Not Martha

trial: no-knead whole wheat bread, the result

whole wheat no-knead bread, test one

Earlier this week I made a whole wheat version of no-knead bread using some of the vital wheat gluten powder I had in the house. It turned out heavy and dense, but delicious and filled with evidence that, though they were small, the yeast did it’s thing.

whole wheat no-knead bread, test one

I’m not sure if lack of big craggy holes is the fault of the yeast being tired (it was freshly purchased), the unexpected heat that day, or my own fault for pouring the yeast into the wet mixture of water, vinegar and beer which might have killed most of the little guys off before I could mix it with the dry ingredients properly. The bread still tasted great, so I’m going to make another loaf to compare.

· comments [17] · 06-4-2009 · categories:food ·

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Michelle // Jun 4, 2009 at 6:33 am

    Try looking on a forum The Fresh Loaf. You can probably find an answer on how to make it better/lighter there.

  • 2 Nicole // Jun 4, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Probably not the heat – yeast like it warm. But you can let things rise in your oven (provided its turned off). Reason – it’s insulated, so the temperature won’t fluctuate as much on a hot day. I tried this with croissants a few weeks ago and got good results.

    MAYBE it was the mixing in the wet stuff first (particularly the acidic vinegar).

    Another tip – try sifting the flour first. It will add air into the mixture – this will help make the gas bubbles from the yeast bigger (which is where the craggy holes come from).

  • 3 Nicole // Jun 4, 2009 at 6:39 am

    p.s. WOOT – I got first comment!

  • 4 carol // Jun 4, 2009 at 8:25 am

    mmm looks dense and wheaty. i usually make the honey wheat version from cooks ill… use 1 c whole wheat flour and add 2 T honey…delicious!

  • 5 megan // Jun 4, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Nicole – It was well over 90 degrees at the top of my fridge, where I left it for most of the day, is that too hot? Also, sorry I don’t have a preview system for comments. Though, that is my first comment comment so thank you! I’ll try sifting and being more gentle with the yeast on my second try to see how it works out.

    Carol – I’ll have to pull out my CI to find that. I’m generally not a fan of sweetened bread but I do happen to have some incredible honey in the house that I’d be willing try it with.

  • 6 Rachel // Jun 4, 2009 at 9:22 am

    My first guess it that the yeast was exhausted from the warmer then normal temps. The warmer it is the shorter the rise time for regular bread. I imagine the same might hold true for no-knead also. second guess is that there was too much flour for the amount of liquid. Maybe next time fluff the flour before measuring and remove the same amount of flour as you put in the vital wheat gluten.

  • 7 Nicole // Jun 4, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Megan –
    Yikes! 90 degrees is a bit warm, but not so warm that it would kill them. Rachel is probably right on – fluctuating the temperature can screw things up too. (I’m extrapolating from my microbiology lab and baking experience.)

    You might try adding a bit of sugar or honey (just one teaspoon or tablespoon – not enough to flavor the bread). Or use a beer that has more sugar content/less alcohol. Even though you are using instant yeast, this will give the bugs some readily available food until they can start breaking down the complex sugars in the flour.

  • 8 bunny // Jun 4, 2009 at 9:56 am

    nope, it’s not the 90 degrees, but more likely the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients, and that is a changeable measure, subject to humidity, the dryness of the flour, etc. knowing the right “feel” to the dough takes practice. no-kneads tend to be a lot stickier (& thus wetter) than regular bread dough.

  • 9 megan // Jun 4, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Here is another factor I should make a note of here so I can remember it for trial #2. All I could find at my Hippie Market was Active Dry yeast, which I know isn’t as supercharged as Instant. I did bloom it, but I probably didn’t bloom it carefully enough to really get it going before adding it to the bread.

    Considering it’s not instant yeast should I include more than the 1/4 teaspoon the recipe calls for?

  • 10 maria // Jun 4, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Yes, add more active dry than you would instant. If it’s a hot day, you can always let the bread retard and rise in the fridge. It will take longer than normal, but the depth of flavor will improve. Don’t add your yeast with the salt, either, because it’s the salt that inhibits yeast growth.

    Honestly, you got the loaf I thought you would using 100% whole wheat flour. I don’t know enough about vital wheat gluten to know if it will convert the usual doorstop loaves of whole wheat into the craggy loaves of white. If you’re really into whole wheat as a bread flour, I recommend The Tassajara Bread Book and/or Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads (

  • 11 megan // Jun 4, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks Maria! I’m pretty happy with the bread as is, I have a healthy appreciation for dense bread. I’ll try again just to see if being a bit more careful and adding more yeast will make a difference.

  • 12 just barrie // Jun 4, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    you can make beer bread without yeast as well. that’s the only way i actually drink beer these days.

  • 13 Amy in Ann Arbor // Jun 5, 2009 at 12:12 am

    I would say the extra gluten “cross-linked” the dough, so it was all held together extra tightly, and the CO2 pockets couldn’t grow as large.

    Wheat gluten (or “seitan”) is used most commonly to prepare facsimile “meat” dishes, served by Buddhist monks and other vegetarians. “Wheat meat” picks up flavors well, and can be surprisingly “meaty.” Here are some photos:

    Your bag of gluten was purchased as an ingredient for use in a beauty product. If you also use it in baking bread and making vegetarian dinners, you can declare yourself a modern Wizard of resourcefulness.

  • 14 Bri // Jun 5, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Uh yeah, that looks delicious either way. I love dense bread.

  • 15 kiss my spatula // Jun 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    after many, many loaves of my own, i’ve tried to implement the best of the best of all the revisions out there and came up with this healthy whole wheat version packed with steel cut oats and flax seeds:

  • 16 Janice // Jun 6, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Your loaf looks pretty much like the ones I have made. They taste great, but do end up being pretty dense. The key to getting the yeast to work well (you shouldn’t need much at all for the long-rise time), is increasing the hydration level. I tinkered around a bit, but have gone back to the Peter Reinhart methods for my artisan style whole grain breads.
    P.S. The Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day guys are actually releasing a book of all whole-grain recipes later this fall, which I really want to try. I use their white bread dough recipes all the time now.

  • 17 ephelba // Jun 9, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I doubt any no-knead whole wheat bread will ever be very light, because kneading is the best way to get whole wheat bread fluffy. Laurel’s Kitchen made an EXCELLENT book on the subject- if you’re into whole grains I recommend it heartily. Most recipes rely on additives to achieve the fluffiness, and as a result the bread gets further and further from the healthy stuff you’re probably trying to achieve. You can make truly light, fluffy, tasty bread with whole wheat flour, yeast, water and salt, but it takes LOTS of kneading and three rises.

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