Thursday, January 14, 2010


See the pizza photo at the end of this post.

Over the last few months, in between other projects, I have been trying to make a whole wheat, crusty, no-knead artisan loaf that I can be really proud of (like my "whiter version", which is only about 1/3rd whole wheat.) I'm not saying that this is the final version, but I think it's pretty darn close! (Read more about the no-knead bread process and why it's so good here and here.)

As with my other recipe, I borrowed ideas and advice from a number of experts (see the text at the beginning of the recipe below), combined with my own tastes and experience. I don't know if it is possible to make a really tempting whole wheat version of this type of bread
solely with whole wheat flour. My early attempts were "grassy"-tasting and heavy. So, I used the proportions in Jeff Hertzberg's and Zoë François' recipe for
"five-minute" no-knead, refrigerated for whole grain bread, with a few additions and changes.

The proportions are slightly more than 3/4 whole wheat flour to slightly less than 1/4 unbleached white flour-- not bad! The authors explained that "
In order to mix up dough that’s really high in whole grains, but can still be successfully stored, you need to boost the dough’s gluten level. Otherwise, the bread won’t rise nicely and will be too dense..."
This made sense, even though I've always disliked the breads I'd tried with added gluten (they seemed to have a "tough" quality). But it worked with this very wet dough! I used a little less gluten this time, because it still seemed a bit tough the first time I tried it. However, this may be explained by the higher gluten content in Canadian flour, so you can try it both ways if you live in the USA.

I took master baker Peter Reinhart's advice and added a little organic sugar (to counteract the "bitter tones of the whole wheat flour") and olive oil ("to soften the bran"). The resulting bread does not taste sweet or "enriched"-- it tastes "clean" to me, and very tasty. (In my "whiter version", I used less whole wheat, so I didn't add the sugar, but I did add some oil, which I thought improved the texture.)

I hope you will give this a try and perhaps you can improve upon it further, and make your own variations. It's such an easy and satisfying way to make good bread!

Printable Recipe

Makes 3 good-sized loaves (Jan. 13, 2010)
For this recipe, I have used as much wholewheat flour as possible and still kept the qualities of an artisan crusty bread-- a crackly crust, holes in the crumb, etc.. I started with Jeff Hertzberg's and Zoë François' recipe for "five- minute" no-knead, refrigerated dough for whole grain bread, combined with some of the qualities of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread method (via Marc Bittman in the NY Times), along with his novel pot-baking method; and took also advice from Peter Reinhart's books (reluctantly adding a little sugar to the whole grain dough, as he recommended, and finding that it improves the flavor of a mostly whole grain loaf), and Cook's Illustrated magazine experiments with no-knead, pot-baked bread. (See this blog post and this one for more about no-knead, crusty bread, and this one for my "whiter" version.) It's very good!

4 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon regular dry-active baking yeast (OR 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1 tablespoon table salt (or small crystal kosher salt)
Flour mixture (combine together in a dry container):
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (ground from hard wheat, if you grind your own, or, especially in the USA, use whole wheat bread flour)
2 cups unbleached white flour (Canadian all-purpose flour is fine, but you might want to use bread flour in the US) + more for dusting dough
3 tablespoons pure gluten powder (vital wheat gluten)
(In the USA, if you are using unbleached all-purpose flour, you might want to use 1/4 cup of gluten powder. When I used 1/4 cup [with Canadian flour], it seemed too tough, so I reduced the amount.)

Cornmeal and flour for dusting

In a large bowl or plastic container, mix the yeast into the lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Let sit until yeast dissolves. (If using the instant yeast, you don't have to dissolve it, though master baker Peter Reinhart has revised his thinking on this and recommends dissolving instant yeast to "allow it to ferment more effectively during the cooldown phase in the refrigerator".) Add oil, sugar, and salt. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose.

Place the container inside of a clean plastic bag (a small new white garbage bag does fine), and twist-tie it closed, leaving room for the dough to rise. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 10 hours).

Prepare to bake all or some of the dough at this point OR refrigerate in a tightly-covered oiled container (OR 2 containers) with room to double in size, for as long as two weeks. (The dough is much easier to work with if you refrigerate it for at least 3 hours before shaping.)

When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough (DON'T PUNCH DOWN!) and cut off 1/3rd of the dough with serrated knife, or a bench knife, for each loaf.

Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. (It's quite sticky-- keep your hands and the surface floured; maybe used a bench scraper.)

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball OR oval shape, depending on the shape of the pot you are going to bake it in.

Line a bowl, pan or oval casserole (depending, again, upon the shape of the vessel you will be baking the bread in-- doesn't matter what it's made from as you aren't going to bake it in this, just let it rise in the appropriate shape) with baking parchment-- 1 for each loaf you are baking at the time. Sprinkle the parchment with flour, cornmeal, semolina, or bran. Place the dough seam-side-down on the parchment in the bowl or pot, and dust lightly with more flour, semolina, bran, or cornmeal. Place the vessel(s) inside of a clean plastic bag(s) (a small new white garbage bag does fine), and twist-tie closed, leaving plenty of room for the dough to rise. Let dough rise in a warm spot for about 2 hours (if dough has been refrigerated-- if it has not, rise at room temperature for about 1 hour).

Heat the oven to 475°F, with the pot(s) you are baking the bread in heating in the oven at the same time, for at least 30 minutes. Use a deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven with a lid (can be enamel-coated or not), or a heavy ceramic covered casserole (NOT unglazed clay).

When the oven and the pan are heated, and the dough has risen for the appropriate time, just lift up the loaf (or loaves) right in the parchment (using the parchment as a "lifter") and set it into your hot pot, pan or casserole with the parchment. (Don't worry-- it won't stick or burn!) Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 15 minutes, or until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the pan immediately and cool on a rack.

PS: If this method of transferring the loaves to the pots in parchment makes too much of a "neat and tidy-looking" loaf for your taste, follow my original directions at this blog post (using the recipe in the blog post, not the printable recipe). This results in a more rustic-looking loaf as the photo below shows. It's up to you!

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per slice [12 slices per loaf]):
100.1 calories; 10% calories from fat; 1.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 189.9mg sodium; 89.0mg potassium; 19.5g carbohydrates; 2.5g fiber; 0.8g sugar; 17.0g net carbs; 3.8g protein; 1.6 points.

UPDATE (Jan. 16, 2010): This afternoon I used the remaining dough (2/3rds of the recipe) to make 3 pizzas. This was the best almost-all-whole-wheat pizza I've ever made! Even my 3 picky granddaughters loved it! I used it cold straight from the refrigerator, with no rising, baked it at 500 degrees F. I just patted and stretched the dough out by hand on a sheet of baking parchment-- it's a sticky dough and you can't spin this one! I baked it right on the parchment because I was afraid the sticky dough would stick to the peel. It worked just fine! I made the pizza pretty thin, but you can see that the edges puffed up quite a bit in the oven.


Pizza made with the same dough, after refrigerating it for 3 days.

Happy Baking!


NessaAnn said...

I LOVED your whiter version and now it is the only bread my entire extended family makes! I have been making mine 100% whole wheat from the beginning. I use hard white winter wheat ground fresh on a very fine setting. With the addition of gluten and sugar, as you have done, and I usually also add a dash of vinegar, the bread turns out lovely and delicious every time.

I've also done the same general recipe as your "whiter" version but with a sourdough starter instead of yeast and it turned out marvelous.

Thanks so much for the recipes!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

NessaAnn: Thanks! I've run out of hard white wheat, so I have to order some. I'll try it with 100%-- but i do like this one!

Marie said...

Amazing! Thanks Bryanna, I'm trying this.

spiceislandvegan said...

Hey Bryanna,

I used my clay pot to bake the bread before. I soaked in water and then reheat for 30 minutes. It says here not to use unglazed clay vessel. Do you mean claypot? Why not?


Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Hi, Debbie1 Well, you never know til you try, do you? I just assumed that, since you were supposed to put the clay bakers in the oven wet, thta after all that reheating, it would be all dried out by the time the bread got in there. But, since you say it works, I will try it and revise the recipe instructions! Heaven knows, i have enough clay bakers!! Thanks, Debbie!

spiceislandvegan said...


True, the clay pot is hot and dry after 30 minutes in the oven. Don't forget to put the cover/lid on it while preheating or else it will break. I still put a parchment paper on the bottom of it. I should try it without the parchment. I would think that it will give it a crispy crust from the hot clay. It should not stick since it is clay (like baking pizza).


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your recipe! I've made three loaves over the past two weeks (halving the recipe and making one loaf out of it). I've halved the sugar and increased the water by 2T. The last loaf I increased the rise time to 20 hours for the first rise and 2 for the second, and found it lighter and even more flavorful. I'm about to try it with some added seeds and nuts next :) Thanks for such an easy, adaptable and delicious bread!

Anonymous said...

I can't eat whole wheat (too high in oxalates). Did you say you had a version with white flour?

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Anonymous, you can follow the original version here:
with the changes I outlined here:
using all white flour.