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How to Make Perfect Whole Wheat Bread

Updated on March 23, 2016
Valerie P Davis profile image

Valerie lives in Birmingham, Alabama and writes about fun things, like recipes that really work!

Moist, chewy slices of bread.
Moist, chewy slices of bread.

Make That Whole Wheat Rise!

Make home-ground whole wheat bread that rises perfectly in a bread machine! One of the most frustrating problems in baking is trying to get bread made from all whole wheat flour to rise well in a bread machine.

This recipe and instructions will help you solve that problem. You can also use these ideas to adjust your recipes for hand-kneaded bread.

Home-ground whole wheat flour is heavier and coarser than white flour from the store. For years, when I tried it alone in a regular bread recipe I got a sad, stubby, uneven, dense loaf, that wouldn't slice nicely and didn't have a moist crumb. Even good quality store-bought whole wheat flour doesn't rise as well as white flour.

After many experiments, I developed a recipe that rises beautifully to yield a tall, light two-pound loaf that slices without crumbling, and is just moist and chewy enough. Each slice is big enough to be cut in half to make a satisfying sandwich.

After the recipe, I'll explain each point that differs from the usual bread machine recipes. You can incorporate these ideas into other whole grain recipes, to improve your results.

[All photos by Valerie Proctor Davis]

Whole Wheat Loaf
Whole Wheat Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • Water added to egg to make 1 7/8 cups (halfway between the lines for 1 3/4 and 2 cups)
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast

Cook Time

  • Prep time: 10 min
  • Cook time: 3 hours 40 min
  • Ready in: 3 hours 50 min
  • Yields: Two-pound loaf

Instructions

  1. Crack egg into a measuring cup.
  2. Add water to the egg to make 1 7/8 cups.
  3. Beat the egg in the water.
  4. Pour water into bread machine pan.
  5. Add brown sugar, salt, and yogurt.
  6. Add flour; make depression in top of pile.
  7. Pour yeast into depression.
  8. Begin Wheat cycle.
  9. When kneading starts, test and adjust dough ball as explained below.
  10. Remove promptly when baking ends. Let cool before slicing.
Cast your vote for Perfect Whole Wheat Bread

My Favorite Bread Machine

Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker, Black
Zojirushi BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker, Black

This is the latest version of the Zojirushi that I have been using for six years now. Its horizontal pan makes a normal-shaped loaf, and the double paddles work up the dough like a pair of hands kneading.

It has all kinds of dandy extras like an adjustable setting for browness, and customizable cycles. I use it to make up and raise pizza dough while I'm cooking the sauce. Could even make jam in it if I wanted!

 

The Ingredients

Set out the ingredients for your whole wheat loaf.
Set out the ingredients for your whole wheat loaf.

  • The egg is a brown one from my backyard chickens, but you can use a store-bought one!
  • Use any dry active yeast. You'll find it in small packets at the grocery store. As you start to bake more, you can save money by buying it in jars or large freeze-dried bricks. Store yeast in the freezer, sealed up well.
  • Salt helps control the yeast. If you need more rise, experiment with reducing the salt or leaving it out.
  • The yogurt in this recipe is replacing both butter and powdered milk. Yogurt helps hold moisture, and the taste blends well with the whole wheat. Using it instead of fat or oil seems to improve the rise.
  • This is a bit more sugar than plain bread recipes usually use. The extra sugar helps the yeast grow better, and brown sugar tastes good in whole wheat. Once I also added two tablespoons of molasses, and got a spectacular loaf with a beautiful puffy chef's-hat top. Only problem was, it didn't fit in the bread slicer!
  • I ground the wheat myself in my Nutrimill. It's hard red winter wheat, which naturally has more gluten than other flours. You can get hard white wheat, too. I buy mine in bulk from a local organic grocery, which saves on shipping fees.

The Egg

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Crack the egg into a large measuring cup.Add water to make 1 7/8 cups.Break the yolk with a fork and beat the egg into the water.
Crack the egg into a large measuring cup.
Crack the egg into a large measuring cup.
Add water to make 1 7/8 cups.
Add water to make 1 7/8 cups.
Break the yolk with a fork and beat the egg into the water.
Break the yolk with a fork and beat the egg into the water.

The egg helps add moisture and texture, as well as additional protein. If you don't eat yolks, substitute two egg whites.

I include the egg in the water measurement to avoid getting the dough too wet. If your dough is coming out much too wet, you could also add the yogurt to the water measurement, as well as any other liquid ingredient, such as molasses.

  • Crack the egg into a large measuring cup.
  • Add water to make 1 7/8 cups. (That will be halfway between 1 3/4 and 2 cups - it isn't clear in the picture, as the counter was a bit uneven.)
  • Break the yolk with a fork, then beat the egg into the water.

Add Ingredients

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pour liquids first into the bread machine pan.Follow by piling the flour and other dry ingredients, with a small well at top for the yeast.Set the bread machine on the "whole wheat" cycle.
Pour liquids first into the bread machine pan.
Pour liquids first into the bread machine pan.
Follow by piling the flour and other dry ingredients, with a small well at top for the yeast.
Follow by piling the flour and other dry ingredients, with a small well at top for the yeast.
Set the bread machine on the "whole wheat" cycle.
Set the bread machine on the "whole wheat" cycle.

Your main goal when filing the bread machine pan is to keep the yeast separate from salt and liquids until the kneading cycle starts.

  • Add the liquid ingredients, sugar, and salt.
  • Add the flour. Make a hole in the top of the flour mound.
  • Pour the yeast into the hole.
The Zojirushi has a "Wheat" cycle that's longer than the regular bread cycle. It includes a 40-minute warmup, which is necessary if you're using ingredients that have been stored in the freezer, or a cold egg and cold water. But if all your ingredients are warm, you can program a custom "Homemade" cycle and skip that step.

My Favorite Grain Mill

NutriMill Classic 760200 High Speed Grain Mill, 1200 Watt, 5 Cups Per Minute
NutriMill Classic 760200 High Speed Grain Mill, 1200 Watt, 5 Cups Per Minute

An electric grain mill gives you fresh flour as needed. Store leftover flour tightly sealed in the freezer, to keep the oils fresh.

I've used this Nutrimill for almost 7 years now. The only thing that's needed replacing has been filters. I use the slow setting to grind wheat fine and cool. It also grinds rice and popcorn.

 

Test and Adjust

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A wet dough ball.Add flour to adjust the wetness.Round, sticky dough ball.A kneaded dough ball, elastic and slightly sticky.
A wet dough ball.
A wet dough ball.
Add flour to adjust the wetness.
Add flour to adjust the wetness.
Round, sticky dough ball.
Round, sticky dough ball.
A kneaded dough ball, elastic and slightly sticky.
A kneaded dough ball, elastic and slightly sticky.

You'll need to test your dough ball as the kneading cycle starts, to make sure you have the right balance of wet and dry ingredients. This balance can be affected by the weather, your water quality, and your grainmill settings. Also, freshly ground flour is light and fluffy, but settles in storage.

  • Let the kneading cycle run for a minute of so, then open the lid and look at the dough ball. The one in the picture above is too wet - slumped down flat and glistening - and needs more flour.
  • Add flour a tablespoon at a time, letting the machine knead it in. If the dough is dry, add water the same way.
  • The next picture shows a good dough ball, round and slightly sticky. You should be able to feel stickiness, but not have any come off onto your finger.
  • After a few minutes more kneading, the dough is smooth and elastic, and still slightly sticky.
  • Don't open the machine again while it's rising and baking. The change in temperature can affect the rise.
After you've become accustomed to the recipe and how your ingredients work in it, you can start using the time delay, and set the bread to be ready when you wake up or when you get up or when you get home. That's when you'll appreciate the full convenience of bread machine baking!

The Loaf

Whole Wheat Loaf
Whole Wheat Loaf

Bread Slicer

DB-Tech Bamboo Wood Compact Foldable Bread Slicer
DB-Tech Bamboo Wood Compact Foldable Bread Slicer

Slicing guides help you turn your homemade loaf into perfect, even slices. Lets you choose how thick you want your slices, plus it folds for easy storage,

 

The Slices

The whole wheat bread slices cleanly, and has a good firm crumb, moist and chewy.
The whole wheat bread slices cleanly, and has a good firm crumb, moist and chewy.

© 2013 Valerie Proctor Davis

How Does Your Bread Turn Out?

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    • renagirl profile image

      renagirl 4 years ago

      My yeast rolls turn out really good. but I learned that if its raining out side they wont rise. it may just be a southern thing .Thats a pretty loaf of bread and your lens is just yummy

    • profile image

      timetoact 4 years ago

      Looks good. I love the smell of homemade bread.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 4 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      I have some dough my MIL made sitting in the refrigerator, just waiting to be baked.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 4 years ago

      Really thorough instructions! I'm anxious to try this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I struggled with the 1 7/8 cups measurement! 1 cup + 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons = 1 7/8 (had to look it up on the interweb because my maths isnt great!)

    • Ontoddy profile image

      Ontoddy 4 years ago

      Must give it a try, the last time I made bread was at school many many years ago!

    • Valerie P Davis profile image
      Author

      Valerie Proctor Davis 4 years ago from Birmingham, Alabama

      @anonymous: It's about halfway between the 1 3/4 cup and the 2 cup line. I've added that to the instructions - thanks for asking!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 4 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      I haven't tried making bread in years, and when I did, it was actually in an outdoor cob (like adobe) oven, which was very tricky. I finally got it right after about a dozen tries, when I ended up with more like hockey pucks than loaves of bread. I've never actually tried a bread machine. Yours looks so good and nice and soft too. I can almost smell the warm bread through the screen.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 4 years ago

      I've never made bread in a machine, but you do make it seem so much fun - kind of like a home science experiment. A very tasty home science experiment. :)

    • Kylyssa profile image

      Kylyssa Shay 4 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

      I don't use a bread machine but I'll certainly try your recipe and techniques to get more loft out of my whole wheat bread. I'll also try them out with other whole grains because I think you're really onto something here that would work well with many whole grains to make fluffier, lighter bread.

    • profile image

      deb2blessed 3 years ago

      I made this recipe in my Regal Bread maker. Unfortunately after adding the ingredients to my machine-- I read my manual and found that it says to not use over 4 1/2 cups of dry ingredients! Although my loaf over-topped the pan... we cut off the excess when baked. This was the best loaf we have ever tasted! My hubby loves it. We have refigured the recipe to work with 4 cups of our homeground red winter wheat. Thanks so much for this great recipe. (p.s. I have my eye on the bread machine you use...it may be my next Amazon purchase.)

    • profile image

      deb2blessed 3 years ago

      Update: we have cut the recipe down to 3 cups after the 4 cups STILL touched the lid and over topped. The 3 cup did ok but the top fell a little. Think we will cut back 2 TBS of water next. Should we omit the egg? We are still using the 1 egg since you can't divide an egg. I would appreciate your input-- my machine says it will do a 2lb loaf!

    • Valerie P Davis profile image
      Author

      Valerie Proctor Davis 3 years ago from Birmingham, Alabama

      @deb2blessed: So it's rising just a bit too fast and then falling a little? I would try either cutting down the yeast a bit, or cutting down the yogurt. The amount of water you add should depend on how your test for stickiness comes out. If you're having to add a lot more flour every time, then start with less water. The egg shouldn't affect the rise - it adds moisture and replaces part of the water. Good luck and enjoy!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 3 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      I also use my bread maker to make breads. Home-made bread really is the best!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Not as good as yours does! I will definitely try this recipe. It looks perfect, and I like the idea of the yogurt! great instructions too! Love my bread machine.

    • profile image

      deb2blessed 3 years ago

      Well after many many loaves~~~ we now have perfection! here's what we made work in my machine:

      1 egg and water to equal 9 ounces total

      3 1/2 TBS organic brown sugar (next I am trying Reaw honey)

      3 1/2 TBS non fat plain yogurt

      1 tsp salt

      4 cups (480 grams weighed on my baking scale) Hard Red winter wheat homeground

      1 tsp yeast

      My Regal bread machine has a Wheat setting it take 3:40 to make this perfect bread! The last loaf I added 1/2 cup (approx 60 grams) roasted unsalted sunflower seeds. Wow is this bread wonderful!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I gave away my bread machine years ago because no amount of tweaking recipes got me a good loaf of whole wheat bread. I wish I'd had your recipe then. But I'm always delighted to find another whole grain baker here on Squidoo. Thank you. Beautifully done lens.

    • profile image

      othellos 2 years ago

      The addition of egg is a surprise to me. I have to try your recipe because the photos are promising a wonderful whole wheat bread. Appreciate you sharing the recipe.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 2 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Pinning this one. I still haven't tried, but it sounds wonderful. I haven't bakes any with yogurt. Anxious to see how it comes out.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Woo hoo! I'm always looking for another 100 percent whole wheat bread recipe. Thank you for sharing this! Since I no longer own a bread machine, I'm wondering if I could adapt this recipe to hand kneading, or kneading on my mixer.

      It surely does look good. Thank you for sharing it. I'm going to feature it later this week as the Recipe of the Day on Cooking with Whole Grains & Whole Foods on Facebook.

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