FAQs on Whole Wheat Bread Baking

Crystal Miller


One of the most common emails I get is from ladies who are having some sort of difficulty with their bread baking.  I thought I would take these types of questions this month and focus on some of the problems, there causes and possible solutions. 


Bread baking is complex in all the components involved in making it and I believe it is an art that takes time to develop.  Unlike other recipes where it is simply a matter of following the recipe amounts and baking, bread requires a knowledge of what is happening in the process as well as knowing and understanding key components such as kneading, rising, temperatures, etc..


>>Why doesn’t my bread rise very well?


Well the answer to this question has a few different possibilities.  One is expectation!  If you have done a lot of baking with white flour you will feel your whole wheat bread is not rising well.  In fact, whole wheat breads don’t rise as much due to the lack of gluten in the flour.


Adding gluten flour to your bread will help this.  If you have used or read my bread recipe you will see I add gluten flour to my bread in order to get it to rise better. About 1/3 cup of gluten flour added to any 2 loaf whole wheat bread recipe should show an improvement.


Another possibility with bread not rising well is our dated or improperly stored yeast.  Check to make sure your yeast is good.  You can do a simple check by putting a teaspoon of yeast into a small bowl, add a pinch of sugar and a couple of tablespoons of very warm water, mix and wait a few minutes.  The mixture should bubble and foam.  If it does not, it may be too old.  Make sure you store your yeast in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh. 


Kneading is another problem, or lack of kneading I should say.  If you don’t knead the bread enough it will not rise well.  You should knead your bread, a 12 to 15 minutes by hand, 7 to 10 minutes with a Kitchen aid type mixer or 4 to 5 minutes with a Bosch type mixer. 


Using the wrong whole wheat flour can also cause bread rising difficulties.  Make sure you are using whole wheat BREAD flour.  This may also be called “hard winter wheat”, or “hard red wheat” or “Hard white wheat”.  The other type of whole wheat flour is “soft white wheat”, a.k.a., “pastry flour”.  This does not have the protein needed to develop the gluten and therefore your bread won’t do as well with this type of flour.  Save your pastry flour for quick breads, it does beautifully with those.


>> Why does my bread come out flat on top or collapse?


This question is fairly easy to answer.  My first guess would be that your bread has over risen.  When I am making my bread I allow it rise about 1 inch above the top of the bread pans.  Wheat breads under good circumstances, i.e., not too cool in the kitchen, not to hot or humid, etc..  will take anywhere from 30 to 34 minutes on the final rising.  It can take longer or shorter if any of the above conditions apply.


If you find your bread is collapsing during baking then it could mean your oven temperature is too low. This will cause the dough to keep rising as it is baking and then to fall before it has gotten hot enough to set. Use a thermometer to check and verify that your oven is correct.


>> Why are my whole wheat breads so heavy?


I have found that if I want a nice soft whole wheat bread to serve to my family then I have to add gluten flour. 


If you are adding gluten flour but still find that your bread dough is heavy, make sure you are kneading long enough and make sure you are using the proper flour.


>> What is gluten flour?


Gluten flour also referred to as “vital wheat gluten” and should not be confused with a dough enhancer.  Gluten is an important feature in making whole wheat breads.  Gluten flour comes from wheat flour.  It is the protein that is found in flour. This is what will give your bread a nice soft texture, not commonly found with whole wheat breads.  Using gluten is what will often make the difference between a nice loaf of bread and a door stop!  ~smile~ 


I hope these questions and possible answers will help give you more success at bread baking!! 




In The Kitchen




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