No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

White flour is made from the bulk of the wheat kernel, the starchy endosperm. Whole wheat flour takes more from the plant. In addition to the endosperm, it retains the bran, which is the fibrous outer husk of the kernel, and the germ, which contains the oil in the grain. Make no mistake: the endosperm of a wheat kernel is nourishing all by itself. But incorporating the bran and germ results in a more fiber- and nutrient-rich food. So I played around a bit with my basic formula.

First I applied my technique to 100-percent whole wheat bread, and while it made good toast, I found that it was too gritty, too dense for my taste. Whole wheat lacks some of the elasticity of white bread flours. So I kept cutting down the ratio until I got to around 25-percent whole wheat flour—and finally I was content. (Actually, before milling was as efficient as it is now, there was always a significant portion of the bran left behind in white flour, so this ratio more closely resembles preindustrial bread.)

I invite you to try the experiment yourself if you’re interested in finding your own favorite ratio. Go all the way with 100-percent whole wheat flour, then drop down to 85 or 50 percent, or lower. If you’ve got health reasons to get a lot of fiber into your diet, a high proportion of whole wheat might do the trick; so might adding other grains like flaxseed. And maybe you’ll actually prefer the taste and feel of this no-knead bread based on a higher ratio of whole wheat than the one I offer here.–Jim Lahey

LC Bread That Sprecheksn the Deutch Note

Regardless of your ancestry, you can make this sturdy whole-grain loaf even more substantial–and satisfying–when you consider pretending you’re German and tossing in a handful of walnuts or maybe some pumpkin and sunflower sesame seeds when mixing the dough.

No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes one 10-inch round loaf

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant or other active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups cool (55 to 65°F) water
  • Wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting

Directions

  • 1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, salt, and yeast. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
  • 2. Generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the surface in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
  • 3. Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough feels tacky [Editor's Note: that simply means sticky], dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost double in size. When you gently poke the dough with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
  • 4. About half an hour before you think the second rise is complete, preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Adjust the oven rack to the lower third position and place a 4 1/2-to-5 1/2-quart heavy Dutch oven or pot with a lid in the center of the rack.
  • 5. Using pot holders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel and quickly but gently invert the dough into the pot, seam side up. (Use caution—the pot will be very hot.) Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking until the loaf is a deep chestnut color but not burnt, 15 to 30 minutes more. Use a heatproof spatula or pot holders to carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly. Then slice and…sigh.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Ralph Wheat

Oct 05, 2009

This is an excellent recipe and, especially, a new-to-me technique. I have been baking bread for years and years, and baking bread in a 100-year-old cast-iron Dutch oven has been a revelation to me. The recipe ingredients were absolutely correct for making a traditional 1 1/2-pound loaf of artisan bread. The no-knead revelation, coupled with overnight proofing, led to a perfect loaf. It’s an absolutely no-brainer. My normal method for making this artisan loaf takes three days! The only criticism of the recipe I have is that the author specified only “cool water,” implying that the baker use tap water. Chlorinated city water is not water you should use in making bread.

Testers Choice
Fran Brennan

Oct 05, 2009

This recipe makes it easy to turn out crusty loaves of chewy whole wheat bread that will have you turning up your nose at supermarket bread in no time. It also invites experimentation, begging to be tweaked with more or less whole wheat flour and the addition of nuts and seeds (flax? sunflower? pumpkin?). Loaves don’t last long in our house, so there are very few days now when we don’t have a bowl of dough rising on the counter.

This bread is so simple to make it has become my go-to bread recipe. (I rarely buy bread). It has a chewy crust and a well-developed flavor. When making it with all whole wheat flour and/or if adding bran, I’ve found adding about a tablespoon of any kind of sugar or syrup really helps jump-start the yeast; otherwise it must sit for considerably longer than 12 hours to finish the first rise. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it lends itself very well to experimentation, I’m still trying to figure out what combination and proportion I like best!

Comments
Comments
  1. mimi says:

    Just tried this recipe here in Honduras the land of white bread and tortillas. I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome when I had not had good results with other recipes of this kind no-knead that is. I added 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seed, and 1/4 cup steamed wheat berries. The flavor was terrific. Texture ditto, and the crust was just the way we like it. CRUSTY! Because of the extra seeds, next time, and there will be a next time, I will add just a tad bit more moisture.

    On to the olive bread. The challenge will be to find an olive dry enough, if possible. Have kalamatas available in oil. Thank you. It was well worth the effort.

  2. David Leite says:

    I made this to take to a Christmas Eve dinner. It was exceedingly easy to bake. (The only difficulty I had was the dough stuck a bit because I didn’t flour the tea towel well enough.) The loaf was chewy, with a dense, crackly crust and tons of big, irregular air bubbles. It nearly disappeared during the hors d’oeuvre hour. I will definitely be making this regularly during week. It’s too easy not to.

  3. jack says:

    Is there a way to make it less dense with more air pockets? I have tried a few times and it always came out very doughy.

    • I added a bit more water to the original dough to make it less dense. That resulted in more air bubbles as the dough rose and a lighter loaf. I would also increase the rise time a bit.

    • Victoria F., LC Recipe Tester says:

      Did you use instant yeast or active dry yeast? If you used active dry, you really need to use a little more than the 1/2 teaspoon of instant. Go with 2/3 teaspoon to 3/4 teaspoon. In addition, I personally like to do my first rise in the refrigerator overnight, the cool rise lends itself to better flavor and texture. Then after shaping it, remember that the second rise will be longer since the dough is colder. This, I think, will make your bread more airy and less dense.

    • Steve Subera, LC Recipe Tester says:

      Is your dough doubling (or more) within the 12- to-18-hour window? I’ve had different no-knead doughs ready in eight hours, and I’ve sometimes skipped the second rise because it was ready. Your dough might have risen too much. If it over-rises, you won’t get the oven spring and you would get a flatter, doughy loaf.

      I have to slightly disagree with the instructions given in the recipe on what to look for when poking the dough. If you wait until the dough doesn’t spring back at all, there’s a chance it’s over-risen. It should spring back slowly. If you can’t be exact, I find it better to catch the bread before it’s fully risen than waiting too long.

      Also, if you used the same package or jar of yeast for all of the doughy ones, then start with new yeast to eliminate that variable.

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