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Whole Wheat No Knead bread recipe

I've tried twice to make the Jim Lahey No Knead bread recipe using whole wheat flour and the dought did not rise at all. Is the recipe a bit different when using whole wheat flour? If so, please let me know. Are there any other secrets to making good whole wheat bread?

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  1. I have tried it twice - once with 2/3 whole wheat, which rose, but not a lot - it was dense, for sure. Second time, I did half whole wheat bread flour, and half white bread flour. I also folded in some walnuts and raisins before the second rise. This second one was definitely a success! Didn't rise quite as much as the white bread, but it rose enough. The dense, wheaty taste was more enjoyable with the nuts and raisins.

    I should mention, I doubled the yeast amount from the recipe (to 1/2 tsp), both because I use active dry yeast (instead of instant), and because from what I read, whole wheat flour has less gluten and thus doesn't rise as much. Or something. Anyway, try doubling the yeast. Also, it may make a difference that I used whole-wheat "bread flour."

    1 Reply
    1. re: dubedo

      Thank you for getting back to me so soon. The advice sounds like it will be helpful.

    2. I've done a couple of 100% whole wheat loaves and mentioned them on other threads. A whole wheat version is going to be denser no matter what. Some things that may help include bolting the flour (which is to use a fine sieve or strainer to remove the coarser bran), adding a small amount of rye flour to increase the enzyme activity (try 2 tablespoons)and giving it more time. My next loaf, however, will be kneaded: about a minute in a food processor or 10 minutes in a stand mixer on about a #2 setting. (Use cool water to start as mechanical processing heats it up.) Since I mill my own flour from hard white Montana winter wheat, I find it helps to mill it to the finest setting. Lahey's assistant mentioned that for whole versions of this loaf, use more water, up to but not beyond 100%. I tried it at nearly 100% and will back off a bit next time, as the crumb was rather moist after baking. I'll try 90%, which is to say to fifteen ounces of high-protein whole wheat flour I will use 13.5 ounces of water. I really believe that whole wheat flours do better with vigorous kneading. Otherwise, I plan to handle the dough the same as the no-knead version.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Father Kitchen

        I'll keep the new water measurements in mind the next time try it. I'll get back to you about getting my own flour--that sounds great!!

      2. I followed the instructions of the recipe in the NYTimes--so it was all by hand. Bittman says he had great results with whole wheat flour, he just didn't mention changing the measurements of the recipe.

        1. Today I baked the whole wheat bread following Lahey's basic recipe but kneading it, to see if the kneading makes a substantial difference. I used freshly milled Wheat Montana white hard wheat which I milled at the finest setting on my Magic Mill III. I increased the amount to 20 ounces and used 18 ounces of water (90% hydration) and 2 level teaspoons of salt (12 grams or not quite half an ounce). I mixed the flour and water and let stand for 20 minutes and then added the salt and finally 1/4 teaspoon of yeast. I kneaded it at a medium low speed in a stand mixer for 8 minutes--at which point it looked as if the dough were beginning to shred. I stopped and left it to rise in a lightly-oiled covered plastic bucket at about 65 degrees. Six hours later it had tripled in volume. I folded it and put it in the refrigerator. Nine hours later, I took it out and let it warm to room temperature over about two hours and a half. It doubled in volume. I folded it again and shaped it and left it to rise in a well-floured towel. After 2 1/2 hours I put it to bake in an Innova enameled, cast-iron pot at 500 degrees. I baked it 25 minutes covered and another 12 uncovered, until the crust began to get really dark. Unfortunately, when I put the dough into the pan, it stuck slightly to the towel (cornmeal works better than flour here) and the skin tore slightly. That tear may have affected the oven spring, as it spread more than it rose. All the same, I think I got about 20% more spring than in the unkeanded version. The real improvement in this loaf, however, was the quality of the crumb. It had good structure and a better texture than the unkneaded loaf. The crumb was still a bit more moist than I expected. I think I will decrease hydration next time to 87.5%. I think the color was darker than the previous version.
          My trials have involved unkeanded breads made from AP white flour, AP white flour and a sourdough starter, AP + whole wheat, whole wheat with honey in a short rising ("Grant Loaf"), whole wheat with a long rising time, and the kneaded version of the whole wheat with a long rising time. On the basis of my experience I think I can say, for a straight 100% whole-wheat loaf (using 100% extraction flour), kneading produces a better loaf. If you follow the Lahey basic rcipe, because the dough is so wet, it is best kneaded in a stand mixer or food processor--though it could be kneaded by hand using the pull-and-fold method that resembles taffy pulling. However, if you bolt the flour by sieving it to reduce the bran content, you can get a decent loaf without kneading. Alternatively, by adding white flour to the whole wheat, you can get a good loaf without kneading. In any case, a whole-wheat version will require more water than the white flour version. However, for a PB & J whole wheat bread, the Grant Loaf is quite nice. But kneading will improve that too (see Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book for good whole wheat loaves).
          I made all my loaves with flour freshly-milled from the same grain. One may expect different strains of wheat and different crops of the same grain to behave differently.
          Conclusion: There is really no one right way of doing this. Lots of different approaches produce results that are superior to anything you can buy at most supermarkets and neighborhood bakeries. The common denominator in the best of them is a long, slow rise. So whatever you do, find out what works best for you and your schedule. Have fun making it, and good eating.

          1. I tried it with 3/4 cup toasted oats coarsely ground in the food processor in place of 1/2 cup of the white flour. I also took out 1/2 cup of the white flour and substituted whole wheat pastry flour. I got a very nice flavor and texture.

            1. I've been using 1/3 whole wheat flour (I use the King Arthur whole wheat, and King Arthur bread flour as the other 2/3) fairly successfully for a while. I also dust with WW flour before shaping and the second rise to add a bit more to the loaf but haven't tried going much beyond that (I might need to try the half-and-half version to see how it works out.) I do tend to think the WW needs just a bit more water than AP or bread flour might gfor better results though.

              1. I have had good success using dough enhancer, about 1 Tbs. or slightly less per loaf. Also letting dough slowrise for a few hours using cold water and then knead a few minutes before shaping and final rise. It has a softer and more airy crumb.

                1. I found this page by googling for Making No Knead Bread with whole wheat flour only” and I folloed a combination of the tips some of you have suggested.
                  I want to share with you how amazing my bread has turned out.
                  First of all, this is the basic template I followed – essentially Jim Lahey’s:
                  3 cups (15 ounces) sifted wheat flour less ½ cup, then again less 2 tbs (to accommodate new flours below)
                  ½ cup ground oats (following Vanillagrrl’s idea)
                  2 tbs rye flour (following Father Kitchen)
                  I used 13.5 ounces of REALLY WARM water, following Father Kitchen’s ‘close to 90%’ hydration. Although he said 87.5 I knew the decimals using mental maths would be a killer, so stayed with 90!)
                  1/2 tsp instant yeast (Dubedo had said he/she doubled the yeast qty, so I generously followed that!) [I used King Arthur’s SAF Red Instant yeast]
                  1-1/4 tsp salt
                  Cornmeal for dusting – which leaves a better looking loaf than bran I feel, but I cd be wrong.
                  I used my bread machine dough cycle starting with liquid first then the solids...and as Father Kitchen mentioned that whole wheat needs vigorous kneading, and others mentioned using the dough hook, I decided to by-pass hand kneading, since I am an impatient one there, anyway.
                  So I used the dough cycle 8 minutes exactly.
                  The dough was sticky, expected...
                  I use a King Arthur dough doubling bucket, as it is always inspiring to see your dough rise. I left my dough in it for as much as 8 hours, but inside a cupboard to keep it warm. We have a light draft these days.
                  I shaped the dough following Lahey’s fold method and placed on a cornmeal dusted towel and covered it with a light layer of cornmeal and covered it again with another towel.
                  Left it for 45 min. Nothing significant was noticed in terms of rising.
                  Then oven temp at 450 degrees (220), and preheated the oven with a iron pot inside (middle shelf).
                  Then when ready, poured 2 cups hot water in the broiler tray, pulled out the iron pot, (was scared to death I wd hurt myself) slid the dough into it seam side up but more out of fear of being burnt, I dropped it into the pot sloppily since Lahey says, its fine 
                  Open baked for 5 mins (because I had forgotten to cover the pot) then covered it and baked another 25 – was supposed to take off the cover at half time, but definitely did not want to risk getting hurt as mine is a desk top oven and the shelves are wobbly and the heating element quite close. So I left the pot there covered 25 minutes.
                  The bread was/is awesome. The rye gave it a lovely brown color, the crust was reasonably hard – not crusty not limp; I cooled it somewhat then brownbagged it and went to bed. I cut the bread next morning (after 7 hours); (Just this morning, 40 minutes ago!)
                  The bread is porous and lighter than any whole wheat bread I have ever baked. Considering one did not use gluten, bread improvers, or even the 2-1/4 tsp of yeast. It has an amazing rustic country flavour, smells divine too!
                  I just might, just might take up the baking time to 33 minutes or 35. Unless one of you wants me to not do that...
                  But I want to thank you all for your little tips... I am so anti APF and any kind of white flour and so deeply committed to wholegrain flours that Father K’s suggestion of Rye went home well with me as did Dubedo’s ground oat idea. Except I used ½ cup, Vanillagrril and Dubedo not ¾ as you suggested and that was also because I remembered the suggestion as ½ cup !

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: happy meera

                    Thank you for sharing this. I just downloaded a simple whole wheat, no knead recipe from the NY Times, which uses, not a pot with a top, but a regular loaf pan. But happy meera's enthusiasm may convince me to try it her way.

                    1. re: happy meera

                      Sorry, I didn't pick up on the revival of this thread earlier. I no longer knead it at all. I fold it several times in the course of letting it rise. That's all it takes. And I, too, love the oatmeal and bolted whole wheat combination with a bit of rye.