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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487 thoughts to “Q&A Whole Grain Breads”

  1. I’d been working with the original HBin5 book, and just recently bought the updated version because I started baking with the einkorn whole wheat flour. Thought this would be in the charts on pgs. 82 and 92, as it was mentioned here on the site? It would be great to know if you’ve tested to find the best liquid ratio. My dough was too wet going by the original master recipe; after reading on the einkorn site about reducing liquid to achieve the correct texture and retain flavor, for next batch I reduced the amount of water to *just enough* to incorporate the flour, and this seems too dry.

    It’s great to have the new edition because I’m curious to try the spelt and khorasan flours, too. Lots of inspiration. Thank you!

    1. Hi Joyce,

      We’ve found that the einkorn behaves more like spelt, so you can follow the recipes that use spelt to get a sense of the proper amount of hydration. Every flour is a bit different, so I recommend making a half batch and be sure you are happy with the results.

      Enjoy! Zoë

      1. Hello Zoe,
        Thank you for that tip of using the liquid amount for spelt as a starting point for the einkorn whole wheat flour. I made a batch as the spelt recipe specifies, though I subsituted 1 cup of beer for water, and put 2 tablespoons each of honey and melted butter before completing the liquid measure. The bread is awesome! The texture is wonderful too.

        One thing I noticed, is that this dough seemed drier in the bucket, a day or so after I’d mixed it up compared to when I’d first mixed it. I’m not sure if this is typical of einkorn, or whole wheat in general. So I’m planning to finish baking up the batch in the next few days. I might increase the liquid amount slightly next time.

        Thank you so much for the advice, it saved me time experimenting!

      2. Glad that worked out for you. It does sound like you might need a little more water, but go easy… Einkorn doesn’t have all of that much gluten to absorb water if there’s too much. What appears to be dry dough may bake up just fine.

  2. Can you substitue Eikorn flour in your Master Recipe? Do you have adjustments to the recipe for using Einkorn?

    1. Assume Einkorn will perform more or less like whole wheat flour, and can be substituted 1-to-1 for that in our Whole Wheat Master recipes–I’m not aware of any white-flour Einkorn products, I think they all have the bran and germ included. But depending on brand, there may need to be a water adjustment, so it’ll take some testing. Best to become familiar with our whole wheat recipes based on ordinary flour so you see what the dough’s supposed to look like.

      You didn’t say which of our “Master” recipes you’re using, from which book and page number, but if you substitute this flour into our white-flour Master Recipe from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, it won’t work without a water adjustment–probably more, but that depends on the flour-brand.

      1. Thank you for your time to respond. I have 3 of your cookbooks and have enjoyed them all so much. I’ve used the Whole Wheat Master recipe so this advice will help a lot.
        THank you!

  3. Hi Jeff and Zoe,
    I really enjoy your recipes..I have the original Healthy Bread in 5 book. My question is why you don’t use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour instead of adding vital wheat gluten in your recipes. From what I understand, bread flour has a higher protein content. Wouldn’t that do the same thing? Just curious! Suzette

    1. Hi Suzette,

      You absolutely can use bread flour. Depending on the flour it may make up all the difference in the gluten or you may still need a bit of additional VWG. If you have our New HBin5, you’ll see that we did a version of the recipe without VWG in case people can’t come by it easily.

      Thanks, Zoë

  4. Can I substitute whole spelt flour for whole wheat flour in your recipes in THE NEW HEALTHY BREAD IN 5 MINUTES A DAY? Is so, what adjustments need to be made? Can I just use spelt for both the whole wheat and all purpose white flour?

  5. I have recently found your updated original book and have been loving it! I have been making the master recipe and feel like I have that down and started dabbling in the whole wheat milk and honey loaf. I’m struggling to get a rise on it and not sure why. I’m planning to get vital wheat gluten and I was wondering how much liquid to add when using? Also, if making a boule, what temperature and time would you bake at? Thank you!

    1. That is definitely a recipe on the denser side. When I wrote The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I did use vital wheat gluten to lighten things up. You can get a sense of that without the book if you type that book title into the search bar and that should yield the recipe. Let me know if you can’t find it.

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