Homemade whole wheat bread is something all bakers should be able to make. This recipe is straightforward and simple enough for even new bakers to experiment with. Whole wheat flour (or a combination of whole wheat and white, or even spelt) is given the chance to shine in this tender loaf.
Adapted from Rebecca Seal & John Vincent | Leon Happy Guts | Conran, 2021
Once you’ve mastered this simple recipe, experiment: we sometimes use spelt bread flour, or a mixture of whole wheat and white bread flour, or shape the bread into rolls on a baking sheet before the final prove (they only need 15 to 20 minutes cooking time, depending on their size).–Rebecca Seal & John Vincent
HOW LONG WILL HOMEMADE WHOLE WHEAT BREAD LAST?
If you’ve followed the instructions and let your loaf cool for a full hour (it sounded like a cruel joke to us, too, the first time we heard it), you’re going to maximize the shelf life of your bread. By letting it cool fully, the bread will reabsorb all the steam trapped inside. If you cut into that loaf immediately, you’re going to notice that it goes stale much faster because of the moisture it loses. A properly cooled loaf, that gets carefully wrapped and stored on the counter, will last about 4 days.
Homemade Whole Wheat Bread
- 3 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour plus extra for dusting
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Scant 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus extra for the bowl and pan
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Add the water and oil and mix with your hands until lumpy and craggy with no visible pockets of flour.
- Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until thoroughly combined (or use the dough hook attachment on your mixer), 7 to 10 minutes. If you find it’s too sticky, add a spoonful or so of flour. The dough should be slightly tacky.
- Lightly oil the mixing bowl, place the ball of dough back in, cover with a clean, damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 60 to 80 minutes.
- Slick a 2-pound (907 g) loaf pan with oil. Lightly knead the dough again for a couple of minutes before moulding into an oval and placing in the pan. (If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can make a more rustic, round cottage loaf on a baking sheet.)
- Cover with the tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. (Editor’s note: If you’re uncertain how to tell if your dough is fully risen, use these helpful tips).
- About 20 minutes before the dough is finished rising, preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Bake until you can easily take the loaf out of the pan and the internal temperature is 200°F (93°C), 30 to 35 minutes. If you tap the base of the loaf and it sounds hollow, it's done.
- Place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I’ve been making so much sourdough of late, this homemade whole wheat bread was a nice change of pace. It’s a simple recipe, and anyone who is a fan of hearty, wholemeal bread will enjoy this loaf. While the dough comes together relatively easily, I found that once I had the ingredients essentially combined in the bowl, folding the dough in quarter turns allowed me to get all the loose bits of the wheat flour combined into the dough. This recipe is lower hydration than I would have expected for 100% wheat flour, so it’s really not very wet, and I found it easy to work with too.
I made the final kneading of the dough with the dough hook in my KitchenAid stand mixer for 10 minutes at speed 2. I placed the dough in a plastic container and set it inside my countertop oven at a dehydration setting temp of 86°F for the first rise, which took 75 minutes to double. I gently punched down the dough, then flattened it out a bit with my palms and gave it a few rolls and stretches before molding it into an oblong log, which I then placed in a large loaf tin for the final rise. I should have used a smaller tin, as it filled the tin horizontally, but I did not get as much of a vertical rise as I wanted, so the lesson is to be careful of the size of the baking tin you choose. My next version will be more artisanal, and I’ll likely freeform it.
I made this bread on a rainy afternoon, so it could cool and rest overnight. The temptation was great to slice into it right away, as it smelled very good. We enjoyed it the next morning for breakfast. My better half enjoyed it with marmite and brie, whilst I enjoyed it plain with some Irish butter to accompany some soft scrambled eggs. The bread is quite hearty with a very strong wheat flavor, and it’s not very sweet as some wheat bread can be. The fact that this is 100% whole wheat, you’ll get a hint of a nutty bitterness in each chew. It makes killer toast, and I think a good roast beef or county ham and cheese would be the best sandwich to enjoy this bread.
The recipe makes one nice loaf of homemade whole wheat bread. When I mixed the dough, it was sticky and smooth, but not very elastic. My first prove was 60 minutes and the dough had risen after this time. After 45 minutes on the second prove I felt that the dough was not particularly risen in the tin and so I left it for a total second proving time of 108 minutes. This took the dough to about 3/4 of the way up my tin.
I slashed the top of the bread in the tin with a razor blade to ensure that it did not crack open badly on cooking. The bread was cooked after 35 minutes. The bread had a soft texture and a good crust. I liked that the recipe used olive oil rather than butter so that it was healthier and would suit a vegan diet. I sliced the loaf into 15 slices including the ends and I served the bread with butter and good cheddar. I would make the loaf again because it has only a few simple, healthy ingredients.
Homemade AND handmade, there is a lot of honesty in this humble homemade whole wheat bread. It has a pleasantly earthy bitterness that is a signature of whole-grain food, and is excellent warm or at room temperature, toasted or untoasted—win, win, win, and win! It’s particularly great with nut butter, but also wonderful with equally humble accompaniments: butter & jam, egg salad, cheese & tomato slices, etc. The texture is lovely too—soft with a satisfying chew.
The recipe is just as unpretentious as the bread itself. In fact, with easy steps, no fancy equipment, and tin or no-tin options, it would make a great practice recipe for novice home bakers for honing feel-the-dough-and-judge skills. (I recommend kneading the dough by hand if you’ve never done it.) Bread dough typically becomes supple and easier to handle as you knead, but this dough was still sticky after six minutes of hand-kneading, and that’s when I decided to add a tablespoon of flour to remedy it.
I baked a loaf with whole wheat bread flour, then decided to try a bread flour substitute with a second loaf. (For each cup of whole wheat bread flour, measure 1 cup whole wheat flour; replace 1 teaspoon of it with 1 teaspoon of vital wheat gluten, a.k.a. gluten flour.) I couldn’t tell the difference in flavor between the two loaves—good news as I don’t always have bread flour but vital wheat gluten is often in my freezer.
This recipe produced a lovely loaf of homemade whole wheat bread and since I so often admire the flavor and texture of spelt loaves from other bakers, I took the hint and made my first 100% spelt loaf, which I am really pleased with. The nuttier flavor and the even crumb were a hit, sliced, buttered, and toasted. This produced a great sandwich loaf that will disappear before I can tell how long it should last. The crust was smooth and thin at the edges. This loaf will now be in steady rotation in our house.
While you certainly can knead this by hand, I began the process using a Danish dough whisk, the kind that looks like a carpet beater, then used my stand mixer and the dough hook for 5-6 minutes. I find for same-day bread, the mixer is my best buddy, leaving my hand kneading or no-kneading for overnight projects like sourdough. This is a confidence-building recipe, for beginners as well as experienced bakers who haven’t made whole grain loaves. It produces a no-apologies result you will be pleased with.
On a cool day, give your rise time a little more space (almost an extra hour on the first rise and an added 15-30 minutes on the final rise). I made 1 loaf and 4 small rolls, so I used a slightly smaller (one pound) loaf pan. The loaf turned out perfectly after baking although I would use parchment under the rolls for future bakes.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This great recipe for homemade whole wheat bread has much to offer for both new and experienced bread makers alike. For new bakers, the directions are easy, straightforward, and reliable, giving you a healthy, delicious, and beautiful loaf of sandwich bread in just a little over 3 hours! For more experienced bakers, it allows the opportunity to experiment with different flour combinations.
In order to ensure a nice rise, I went with a mix of half whole wheat and half white bread flour, using 250 grams of each. Because whole wheat can be quite a bit thirstier than white flour, I held back about ⅛ cup of water and did not end up using it. After a brief hand mix, I let my KitchenAid dough hook attachment do the kneading, adding a couple of extra teaspoons of flour along the way. After 7 minutes on speed 4, it came together, was elastic and tacky, but not sticky.
The first rise took about 80 minutes for the dough to double in size. For new bakers, it is important to follow the dough and not the clock. Cold temperatures will definitely slow things down. Photographing my dough at the beginning helps me gauge its progress.
Shaping the dough is easy if you stretch it out into a rectangle and roll it up starting at one of the short sides, placing the smooth side up. It fit nicely into an 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pan, but would probably also work in a 9 x 5 if you don’t mind a shorter loaf. I couldn’t resist gussying it up a bit with a generous sprinkling of white and black sesame seeds before setting it aside for the final rise. Any combination of seeds or a sprinkle of rolled oats would work. Be sure to start heating your oven up prior to the end of the second rest so that your dough won’t be kept waiting for the oven.
At 32 minutes, my bread was a beautiful deep golden, sounded hollow when tapped, and registered 202°F on an instant-read thermometer. Although you’ll be tempted to tear into your final product, be sure to let it cool completely before slicing. I didn’t slice it until day 2 and was rewarded with a deliciously fresh and easy to slice loaf…perfect for sandwiches, fresh or toasted.