Whole Wheat Bread

Far and away, I get more questions regarding yeast and baking bread than any other. It can be tricky to know when to stop adding flour, how long to knead, what yeast to use, etc, especially when you are just starting down the bread making road. A few years ago, I wrote up a tutorial on yeast which answers many of those questions. However, I have yet to do a step-by-step picture tutorial on simple bread making. Enter today’s post!

About two years ago I transitioned to making all of our bread. Not only has it saved us money but we have come to far prefer the taste of homemade bread to storebought. Even if you aren’t up to making all of your bread, conquering a loaf of bread for special occasions or an occasional indulgence is surely worth it! And I promise, it isn’t hard. In my carb-centered world, there is nothing more divine than a piece of warm, homemade bread fresh out of the oven slathered with butter.

A few notes:
1) For the purposes of the step-by-step instructions below, I used Darcy’s Whole Wheat Bread recipe from this whole wheat bread post. Because I make five loaves of bread about every 8-10 days, I alternate between all three of the recipes I included in that post, although I probably make Darcy’s recipe a little more often than the others. Bread bakers are very loyal to their preferred recipe – I can’t claim to have the perfect or the best bread recipes, but I can assure you that any of those recipes will produce a deliciously soft, tender loaf of bread. And they are the only recipes I use.

2) I have a Bosch mixer which is pictured in the instructions below and which I use to make all of my breads/rolls. You might need to tailor each bread recipe you try to the size of your stand mixer (or the size of the motor in the mixer) or to what you can accomplish by hand. The pictures below are a simple guideline to follow – adapt according to your equipment or lack of.

3) I grind my own wheat flour (with the Wolfgang Grain Mill) when I make bread although you can definitely use storebought wheat flour. I prefer hard white wheat over hard red wheat for it’s delicate texture and flavor but either can be used. When using freshly ground wheat flour, you will need to add more cups of flour than if using flour that has settled in a bag since the flour is more aerated and fluffy from being freshly ground. That is a minor issue since I harp on the fact that when making yeast doughs the flour amount given in the recipe should be a guideline only – the real test is the look and feel of the dough.

4) My preferred method of baking bread is to place it in a cold oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, letting the bread finish it’s rise and bake. You can adapt the recipe accordingly if you like to let your bread rise fully and then place it in an already preheated oven. To each his own, I say!

5) Just to restate from an earlier post, I use these bread pans and once the bread is cooled, I package it in these lovely bread bags with the plastic bag clips from IKEA and freeze until we are ready to eat.

6) As always, please let me know if you have any questions! I hope this tutorial is helpful for those of you wanting to conquer the art of bread making.

Click here for a printable PDF version of the picture tutorial.

172 Responses to Whole Wheat Bread {Step-by-Step}

  1. Laurie says:

    How would I alter this to use a food processor?

  2. angie mitolo says:

    Thank you for giving me the confidence to make my own bread! I started with baby steps and my kitchen aid mixer one loaf at a time. Then came the rolls, pizza dough, bagels, cookies, brownies. I then saved enough money to purchase the bosch universal mixer and my life changed! I can never eat a store bought item again, thanks to all your fabulous recipes. Saved enough money to buy a KoMo grinder and a 40lb. bag of hard white wheat berries.
    I just made 5 loaves with my freshly milled flour:) Taste great, looks different than yours. (yours looks like a white loaf, mine looks like whole wheat)
    Thank you Mel, for creating this fabulous blog, it truely is my go to site, when I need a recipe.

    • Mel says:

      I love to hear this, Angie! My Bosch mixer and KoMo grain mills are some of my most treasured kitchen tools and I’m so thrilled that you are enjoying them as well and that it’s allowed you to make bread from scratch. Yay!

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  4. BW says:

    Hey Mel, I finally got a grain mill – yahoo! My question is – the first picture looks like a white loaf from white flour vs whole wheat from hard white wheat berries. What is the crumb like on the whole wheat?

    • Mel says:

      Actually, all the pictures are of the 100% whole wheat loaves. I use white wheat (as compared to red wheat) so the texture and color of the bread is lighter, even if it is 100% whole wheat.

      • BW says:

        Oh wow! I didn’t realize it would be that light with all the bran in there because tortillas are pretty dark.

        Thanks! I’m super excited to try this.

  5. Kasandra Miller says:

    Hi Mel,
    I made this recipe last weekend and we’ve gone through all 5 loaves already (family of 7). The flavor of the loaves were great but they definitely didn’t rise like in the picture and were much more dense. They were not crumbly at all, so I don’t think I over floured the dough. Any thoughts on how I might get a fluffier bread?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Kasandra – it sounds like they might need to rise longer before they bake. Either that or tack several minutes onto the kneading time. If they didn’t get a high rise and you think the flouring is pretty spot on, I’d say let them rise higher before baking.

  6. Paulette says:

    Have you ever substituted Xanthum gum for the vital wheat gluten in your recipe? If so, how did it turn out?

  7. Ally Cathey says:

    Hi Mel,

    I finally have the courage to make this!

    What oil do you use?

  8. Jonathan says:

    Mel, I see that a lot of recipes call for all-purpose flour. If I grind my own wheat berries (let’s say, hard white) then I get whole-wheat flour. What do I need to add to make it all-purpose flour? I’ve seen some things that add wheat gluten. How necessary is this? Thanks in advance, love the site!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Jonathon – I’m not entirely sure. I don’t know if it’s possible at home to make whole wheat flour into all-purpose flour – all the portions of whole wheat would have to be stripped out of the flour to do that. Adding wheat gluten will help the flour be more like bread flour (higher protein) and helps whole wheat baked goods turn out light instead of dense.

  9. JK Zinda says:

    Hi Mel,
    I just found your website at the beginning of this year and love it! Such great recipes. I own a Bosch as well and have been making my own bread for about seven years, but I love to try new recipes. Also, I have always used the smaller bread pans (as I have smaller mouths to feed and the smaller size bread is great portions), but I wanted to try bigger loafs. When I got to the end of your post on rising and baking, I was very surprised to see you put your bread in a cold oven! How does that work without you burning the top of your bread when preheating? How do you time that?

    • Mel says:

      It’s the way I’ve always made it so I guess I’ve never really second guessed it – I don’t have a problem with the tops of my bread getting overly browned so I keep with that same method. It probably depends on how quickly your oven preheats.

  10. Marci says:

    Hey Mel! I’m back ;). So my bread has been so disappointing lately. When it rises it’s always a rippled look, not a beautifully shaped dome like yours, and then the other half of the time it rises beautifully only to deflate in the oven into the same old rippled look. I’ve tried doing 2 1/2-3 T of yeast and while this has seemed to get a better rise out of it, my bread ends up being really light and airy on the top half and heavy on the bottom half. I know it’s hard to tell me what’s wrong when you can’t see it, but do you have any idea what’s up? I had one lady suggest to me I might need more dough in my pans but I bought the same pans as you and have been doing 4 loaves instead of 5. So frustrating! I love the taste of this bread and I wish I could get it right!

    • Mel says:

      Marci – what recipe are you using? The one in the post or the revised one in the comments that we talked about a few months back? I actually have my post all ready to go on my perfected whole wheat bread, I’m just trying to set some time aside to post it. I’ll be interested if it helps you to get the perfect bread. Also, I know you were joking, but if you are ever in my neck of the woods, you could totally come over to make bread. In the meantime, I’m not above face timing or skyping to figure it out if that might help. How are you shaping the bread into loaves?

      • Marci says:

        I’m still using the Darcy recipe using the revised version you made awhile ago with using 6 cups of water and making 4 loaves instead of 5 etc. my husband and I usually end up out that way at least once during the summer for a motorcycle road trip (I love McCall and Stanley!) that would be a dang fun detour to make to your house! I can’t wait for your post! I have 3 loaves of bread in my freezer so I may hold out til your post to make anymore. Thanks for everything!

  11. Marci says:

    One more thing, my 4 loaves are never more than 28 oz each but I can’t imagine adding anymore flour, it’s barely sticky as is. My dough and bread is so much different than how you describe yours that I keep rechecking the recipe to see if I’m missing something big, but I’m doing it just as you describe. I guess it’s time for a road trip to your house. Now to figure out how to explain to the hubby that I’m leaving him with the kids for 3 days so I can learn to perfect my bread…

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