My recipe, for once: whole wheat sandwich bread

This is a slightly revised and updated version of my Wheat sandwich bread, Mk. 4 recipe, developed a number of years ago based on a number of sources (see the link) — now with pictures. As I’m presenting it here, it’s a half-whole-wheat bread, but I’ve had good results using all (white) whole wheat as described in the original recipe; if you want a white bread recipe instead, there are better choices (including Diane Duane’s Tessinerbrot from last January and Joanne Chang’s brioche from July). The procedure here owes a lot to Alton Brown; the specialty ingredients are all from King Arthur Flour.

Note that this recipe uses white whole wheat flour. This is a specific type of whole-wheat flour which is made from hard winter wheat. I’m not sure how easily available this is in other countries, and I’ve never tried it with standard (soft, red) whole wheat. I invite comments from anyone who decides to try this with other flours and report back.


This bread starts with a sponge:

Sponge ingredients
7½ oz 210 g white whole wheat flour
1 oz 30 g butter
13 oz 370 mL water, 115°F (45°C)
2 tsp 10 g SAF instant yeast
2 tsp 10 g diastatic malt powder
3 tbl 30 g vital wheat gluten


  1. Add the butter to the warm water and let it melt.
  2. Sift and combine all other ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Add the water and melted butter to the bowl and stir until smooth.
  4. Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic film and let stand at room temperature for half an hour.
  5. Place the covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

Despite the color, white whole wheat still includes all of the bran of the wheat kernels. When milled into flour, wheat bran turns into sharp fragments which can cut the gluten strands as they develop during the kneading process; this recipe takes two measures to avoid this: first, adding additional gluten (and using high-protein flour in the first place) ensures that enough gluten is formed, and second, allowing the sponge to ferment for a long period softens the bran fragments so they are less able to interrupt the gluten structure. The added gluten is probably not necessary in this version of the recipe, because of the bread flour used below, but is important to a good texture and rise as the ratio of whole-wheat to white flour increases. If you don’t have any, substitute an equal quantity of high-protein bread flour — the result won’t be quite as good but still serviceable.

Note that this bread includes no sugar other than what is found in the malt powder. Diastatic malt powder contains an enzyme which helps to break down some of the starch in the flour. (Non-diastatic malt lacks this enzyme, and should be saved for homemade bagels.)


Ingredients for one 9×5 loaf
sponge recipe, above
7½ oz 210 g high-protein bread flour
1 oz 30 g Baker’s Special nonfat dry milk powder
1½ tsp 5 g salt
egg wash
baking spray


  1. Bring sponge to room temperature; this may take a couple of hours.
  2. Preheat your oven to its lowest temperature and turn it off. Alternatively, put a kettle of water on to boil.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients.
  4. Using a stand mixer with a dough hook, mix together the sponge and the dry ingredients until the dough just comes together. It will look somewhat shaggy. Wait for ten minutes before proceeding.
  5. Still in the stand mixer, knead the dough for ten minutes or so. The dough should be somewhat moist, but if it is too sticky to handle, add a tablespoon of flour and knead for another minute. When the dough is ready, a small ball of dough can be flattened and stretched into a thin membrane (“windowpaning”) without breaking.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form a tight ball by tucking loose ends underneath and rolling the ball around on the work surface between your hands.
  7. Lubricate a large bowl with baking spray and place the dough ball in the bowl. Cover with a sheet of plastic film and place in the warm oven or another warm place. (If you did not preheat the oven, pour some boiling water into a pan and put it in the oven with the bowl of dough.) Let the dough rise for about an hour.
  8. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface.
  9. Using your knuckles, flatten the dough ball into a rectangle as shown in the photo below, taking care to pop any large bubbles of gas.
  10. Fold the flattened dough over in thirds, like a trifold wallet or a business letter. Using a pastry brush to remove any excess flour from the surface before each fold.
  11. Repeat the last two steps twice over, turning the dough 90 degrees each time.
  12. Form the dough into a log and pinch the seams shut.
  13. Spray a standard 9″x5″ loaf pan with baking spray and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic film and return to the oven. If the oven is no longer warm, add more boiling water.
  14. Let the dough proof until it crowns the top of the loaf pan by about an inch (25 mm) (see photo below); this may take anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes depending on the how warm it is.
  15. Remove the loaf and any remaining container of water from the oven and put a rack in the lower middle position. Preheat to 375°F (190°C).
  16. Using a pastry brush, apply egg wash to the top of the loaf. If you prefer a crisper crust, use melted butter instead of egg wash. You can also apply seeds, rolled oats, or salt to the crust at this time.
  17. Using a sharp slicer or serrated bread knife, cut a slit in the center of the loaf, about 1/8″ (3 mm) deep.
  18. Bake the loaf for about 35 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F (90°C) on an instant-read thermometer.
  19. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool for another hour before slicing.

I used Sir Lancelot bread flour, which is higher in protein even than King Arthur’s regular bread flour, and almost certainly obviates the need for the extra gluten in the sponge. The yield obviously depends on the thickness of the slice: from a 9″ pan you should be able to get 18 ½” slices if you’re a better hand with the bread knife than I am; I got 16 usable slices. (Would that I could just bring my loaf into the supermarket bakery and use their slicer!) If you like thicker slices (and you probably do), 12 is a reasonable target. The nutrition data presented below is based on 17 slices.


The sponge looks like this, prior to fermentation:
Sponge, prior to fermentation

After fermenting for 16 hours, it looks like some biological activity has taken place (and smells slightly of alcohol):
Sponge, 16 hours later

After mixing the dough, it still looks quite shaggy. We pause at this point for ten minutes to allow the additional flour to hydrate:
Dough, just mixed

The dough has been kneaded, and in this case I had to add a couple extra tablespoons of flour. It’s easy to form into a ball, and into the proofing bowl it goes:
Dough, after kneading

After proofing, the dough is nice and warm and poofy:
Dough, after first proof

We begin the wallet fold procedure by flattening the dough into an oblong (or what would be an oblong if I were a bit better baker):
Flattened dough ball

After making the first of nine folds. Note that the back side of the bread has picked up a lot of flour from the work surface; it’s important to brush off any excess flour, or it will turn into a chewy seam inside the loaf.
First fold

The dough is folded and turned and folded and turned and eventually you get this log shape and pinch the seams shut. Into a lubricated loaf pan it goes for second rise (bench proofing):
Dough ready for bench proof

The dough is done proofing when it crowns the pan by about an inch. If I had done a better job, this would be more even, rather than having a short end and a tall end — that’s indicative of the dough having started out uneven.
Fully proofed dough, showing extent of rise

Then an egg wash is applied and a release cut is made down the center of the loaf, and it’s ready for baking:
Dough ready for baking

At least in my oven, the baking time is a pretty consistent 35 minutes. When it’s done, the top crust is this lovely golden brown, but the sides and bottom are still pale, just like regular sandwich bread.
Fully baked loaf

Because I’m a single guy on a diet and only eat bread in sandwiches, I need to slice it as soon as it’s cool so that I can freeze most of the loaf and thaw only what I need — since this bread does not contain any preservatives (or even all that much salt) it is an ideal culture medium for mold, and nobody wants to eat moldy bread. Unfortunately, I’m a lousy hand with the slicing knife, even given the assistance of a ruler or slicing guide, but I managed to get 17 slices out of this — one of which I immediately toasted up, buttered, and ate, because FRESH BREAD:
Messy job of slicing


The figures below do not include the egg wash, which makes a negligible contribution to nutrition.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1 slice
Servings per container: 16-18
Amount per serving
Calories 114 Calories from fat 18
% Daily Value
Total Fat 2g 3%
 Saturated Fat 1g 5%
 Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5mg 2%
Sodium 164mg 7%
Potassium 0mg
Total Carbohydrate 18g 6%
 Dietary fiber 2g 8%
 Sugars 1g
Proteins 5g 10%
Vitamin A 1%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 3%
Iron 5%
This entry was posted in Food and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.