flour.

      When you say we are overproofing the dough, are you referring to the first rise in the bucket, or when you are letting the shaped loaf rise before baking?

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Re: overproofing, I am referring to the first rise in the bucket. I was under the belief that when rising dough flattens out (with the visible air holes), it has overproofed. I am still relatively new to baking, so if this is incorrect, I would appreciate the correction! If it is correct, I would love to know the science behind why it works in your method.

        As for the spelt, I baked a very small loaf tonight (having mixed the dough last night) and it worked pretty well. I used 70% whole spelt, 24% white spelt and 6% vital wheat gluten, at 70% hydration. It was very similar to other whole grain spelt breads I’ve made–a chewy but tender crumb. Taste was the same as I’m accustomed to, but I’ll wait a few days to bake the other half of the dough to see if it gets even better. It didn’t hold its shape too well during the final rest, but this always happens.

        I will continue to try with different combinations of white and whole, and different hydrations. There is no way spelt would hold up under the ~85% you typically recommend for wheat flour. I usually aim for 60%-63%, but was glad that 70% seemed to work here (although I’ll probably try both 65% and 75% with my next batches).

      2. Eric: To paraphrase Peter Reinhart, the dean of American bakers: it shouldn’t work, but it does. See Peter’s comments at http://artisanbreadinfive.com/2009/11/15/thanks-peter The only explanation I can muster is that traditional baking techniques and lore aren’t really based on experimental science.
        Keep on playing with the spelt– it’s a nice alternative. Jeff

  15. 1. I read somewhere (Amazon book review?) that in a YouTube video you use vital wheat gluten in your basic recipe, using all purpose flour (AB5) – true? In a response to someone on this forum, you sound ambivalent about its use. Just curious if this will improve my results (dense crumb); but I will try your other suggestions for that issue.
    2. How would you adjust your basic recipe if I use KAF’s “European-Style Artisan Bread Flour”?

      1. Wow, I had no idea KAF AP was so different from the norm; KAF flours are all I use. Apparently the european-style flour has the same protein level as AP, so I will up my water as directed on the FAQ page you reference; it also has a touch of ascorbic acid and some whole wheat: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/king-arthur-european-style-artisan-bread-flour-3-lb

        BTW, any suggestions about whether I can “doctor” up my remaining under-hydrated dough? Could I stir in some water without destroying it? I am probably over thinking this; maybe I’ll just take my lumps and make some dense rolls or something – thanks for your help!

      2. Hi Susan,

        You can add a bit more water, then let the dough sit to absorb the new water. I find it easier to do with a stand mixer, but some do it by hand.

        Thanks, Zoë

  16. Third question… RE oven temp and preheating – in ABin5 (master recipe) you say “After a 20 minute preheat, you’re ready to bake, even though your oven thermometer won’t yet be up to full temperature…” In a previous attempt, I hadn’t caught that detail, so I made sure my oven WAS fully up to temp. On my last attempt, when I noticed this detail, I theorized that my dense crumb may be due to needing the oven to be lower at the start of baking. So I popped the loaf in after just 20 minutes of preheating. That didn’t make a difference. I have a Wolf range, so preheat time is longer than average. Thoughts? — is it just better to have oven at 450 before baking? Is there a specific temp below 450 the oven should be at, at the start, even if it rises to 450 during baking? Tx!

    1. Susan: Have you seen the Dense Crumb FAQs (see tab above)?

      No, it’s probably not specifically related to your oven pre-heat time. Don’t worry so much about that, you may prefer the crumb you get with the longer resting time we talk about on that FAQ. Jeff

      1. Yes, I did see the FAQ, and planned to try some of those options, but was also curious about oven temp issues. Even though it is not causing the crumb density, could you clarify the comment in the book about oven not needing to be at temp? I suspect mine should be preheating longer so it is closer to 450 (than it is at just 20 mins).

      2. Hi Susan,

        All ovens behave differently and preheat at different rates. My oven is large and takes longer to preheat than some. If you suspect that your oven is not up to temperature, than by all means let it go longer. In our first book we suggested that people could start their bread baking before the oven was up to exactly 450°F and still get a nice loaf. If your loaves are not coming out as you would like than this is probably not a good idea for you and you should wait until your oven is fully up to temp. Use an independent oven thermometer to make sure of this temperature.

        Thanks, Zoë

  17. Thanks Zoe and Jeff,
    I tried two things – let the dough rise MUCH longer and allowed oven to reach temp; this seemed to help. Next time, I’ll also use a bit more water.

  18. Being wheat (but not gluten) free, I’d like to learn more about nutritional dense flour options. Can you offer comments about suing the following flours for your recipes: kamut, amaranth, quinoa, barley.

    What is xanthan gum derived from? I am actually allergic to locus bean gum – hence the question.


  19. I am looking for info on using White Whole Wheat( I usually have King Arthur) flour in these recipes. Should I treat it as white flour or as whole grain flour. I am just getting started with your ABin5 book so I am really just focusing on your basic recipe right now -thoughts?

    1. Hi Jenn,

      White Whole Wheat can be used in place of regular Whole Wheat. It can not replace unbleached all-purpose or your dough will be too dry.

      Thanks, Zoë

  20. I live in Denmark – we don’t have vital wheat gluten flour. I have your first book – and really want the book about healty bread as well. But if all the recipes contain vital wheat gluten flour – then that will not work for me.

    (buying it online from another country is not a possibillity – wil be fare to expensive)

    Do you have any advise on making more healty bread without the vital wheat gluten flour?

    Kind Regards

    1. Pia: Yes, that book uses vital wheat gluten, so that one’s not for you. You can push the whole grain in all the recipes in our first book– but you’ll need to increase the water. Also, they won’t rise and store as well as the white-flour versions. The VWG really helped with that, which is why they’re all over our whole-grains book.

      Max storage on non-VWG whole-grain breads is probably 5 days. Start with the recipe on page 76 of the US edition, and page 96 of the UK edition, and experiment from there.

  21. Hi again!

    So on top of your first book, I’ve just bought h.b.i.f.m.a.d.!! I’m very psyched, and am on the hunt for vital wheat gluten. I assume you’ve already posted on this somewhere, however, this is my question: is “wheat gluten flour” the same as “vital wheat gluten”. It doesn’t have the word “vital” in it, so I’m unsure. This is the stuff I’m considering buying:http://well.ca/products/purely-bulk-wheat-gluten-flour_22090.html
    Also, I’ve got this stuff:http://robinhood.ca/product-details.aspx?prodcid=44&pid=190
    Does that have enough protein in it to work on its own? Thanks guys, great books!

    Ker (from canada)

    1. Ker: VWG is the same as wheat gluten flour, yes, as in your first product link. 2nd link is just bread flour (high-protein), but maybe not high enough to tolerate our storage technique. Depends on how much of it is whole-grain. The more whole grain, the more you need VWG. Maybe experiment with it? Canadian flour is higher in protein in the 1st place, so you may be OK.

  22. I’m on my second attempt at making your 100% whole wheat bread with olive oil recipe. I’m using Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat flour,Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour and Red Star active dry yeast. My problem is that my dough is not coming out stretchy at all, like it does in your video on shaping the bread dough. It’s clumpy…more like cookie dough. I thought maybe it was too dry the first time and took out a 1/4 cup of flour but the same thing happened this time. The taste of the first loaf was good but dense and very little rise. I’m guessing this loaf I just attempted to shape will turn out the same way. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong?

    1. Jennifer: Hodgson Mill is pretty coarse-grained– try it with Gold Medal WW or other mainstream commercial product and see what you think. Or just try a little more water in the next Hodgson batch, that might give you more elasticity with all that coarse bran.

  23. I am interested in making your basic healthy bread, but I just bought a 50 pound bag of bread flour from a bulk warehouse store. I see that all your recipes, including the basic artisan bread in 5 minutes, call for all-purpose flour. My questions are: 1)Can I use some or all bread flour in the basic artisan bread recipe? Will this change the recipe in terms of the amount of water or flour needed? and 2) Can I use bread flour in place of the all-purpose flour in the basic healthy bread recipe and skip the vital wheat gluten? Would using bread flour have enough gluten, or would I still need to add vwg along with bread flour? Thanks!

    1. Hi Andrea,

      You can certainly use the bread flour, but you will need to add a bit more water to the recipes. I’m not sure what the protein content is for the flour you are using, but 1/4 cup more water will probably do. I would still use the vital wheat gluten, but if you wanted to cut it down by 1 tablespoon it will probably be just fine.

      Thanks, Zoë

  24. Can I make pizza dough with whole wheat flour, how much white must I use?
    Just read the pizza article in Mother Earth, but want a healthier crust. Thanks

  25. Hi,

    I’ve been having the following difficulties with the recipes in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Master Recipe (p. 54): After I shape the loaf, it spreads and flattens (a lot) during its 90-minute rest. The taste, crust and crumb all turn out fine, but it looks more like a pizza crust than a loaf of bread.

    2. Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (p. 92): No matter how many times I try this recipe, the loaf comes out crumbly (as in, the loaf essentially falls apart when I try to slice it, even after waiting overnight to make sure it has cooled completely).

    I’ve had better luck when making hamburger buns from the same batch of dough (not sure why), but even then, I must slice very carefully and slowly to prevent the buns from crumbling. And, in fact, a couple times they crumbled after the fact–while I was holding/eating the burger with my hands.

    Please help me! I’ve had this problem before, even with traditional kneaded loaf breads, both white and whole wheat. What am I doing wrong? I want to achieve that soft, elasticky/bendable texture of a good store-bought loaf.

    1. Cassie: answers to your Qs:

      1. Any chance you’re using home-ground or other fresh-ground flour… Very unpredictable water absorption so you need to adjust liquid downward. Sounds like you need to do that in any case. 1/8 cup less? Also be sure you’re “cloaking” properly— see our videos above.

      2. You definitely using VWG? Again, the question about fresh-ground flour?

      Any chance you’re cutting the bread when warm or hot? It needs to set or it hasn’t fully developed its structure.

      1. 1. No, I’m using store-bought whole wheat flour, but I’ll try using less water next time.

        2. I’m definitely using VWG and even added a little bit extra the second time around. Also using store-bought flour and letting the loaf rest overnight (8+) hours before slicing. Don’t know what I’m doing wrong! Are there differences between different brands of flour? I’m in Europe and don’t have easy access to e.g. King Arthur, Gold Medal, etc……

      2. Cassie: I think we have an answer– European flours are different in their gluten content and water absorption. Are you in the UK? Which is the only country I’ve significantly baked in. Please tell me what sort of descriptors are on the flour bags.

      3. Hi Jeff,

        I’m in Sweden. Here is some information from the flours I’ve been using (my VWG is from the States).

        1. WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR: Whole kernel wheat flour, whole wheat flour (25%), vitamin B1, B2, niacin, B6, ascorbic acid

        Nutritional Information (per 100g)
        330 kcal
        10 g protein
        68 g carbohydrates (0,5 g from sugar)
        2 g fat
        5 g fiber

        2. ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR: Flour, wheat malt, ascorbic acid

        Nutritional info (per 100g)
        340 kcal
        10 g protein
        71 g carbohydrates (0,5 from sugar)
        1,5 g fat
        3 g fiber

        Thanks for your help!

  26. Cassie: Your whole wheat is particularly high in fiber– more so than what we tested with. That’s probably the reason for the difference in your results. To counter this:

    1. Try a little oil in place of a small amount of the water– maybe 1/4 cup or so (60 ml).

    2. Don’t let the loaf sit quite so long after baking– 2 hours is long enough.

    3. If all else fails, decrease the proportion of whole wheat flour.

    4. Check our videos above– make sure your adequately doing the “gluten-cloak” so that you’ve given some structure to the dough before it starts its resting time.

    … see what you think.

  27. Hi, I am just getting started baking my own bread and love your book! I made the whole wheat sandwich bread and have two questions. First, is there anything I can add to up the fiber content without distorting the taste? Second, the bread — which is delicious — is quite dense and heavy. Is there anything I can do to make it a bit lighter and fluffier? More yeast? Egg whites? Not sure! (Before making my own bread, we were eating Pepperidge Farm Light Style Extra Fiber bread, trying to make bread with similar fiber content that is nice and light!) Thank you!!

    1. Hi Abbey,

      You can add some wheat bran to the dough to bump up the fiber, but this will also make the dough a bit more dense. The fiber cuts through the gluten, which gives the bread structure and also traps the air to make it lighter. Are you baking from our second book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day? If so, you will have used vital wheat gluten and this may help to create a lighter loaf.

      Let me know which book you are using? Thanks, Zoë

  28. Hello,
    I just purchased your Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day book. Due to dietary restrictions (low glycemic index diet) I am only able to eat 100% whole wheat bread. I found a few 100% whole wheat recipes in your book, but I was wondering if I try the many others and try to substitute a whole grain for the white flour in your recipes, which would be the best whole grain flour to do this with, overall? Would any other adjustments need to be made, or just a flat substitution would be ok? Thank you!

    1. Kelly: If you try this, go for wheat flour only– the other whole grain flours have little or no gluten and the loaf will be denser. You’ll get denser results in any case with the swap you’re considering. You’ll have to slightly increase the water– maybe 1/8 to 1/4 cup. Also:

      1. Consider smaller loaves– less dense
      2. Consider flatbreads– same.

  29. Hello,
    I just bought your 3 books and they will come at the end of August, because I live in the Netherlands.
    Prior to the arrival of the books I have a question:
    Can I use SPELT white and brown flour in your methods?
    Thank you for answering my question.
    Have a nice day!

    1. Hanneke: We have some spelt in books 2 and 3, but not in the 1st. Much more whole grain (brown) flour in 2 and 3 as well. Wait for the books though, you can’t just substitute it one for one with white flour. Whole grain flours absorb more water.

  30. Help! I’m new to your methods and have been making your Ten-Grain Bread and getting fairly good results, but today I experienced a strong-smelling problem. I’m using Bob’s Red Mill white & whole wheat flour & his vital wheat gluten and 10-grain cereal, just as your recipe directs. Made a batch of dough 5 days ago. Cooked one loaf right away which was pretty good, (although IMO it could have been lighter.) Stored the rest of the dough in the fridge with the tupperware top open for the first 2 days of gas release as you direct; after that I closed it completely for the next 3 days to keep the dough from drying out because it looked like it was developing a crusty top. Opened it up tonight (i.e. 5 days from initial creation) and I was almost knocked over by the alcohol smell–NOT really like yeast–more like wine mixed with rubbing alcohol. Also the dough seemed kind of dry and stiff-looking whereas it’s usually quite moist–(frankly almost too moist, but hey, I live in Seattle so maybe I need to adjust the recipe some–it always seems to go flat after shaping/rising so I figure it might be too wet at that point…note that I do always let it rise after shape for 90 min.) Re: the smell/texture, should I have kept the lid open longer, or the whole time? If I do, should I cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap so it won’t dry out? Should I throw this out completely or save a little to use as a starter? (I pulled a piece off and it was quite stiff.)

    Also, in general, when cutting/tearing off a new piece of dough, it seems to deflate the batch, as if cutting into it achieves the same result as punching down would…I’m curious how to get around that.

    I will say that I am good at shaping quickly and not overworking–just really need some pointers on getting better “spring” and storing the dough without ruining it–
    I am the granddaughter of a well-regarded professional baker/pastry chef and I’m not giving up on this! Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Ali,

      I am very sensitive to this alcohol smell and so my husband drilled tiny holes in all of my bucket lids so that the gas from the yeast can escape, but the dough won’t dry out. Check out the buckets in this video: http://artisanbreadinfive.com/2010/10/18/watching-dough-rise-how-high-should-it-go-plus-a-new-member-of-the-bread-in-five-family

      It is normal for the dough to deflate slightly when you cut out some of the dough. I use scissors, which helps to lessen this.

      You may want to try to let the dough rest a bit longer before baking, to get a better rise out of the dough. Keep in mind that the whole grain breads don’t have the dramatic rise as the breads from ABin5, which use more AP flour.

      So glad you are baking and I’m sure your grandmother is thrilled you are following in her footsteps!

      Thanks, Zoë

  31. Help! I pretty much use your 100% Whole Wheat with Olive Oil recipe for everything. Today I went to mix a new batch and it didn’t rise during the 2 hour time period. It looked the same as when I mixed it, just dry. I reviewed the contents and as far as I can tell, I added all the ingredients correctly (I double checked my measurements for cutting the recipe in half). I did not whisk the dry ingredients before adding the liquid and I did add about 1/4 c more water because it was so dry. I also added about 1/4 cup of King Arthur Harvest Grains to the mix as well. Any ideas what might have gone wrong and is there a fix in this case…or just start over?

    1. Melissa: you’ve changed the recipe significantly with the harvest grains. Bet it needs more water and you prob can add it now, after the fact. Also, don’t forget to stir that VWG before you add the wets– may have made a difference.

  32. Jeff and Zoe:

    I want to substitute 3 cups of whole wheat flour plus two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten for the same amount of AP flour in the American-style white bread recipe in ABI5. Should I add two ounces of water to the recipe because of extra water absorption of whole wheat and vital wheat gluten, or do you recommend more water?

  33. You wrote: “If you add 1 to 2 teaspoons [of vital wheat gluten] per cup of dry grain ingredient you will have a much higher, lighter loaf of bread.” My question: Is this 1-2 tsp per cup IN ADDITION to each measured cup? Or does the vital wheat gluten REPLACE some of the original flour/grain? I’ve been experimenting with the 100% WW sandwich bread from your original book and have been struggling with a dense crumb/low rise, probably partly from my cold kitchen (I will be trying a longer second rise next time), but I’m going to try adding gluten too and want to be sure I’m adding the right amount.

    Also, is whole wheat bread flour OK? Or should it be basic whole wheat flour?

    Thank you! I love your recipes and get many compliments on the loaves I make from them!

  34. I would love any follow up from Spelt flour bakers who commented previously.

    My family is trying to steer clear of wheat, and I have baked with White- and Whole-Spelt exclusively for years (I’m talking muffins, cookies, brownies, etc, even bread-machine, but not “handmade” bread). I’d like to be able to bake your HBin5 recipes w/o vwg.

    I have mixed 2 batches now of the HBin5 master recipe, substituting White Spelt for the AP flour, and Whole Spelt for the Whole Wheat. I did not use vwg, but added an extra 1/4 cup of White to make up for it. I reduced the water to about 3-1/2 cups (the Spelt bag says to reduce liquids by 10-15% when converting wheat flour recipes).

    The 2nd batch was better, but still very wet. My free-form load was a wide oval that was about 1-1/4 inches in middle. Four days later the remaining dough in fridge was nice & elastic on top, but very wet, almost runny underneath (stored too long?). I dumped it all in a loaf pan, let it rest/rise for 2 hours and it was a beautiful big loaf, quite dense & moist inside while almost too brown outside (oven too hot?).

    Wondering what I could change/add to make up for lack of vwg. Xanthan gum? Egg? Whey (from straining homemade yogurt) to replace some of the water?

    Haven’t yet tried any other recipes, cuz I’d like to resolve the gluten question, but I really love having fresh bread, and I love that you two have made it so accessible to the “common cook”. Thanks.

    1. Hi Tess,

      The spelt loaf you are making will be denser than normal, without the vwg, but it does sound like your dough is still a bit too dry. Try increasing the flour another 1/4 cup. A 100% whole grain dough without the vwg will really only be able to store for about 5 days, the fact that it is low gluten spelt will mean an even denser loaf.

      You can try adding eggs, ground flax or xanthan to the dough, but I don’t think you will increase the storage of the dough with any of those. However, they may add a touch more structure to your loaf.

      You may improve the shape of the loaf by shaping it differently. Here is a video on working with wet dough: http://artisanbreadinfive.com/2010/03/08/new-video-shaping-the-ball-from-a-very-wet-dough

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Thanks for the suggestions! Storage won’t be an issue (I have teenaged boys), but better loaf structure would be nice. I will give your suggestions a try, and I watched the video you linked to; my dough is much wetter even than his, so I’ve got much more experimenting to do 🙂

  35. I always wonder if store bought whole wheat acts the same way home-ground whole wheat does. I have a mill and bake a very simple but yummy whole wheat yeast bread (home-ground mix of hard white and hard red) for every day use. But I’d love to bake different varieties, especially sourdough. Any tips?

    1. See my post on fresh-ground wheat at http://artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=1165 In general, you can swap home-ground wheat where we call for whole wheat, though you often have to adjust the liquids (up or down, depending on the hydration level of your fresh wheat, and that is very unpredictable). Our storage approach generates a sourdough notes after a few days in the fridge, more in the books or check out our FAQs tab, click above.

  36. Hi, I just recieved my copy of your new healthy breads book and tried your whole wheat master recipe in the loaf tin. My dough rose beautifully, but when I tried to remove the loose plastic wrap over it, the dough stuck to the plastic. By the time I got all the plastic off I had lost most of my lovely rise! Is there something I may be doing wrong? Would it be possible to simply put the pan somewhere enclosed like a microwave and get a similar rise, or maybe sprinkle the bread with flour to prevent the plastic sticking?

    Any help would be great, and I love your books! I can’t wait to try the chocolate coffee bread!

    1. Hi Nicole,

      You can certainly try putting it in a small enclosed area, like the microwave or invert a large bowl over it. You can also brush the plastic wrap with a bit of oil and that prevents it from sticking to the dough.

      Thanks, Zoë

  37. I just recently came across the Red Fife whole wheat as you discussed in a 2009 post when book #2 came out. As you said, I used the master recipe (page 53)and that was just about the wettest dough I have ever worked with. I did not get much (if any) oven spring, though the flavors, etc. were great. The loaf ended up as rather flat loaf. Anything I could change to get more spring or is that just what I should expect? More vital wheat? AP flour?

      1. Thanks Zoë, I will try the added VWG. I had weighed all ingredients and baked it in La Cloche (first time with your breads). I think I had seen this video before but viewed it again. What strikes me is that was no elasticity in this WW bread, so there was no need to cut the dough to get it out of the tun or “cloaking” in the shaping. Always fun to experiment though!

      2. Hi Dan,

        The added VWG should add some elasticity. You may want to experiment with a half batch, to make sure you are getting the result that you like.

        Thanks, Zoë

  38. I recently made the oatmeal date bread from your Healthy Bread in 5 book but my dough had no elasticity when I pulled it out of the bucket to cloak and shape. I could take a clump out without having to cut it, almost like cookie dough, like a previous commenter wrote. Cloaking the bread proved impossible since every time I tried to stretch the top over the sides, the dough would break and expose unfloured dough from the middle.

    I used King Arthur wheat flour (same protein content as Gold Medal WW) and weighed everything.

    I had similar problems with elasticity with loaves from the Artisan Bread in 5 book, but I was at least able to cloak the bread properly by being a little more careful.

    What can I do to increase elasticity in my loaves, both whole wheat and regular? I live in Denver at altitude, but I’ve never had problems with baking here. And the dough consistency shouldn’t be affected by the altitude, should it?


    1. Don’t think it’s the altitude. You didn’t say how these loaves baked up. WW definitely has less elasticity, so that’s not a big surprise. But if the baked loaves weren’t good, that’s different. How would you describe the finished bread?

      1. Jeff,

        The master recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 has good oven spring and I get decent hole structure. I still haven’t been able to get the big holes of the ciabatta but I blame that on not adjusting yeast and salt to altitude. Could that be the case?

        The oatmeal and date bread, as well as the master recipe, from Healthy Bread in 5 is very flat in that there is practically no rise prior to baking and the loaf is very dense with very small holes. My current loaf barely has any holes, although it’s still delicious. Also, during the initial rise, I get very big holes in the dough. The crust seems to do fine after baking.

        Could the dry climate up here affect elasticity?

        Thanks in advance!

      2. Yes, because high altitude can cause the dough to blow up like a balloon, and then collapse— result, small holes. Or minimal holes at all. So yes. Assume you’ve been through the FAQs tab, click on “High-altitude baking: How do I adjust the recipes for high-altitude?”

      3. Jeff,

        Ok. I figured that was the case with the hole structure. I’ve tried only some of the suggestions in the high altitude FAQ, mostly because I want to try different recipes and the holes I’ve gotten with the original recipe are good enough for now. I will try doing the initial rise in the refrigerator next time (I do the pre-baking rise in the fridge overnight before popping the bread in the oven) and see what happens.

        As for the lack of elasticity in the whole grain breads, what can I do to change that? I’m having lots of trouble cloaking the loaves because the dough breaks when I try to pull it to the bottom. I end up adding more flour while I’m cloaking to cover the newly exposed innards, which may be drying it out too much.

      4. Sounds like you just need wetter dough with the whole grain flour you’re using. Increase by 1/4 cup water and see what happens.

      5. I made the beer and cheese bread from ABin5 with more water this time and did the initial rise in the refrigerator. It had amazing hole structure and I actually had to cut it with scissors to get the dough out of the bucket. That’s a first!

        I made the spinach and feta bread from ABin5 yesterday adding more water but doing everything else according to the original recipe. The dough was a bit more stretchy but it still ripped out some. So it seems that slowing down the rise at high altitudes really helped with the stretch factor.

        The only drawback with the refrigerator rise is that it took nearly 2 days to do the initial rise (rise then flatten out, per your video). Is that a normal time for refrigerator rise?

      6. Hi Kasia,

        I generally leave it on the counter for a bit and then refrigerate it, but at high altitude it may be best to refrigerate it right away. Since it took so long, you may want to start it on the counter and let it rise for 30+ minutes, maybe when you see some yeast action and then refrigerate it. Give that a try and let me know if it speeds things up, but not so much that you no longer get the stretch.

        Thanks, Zoë

      7. Zoe,

        I’ll try leaving it on the counter for 30 minutes before popping it in the fridge. Thanks!

      8. Zoe,

        I just tried the seeded oat bread from HBin5 and it’s like I’m back to square one. I used the instructed amount of yeast (1.5 tbsp) and left the dough on the countertop for 30-45 minutes, then put it in the fridge.

        The dough rose very quickly when on the counter but seemed to collapse almost as soon as I put it in the refrigerator. It rose a bit more and flattened out like your videos show, but it never rose nearly as high as the HBin5 dough does in those videos.

        Additionally, when I baked it today there was practically no oven spring. The dough was very wet when I mixed it and I can see lots of holes in the bucket. But the holes in the baked product are miniscule. It rose for ~2 hours on the counter, where the temperature was 68-70 degrees.

        What am I doing wrong with the whole wheat breads? Should I add more vital wheat gluten?

        Luckily, I’m moving to sea level in July so hopefully all my problems will be solved then.


      9. First off, we call for a 2 hour rise at room temperature before refrigerating, not 30 to 45 minutes as you wrote above (see step 3 on page 148). Then…

        What flour brands are you using?
        Are you using home-ground flour (always unpredictable results)
        How are you measuring, by weight or by volume?
        Does your basic loaf from HBin5 work properly, let’s say, the Master Recipe?

        Betsy’s will be denser than that, but it should have decent hole structure. I’d guess that the problem is that you didn’t do enough of an initial rise. But I agree, these denser loaves may be more of a problem at high altitude and this may improve when you move to sea level. Assume you’ve tried our high-altitude suggestions on page 46?

      10. Jeff,

        Thanks for getting back to me so quickly!

        I should’ve clarified in my previous message. The bread I made with 2 tsp of yeast was the whole wheat olive oil from HBin5 and it rose on the counter until it topped out (~ 3-4 hours). So I did not do the refrigerator rise with it. That method had the worst rise out of all the altitude adjustment I’ve tried from page 46. The holes in the dough were super tiny and the crumb was very dense once baked.

        As for the seeded oat bread that rose in the fridge, the holes were alright but it had no oven spring.

        Now onto your questions:

        1) I use Gold Medal all-purpose unbleached flour, King Arthur whole wheat flour for the olive oil bread and Gold Medal whole wheat flour for the seeded oat bread. Also, I use Bob’s Red Mill vital wheat gluten.

        2) I don’t grind my own flour. It’s all store-bought.

        3) I measure by weight. I’ve had to add a bit more water to most of the whole wheat breads to get all the flour incorporated into the dough. It comes out to 2 tbsp – 1/4 cup more water, depending on the loaf.

        4) The basic recipe in HBin5 is ok. It doesn’t look as holey as the ones in your pictures. It’s rather dense. Then again, I haven’t tried doing the initial rise in the refrigerator yet for that dough, so I may do that next time to go back to the basics.

        Overall, I’ve noticed that I don’t gluten cloak the whole wheat doughs as well as I do the non-whole wheat ones because the dough is less elastic. Would that make a difference?

        I’m very happy with how the breads are turning out taste-wise. They’re incredibly delicious! I just want to be able to control the hole structure and rising on them instead of hoping for the best with each batch I make. So if nothing comes of all this trouble-shooting then that’s totally fine.

        Thank you again for all your help and quick responses.

      11. Well, can’t blame it on the flour, or your resting time, now that I understand. So we’re down to the altitude, which you’ll do a natural test for when you move. The other thing to try– a little more water. two tablespoons maybe in the whole batch, see if that gives better hole structure.

  39. I made the 100% Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal Bread from page 145 in your Healthy Bread in 5. Absolutely love the flavor but the slices seem to crumble and and don’t hold together well. The dough seems plenty wet. Any ideas for me?

      1. I used King Arthur flour, Vital Wheat Gluten from Bob’s Red Mill. Both very fresh. The wheat germ I’ve had for a bit though.

      2. I used King Arthur flour, Vital Wheat Gluten from Bob’s Red Mill. Both very fresh. The wheat germ I’ve had for a bit though.

      3. Hi Duane,

        You can try adding another tablespoon vital wheat gluten to strengthen the gluten, which will give the bread more stretch. If you do that, you will need to increase the water by about 3 tablespoons, up to 1/4 cup. The loaf may also be slightly over baked, which can dry out the crumb.

        Thanks, Zoë

  40. I want to add VWG to the 100% Whole Wheat Bread on page 134 of the NAB5. Questions:
    1. Would 1tsp. per cup of flour be sufficient?
    2. How much should I increase the water?
    Thank you in advance for your response.

    1. Hi Barbara,

      We’ve typically used about 1/4 cup of VWG per batch of dough and then increased the water by about the same. You may need a little more water, if so, add it 1 tablespoon at a time.

      Cheers, Zoë

      1. It will, but depending on the size of your pan, may need to increase the baking time. And in some ovens, you may also have to reduce the heat to get the middle baked through without burning the crust .

    1. Hi Ike,

      Which book do you have? If you have HBin5, you can use the Einkorn in place of spelt. It has less gluten forming protein, so it is best to add vital wheat gluten to the dough.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Thank you. I have “The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes”. So far have made only one batch with master recipe but am in love.

  41. I have been trying out different recipes to get a good whole grain loaf bread for sandwiches…I am trying to figure out the water ratio when I add VWG to the “more” whole wheat version of the Light Whole Wheat Bread recipe. If I adjust all the measurements for the “more” version plus add 1/4 cup VWG, how much extra water do I need?


    1. Our plan in the book you’re using was to leave out the VWG, but if you’d like to experiment with that, here are some guidelines: click on the FAQs tab, then select Whole grain flours and vital wheat gluten: How do you use them?

      I haven’t tried what you’re doing, but assuming you don’t have “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” which relies on VWG, you can see the Master recipe from that book at http://artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=1087

  42. I have used your first 3 books and love them! Thank you, Thank You! I baked quite a bit using The New Artisan Bread in 5, and the Pizza and Flatbread book, and am very comfortable with it; my loaves turn out great every time, and after a few hundred loaves, that’s saying a lot! I love the 100% whole wheat pizza dough recipe, it doesn’t taste like whole wheat at all!

    I have ventured into more whole wheat recipes now, and am trying the 100% Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal. It tastes great!

    Two questions regarding this recipe-
    1. I am wondering if it turned out right though, because it is moist on the inside. The master recipe in the 1st AB5 book’s bread (made with AP flour) has a drier crumb. This loaf had a moist (not crumbly) wetter texture to it. It’s not dry like whole wheat sandwich bread from the store. It’s different then any other AB5 recipe I’ve made. The moistness and crumb reminds me of Amish Friendship Bread if you are familiar with that. Is this what it’s supposed to be?

    The only thing I will change when I try it again is to use old-fashioned rolled oats (I used quick, that’s all I had) and I might weigh the ingredients. I prefer to weigh, but the cookbook doesn’t have weights for this recipe, just tables in the beginning chapters.

    2. Will a different liquid sweetener work? I would like to try honey, agave nectar, molasses or rice syrup (aka table syrup)

    Can you recommend any dry sweeteners that would work? Would white (cane or beet) sugar work if I increase the water?

    Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions! Very excited to keep trying new recipes!

  43. oops, on more question on the 100% Whole Grain Maple Oatmeal Bread…When I cloak the dough, I didn’t get a good cloak. It seemed like the refrigerated dough didn’t hold together as well as white flour, so i was gentle and brief with cloaking. The finished product rose well, and had oven spring. Thanks!

    1. Rita: It’s behaving like we’d expect–as you notice, nothing like regular doughs, especially with all this WW. But it sounds like you’re getting a result you like, with good oven spring.

      You can swap any of the liquid sweetners you mention. If you want to switch to sugar, often you can go cup for cup, but as you may calculate, that throws off the water and sweetness slightly. For example, honey is about 15% water–you can correct from there if you want to switch to sugar.

      1. Thanks for the prompt words of wisdom. I was just surprised the loaf was so moist, so i had to ask! Everyone I shared with liked it!

  44. I read a similar question on your website a week or so ago, but I’m unable to find it again, so I apologize for the redundancy.

    I recently made your Whole Wheat Brioche recipe on page 275 in HBi5. It calls for 2 1/4 c. VWG. Another recipe that has close to the same ingredients only calls for 1/4 c. VWG. Why does the ww brioche call for so much gluten?

    While my dough was sitting on the counter for it’s first rise, I forgot the rule of thumb that says to refrigerate dough with eggs in it after 2 hrs., so my dough sat out for 5 hrs. waiting for it to collapse. Unfortunately my container was a little too small and I discovered the dough that rolled over the edge had dried enough that it probably kept the dough from collapsing. My new Cambro buckets are on their way…lol.

    1. Hi Patty,

      Yes, it was a mistake in the first printing of that book. I’m so glad you caught it. I recommend you look through our “corrections” page before you bake, since you have a first edition.

      You are in good company, I have done the same thing and walked in on a dough flowing out of the bucket and onto the counter. 😉

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Unfortunately I didn’t ask before I mixed a batch of dough and baked 1 loaf. Is my bread/dough unhealthy now with 2 1/4 c. of VWG in it? That’s a lot of gluten. I don’t mind tossing it if we shouldn’t be eating that much gluten in a loaf of bread.

        Thanks for your quick response.

      2. Hi Patty,

        It isn’t a matter of health, it is perfectly healthy. If you are familiar with seitan or “mock duck” in Asian restaurants, it is made from VWG. If you like the taste, then by all means it is fine to eat.

        Thanks, Zoë

  45. I’m going to attempt to use King Arthur white whole wheat flour with your basic recipe in the newer Artisian Bread in 5 Minutes (receiving it this week). I am planning on subbing it for the regular white flour in the recipe. In fact, if rather use it for most recipes if I can. Any tips before I get going with it on the basic recipe?

      1. Hi Zoe,

        Thank you for your reply. I’m wondering what you would recommend if I used all white/wheat flour (no white) and vital wheat gluten, which I have. Could that make it lighter? Do you have a recipe?


      2. Hi Shelley,

        There is a 100% whole grain loaf in New Artisan that should get you started on the right amount of water. In our Healthy Bread book there are more 100% whole grain options and those use vital wheat gluten. The vital wheat gluten will make the loaf lighter in the sense that it gives it more structure and allows for a better rise. You can do it without the VWG, but the dough will not store for as long and the amount of liquid changes.

        Thanks, Zoë

  46. Hi Jeff,
    I already own a copy of your NEW Artisan bread book. I like wholemeal and rye bread, and am able to buy vital wheat gluten in the uk. Can you tell me if the recipes in the HEALTHY bread are the same/similar to those in the NEW artisan book? Or are they all different recipes with no repeats? I know that you are going to have a new edition of the HEALTHY bread book in Oct 2016, but I cannot wait that long!!!

    1. Susan: There are some items that are very similar to what’s in the original book, except made with whole grain doughs. The classic loaves are shaped in pretty much the same way, like boule and baguette. That said, there’s a lot of new material. On the amazon site for the book, click on the book image and you can see preview– esp the Index, which’ll give you an idea of what’s in the book. Also see our post we did when we announced the book’s release in the US, at http://artisanbreadinfive.com/2009/10/26/our-new-book-healthy-bread-in-five-minutes-a-day-is-released-tomorrow-get-yourself-some-vital-wheat-gluten-and-make-our-whole-grain-master-recipe

  47. More questions- for free-form loaves, how do I shape the dough ball into an elongated loaf rather than round?
    Thank you again.

    1. Hi Deb,

      After you form the ball, just gently elongate it into an oval. If you want to watch a video, you can check our Youtube and look for a video on our Healthy Bread in Five Master recipe, which is this shape.

      Thanks, Zoë

  48. The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day page #122 Vollkornbrot recipe states that whole rye flakes are sold by King Arthur Flour Company. However I phoned them and they stated that they do not sell whole rye flakes. They do sell organic rye chops but indicated that the chops should be soaked for 30 minutes prior to incorporating into the other ingredients (Vollkornbrot recipe step #1). Should I purchase the rye chops and pre-soak? Thank you.

    1. Yep, they’ve discontinued it, unfortunately. You can try your idea, but it’s going to take some experimentation since there’s extra water now. Will probably have to adjust.

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