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Friday, October 15, 2010

100% Wholewheat Sandwich Bread - Peter Reinhart

I was running out of sandwich bread yesterday and I have about 3kg of unbleached wholemeal flour at home (kinda bought it by mistake thinking it was plain unbleached flour). So I thought I'd try Peter Rienhart’s 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor. Now that I have lots of wholemeal flour… there’re no more excuses.

Peter Reinhart has a special place in my heart. I regard him as my first teacher for bread making. The first bread-making book that I bought was The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.

Since starting to make my own bread, I've rarely used supermarket bread and can't even recall the last loaf I bought. Lucky me, huh? Once you’ve tasted real wholesome bread freshly baked from the oven, there's no going back. the book has literally changed my life.

I’ve been baking bread weekly for six months now and still considers myself a newbie... a very enthusiastic one. I love kneading the dough by hand, feeling the texture of the dough changing from a shaggy mass to an elastic, cohesive, silky, smooth dough. I find the science of breadmaking fascinating.
one of the best things about baking bread is having my home filled with the aroma of when the bread is almost baked sending out it's aromatic signal that it’s almost ready... to be eaten. I still jump with joy every time I get a good oven spring.

An unexpected benefit of learning bread making is that it has made me a better overall cook and baker. The extra knowledge and confidence gained allows a deeper understanding in other areas of cooking. Things like looking at the fundamental ingredients of each recipe and thinking about ratio/percentage of each, how will they react together? What is each ingredient for? What is the egg, butter and liquid ratio to the flour and how can I tweak that? J It makes me more analytical about the recipe and empowering me to create my own variations when I understand the fundamentals.

Please do try making your own bread. I use to think that bread making is too difficult, too time-consuming. In fact, it’s definitely not. If I can teach myself to do it, so can you. If I can make it at home, so can you.

umm, yummy breakfast with my homemade pink grapefruit, orange marmalade
and the yummiest butter, Lurpak.

Here's the recipe for 100% whole wheat sandwich loaf from Peter Reinhart's Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.

makes 1 large loaf

Day to make :2
Day 1: Soaker and biga, 20 minutes set up and mix, overnight autolyze.
Day 2: 2 hours dechill biga, 12-15 mins mixing, 2-3 hoiurs fermentation, shaping, proofing: 40 – 60 mins baking.


1 3/4 cups (226g) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon (4g) salt
3/4 cup+ 2 tablespoons (198 ml) milk, buttermilk, yogurt, or soymilk

1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough.
2. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. (if it will be more than 24 hours, place the soaker in the refrigerator, it will be good for up to 3 days, Remove it 2 hours before mixing the final dough to take off the chill).


1 ¾ Cups (227g) whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon (1g) instant yeast
¾ cup (170ml) filtered spring water, at room temperature (21c)

1. Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead dough in the bowl for 2 minutes to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed and the flour is fully hydrated. The dough should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead it with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough will become smoother but still be tacky.
2. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days
3. About 2 hours before mixing the final dough, remove the biga from the refrigerator to take off the chill. It will risen slightly but need not have risen significantly in order to use it in the final dough.


429g soaker (all of the above)
398g biga (all ov the above)
7 tablespoons (56.5g) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon (5g) salt
2 ¼ teaspoons (7g) instant yeast
2 ¼ tablespoons (42.5g) honey or sugar or brown sugar
1 tablespoon (14g) unsalted butter, melted or vegetable oil

1. Using a metal pastry scraper (or blunt knife), chop the soaker and the biga into 12 smaller pieces each (sprinkle some of the extra flour over the pre-dough to keep the pieces from sticking back to each other).
2. If mixing by hand, combine the soaker and biga pieces in a bowl with all the other ingredients except the extra flour and stir vigorously with a mixing spoon or knead with wet hands until all of the ingredients are evenly integrated and distributed into the dough. It should be soft and slightly sticky; if not, add more flour or water as needed. If using a stand mixer, put the pre-dough pieces and all of the other ingredients except the extra flour into the mixer with the paddle attachment (preferable) or dough hook. Mix on slow speed for 1 minute to bring the ingredients together into a ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, occasionally scraping down the bowl, for 2-3 minutes, until the pre-doughs become cohesive and assimilated into each other. Add more flour or water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.

3. Dust a work surface with flour, then toss the dough in the flour to coat. Knead by hand for 3-4 minutes, incorporating only as much extra flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and tacky, but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes while you prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl.
4. Resume kneading the dough for 1 minute to strengthen the gluten and make any final flour or water adjustments. The dough should have strength and pass the windowpane test, yet still feel soft, supple and very tacky. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the prepared bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1 ½ times its original size.
5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form it into either a loaf pan shape. Place the dough in a greased 4 x 8 ½ inch bread pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (I put the pan into big plastic bag), and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it about 1 ½ times its original size.

Pre-proof loaf comparing to a fully-proof one

6. Preheat the oven to 218c. Reduce temperature to 177c and bake the loaf for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is rich brown on all sides, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.

Fresh out of the oven ....umm, smells heavenly

7. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

I'm quite impressed with the soft crumb and rather open for wholemeal bread

  • I was surprised how active the dough was . It rose (doubled in size) very quickly. It only took 45 mins each for fermentation and proofing.
  • The dough was very wet. I ended up using all the flour (in the final dough) plus one additional tablespoon.
  • The loaf tastes surprisingly nice for wholemeal bread. The crumb is also quite soft.
  • Now, I'm thinking about incorporating the soaker method into wholewheat multigrain bread (sourdough) and will see what the difference of soaking the whole wheat flour will make.


  1. Hi
    your bread looks so yummy, wholesome and healthy. so generous of you to share your baking journey and the pictures give, so detailed. happy baking.
    best regards

  2. Many thanks for this - just tried it, and it is indeed lovely. Detailed instructions and photos really helped.

  3. You're welcome. I'm glad to hear that you like it.

    Peter Reinhart's recipes are great. They're producing great results.


  4. You mention using extra flour in steps 1, 2 and 3 for the final dough. Is it the 7tbs ww flour from the list of ingredients for the final dough?

  5. Hi Anjali,

    Yes, those fours are for final dough adjustment. Whether you need all of it or some of it depends on your dough texture, you if the dough is too wet/slack, you will need to add those flour.

  6. This may be an impossible question, but how would this adapt to a bread machine? If I do the two preliminary pre-doughs by hand, could I then put them in the machine and let it do its thing? How might this work? Thanks.

    1. Hi, I've never used bread machine. I don't really how it works. I'm sorry.

      I can only guess that you're correct to make the pre-doughs by hand and finish off with the final dough in the bread machine.