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Apr 10, 2007 10:30 PM

whole wheat bread

I recently made some bread from a recipe in the chicago tribune and it turned out ok... giving me some confidence in bread baking. Does anyone have a good suggestion for whole wheat bread? when i try it, the bread just falls apart... it has the texture of cornbread.

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  1. I'm guessing you are overkneading the bread, or not letting it proof long enough. Whole wehat bread benefits from a second rise before shaping, My suggestion is to substitute half of the flour for bread flour or all purpose, which will help the structure of the bread in the formation of gluten. Don't give up on whole wheat bread. It just requires more patience.

    1. sounds to me like you are using 100% whole wheat bread. What holds bread together is the gluten formation and whole grain wheat doesn't have much on it's own. Nearly all homemade wheat breads call for a mix of whole wheat and other flour. If you really want 100% whole wheat, I highly recommend adding a few TB of pure wheat gluten, which will give it some rise and some chewy, bread-like consistency.

      Otherwise, try a 1/2 to 1/2 ratio of whole wheat flour to bread flour. Then, depending on how that turns out, start adjusting the ratios. I currently do a 2/3 wheat, 1/3 bread flour ratio. And, for good measure, add 2 tsp gluten too.

      If I'm going for sandwich bread, I like my whole wheat bread soft, so I use fats too. Some butter and milk in the recipe. Plus, I like the crust rather soft too so I brush the top with butter as soon as it comes out too.

      2 Replies
      1. re: adamclyde

        So, I'm a bit confused about the whole wheat falling apart. I make the No-Knead bread with 1c Whole Wheat, 1c White Whole Wheat, 1c a mix of soy flour and spelt. Is there just enough gluten in the White Whole Wheat to keep things together? Or is it that the no kneading somehow avoids the problem altogether? I'm curious b/c I've heard this before and just wondered if the WWW has enough to solve this. thanks!

        1. re: brownie

          brownie, I've not made the no knead bread, and haven't followed the current "no knead" phenomenon very closely. But I am pretty sure that the "no knead" method involves mixing the ingredients to the "shaggy" stage then letting the dough sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours. This is actually an ancient method of preparing bread dough, where dough would be made and kept in covered clay jars or pots and baked as needed. This long rest allows the flours and grains in the dough ample time to absorb the liquid, which makes the grain softer and the texture of the finished bread product less grainy/crumbly. Technically, gluten is formed when liquid (water) is combined with the proteins in flour. Mixing or kneading will acheive this in a short amount of time. The no knead method acheives this by extending the time and reducing the work.

          A process known as autolyse is a shorter form of this--mixing the ingredients to the "shag" stage, then covering it and letting it rest, typically for 15-60 minutes before continuting the mixing/kneading process. Bread made with an autolyse will usually have a nicer texture and more developed flavor than bread made from the same dough that was not autolysed.

      2. I made a 100% whole wheat bread for the first time yesterday, with pretty good results. I used a recipe from the King Arthur website (100% whole wheat sandwhich bread). It has a thin, crisp crust, which I found to be nice.

        The only question I had about the loaf is the fact that it doesn't have a nice rounded top like white flour bread I've made. Is this typical for whole wheat bread, or did something go wrong?

        2 Replies
        1. re: sbaker

          If you're interested in making 100% whole wheat bread, two books are well worth finding: The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (Laurel Robertson, Random House, 1984) and the Tassajara Bread Book (Edward Espe Brown, Shambhala, 1970, rev. 1986 & 1995). Laurel' Kithcen has a particularly useful section called "A Loaf for Learning" which describes in detail the different stages a whole wheat dough goes through as you knead it. The two key discoveries: mix the dough much wetter than you think possible and knead it much longer than you think advisable.The dough starts off as a batter that you think can't possibly become a loaf of bread, but after 10 to 15 minutes of kneading it begins an almost miraculous transformation. I mix this on the countertop, using a plastic scraper to lift one edge of the dough off the countertop and flip it over on itself. As the dough absorbs moisture, it will begin to acquire shape and body, at which point I use my fingers to do the lift and flip.I've gotten pretty efficient at this, and it still takes me 20 minutes or so to get the dough where I want it. But the results are well worth it: the finished loaves are light, soft, well-risen, and nicely domed.

          The Tassajara book uses a sponge to get the dough started, which does cut down on the kneading time. Either method makes fabulous 100% whole wheat bread.

          1. re: JepJonson

            Ditto on Laurel's Kitchen being the whole wheat authority. I've made several 100% whole wheat recipes from this book, and they are all high, light, and delicious. For beginners, if you follow the 'loaf for learning' it's nearly impossible to go wrong.

        2. BTW, this is the recipe i used, except it was printed in the chicago tribune.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Danimal

            For the no knead bread, I do half white whole wheat flour and half bread flour or all purpose. I've started adding some wheat gluten to it lately, too. Haven't noticed a huge difference, but I haven't tried it side by side.

          2. I'll recommend the Laurel's book, too, and Peter Reinhart has a new book on bread baking with whole grains. Seems like it would be impossible to over knead ww bread, but it's not - just more difficult by hand. Over proofing is possible, too - and I've done that more than once. When that happens, the bread doesn't enough "oomph" left to get much oven spring and it falls on itself.