Homemade Whole-Grain Bread Recipe

Nutritious bread doesn’t have to be dense and bland. Revolutionize your whole grain baking using this Homemade Whole-Grain Bread recipe based on the methods of baking expert Peter Reinhart. You’ll make homemade whole-grain bread with a surprisingly light texture and rich flavor.

Homemade Bread Loaf

Allow freshly baked loaves to fully cool before slicing. For most breads, this means at least an hour of patient watching.

Photo By Tim Nauman

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Here we are following the time-tested method of creating pre-doughs that is discussed at length in Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. The recipe is rather adaptable. A little extra fat creates a soft, airy crumb and slows staling; honey sweetens; buttermilk adds acidity and a pleasant tang; and orange juice tempers the faint bitterness in whole wheat without adding orange flavor. None of these things, however, is necessary for good bread. To keep things super-simple and super-cheap, omit everything except the flour, yeast, salt and water, and substitute water for the other liquids.

If you’re not accustomed to eating 100 percent whole-grain foods, you may want to substitute unbleached bread flour for a portion of the whole-wheat flour. Keep in mind that whole-wheat flour absorbs more liquid than white flour, so reduce the liquid somewhat if using white flour. You can always add more water later.

Homemade Whole-Grain Bread Recipe

Makes a 1-pound loaf. 

1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) whole-wheat flour
1/4 tsp (.03 ounces) instant yeast
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cool water 

8 ounces whole-wheat flour, OR 1/4 cup (2 ounces) whole-wheat flour PLUS 6 ounces combined total cooked and uncooked grains (see our Cooking Grains chart)
1/2 tsp (0.14 ounces) kosher or sea salt
1/2 to 2/3 cup (4 to 5 ounces) buttermilk or yogurt (wet grains require less liquid than dry grains)
2 tbsp (1 ounce) orange juice 

Final Dough
All of Sponge recipe
All of Soaker recipe
1 tsp (1/8 ounce) salt
2 1/4 tsp (1/4 ounce; 1 standard packet) instant yeast
1 tbsp (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp (1 ounce) honey
Extra flour and water for adjustments 

The Day Before Baking

Make the Sponge: Mix ingredients together to form a ball of dough. With wet hands or a mixer with the dough hook attachment, knead the dough for about 2 minutes, then let it rest for 10 minutes. Knead again for about a minute. Cover and refrigerate immediately for at least 6 hours. (This can also be done up to a few days before use.)

Make the Soaker: Mix ingredients together to form a loose, wet ball. Cover and leave at room temperature for 6 to 24 hours. (You may also make this a few days before baking, in which case it should be refrigerated.)

The Day of Baking

Make the Loaf: About an hour before you begin mixing your bread, remove the soaker (if it has been refrigerated) and the sponge from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temperature.

Cut or tear the sponge into about a dozen pieces, and roll each in the soaker before adding it to the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted first with a paddle, then with a dough hook after the dough comes together. Add the remaining ingredients except the butter and honey. Mix on first speed for 2 minutes, then increase to second speed and mix for another 2 minutes. Add the honey and butter, and mix for another 2 minutes. Let the dough rest in the mixing bowl for 10 minutes.

On a floured work surface, knead the dough by hand for a few minutes, adding extra flour and water as necessary to create a soft, slightly sticky dough that is strong enough to resist pulling yet is still malleable. The dough initially feels slack and wet but becomes stronger through resting, kneading and shaping.

Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a buttered or oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat it. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 45 minutes. It should be about 1 1/2 times (not double) its original size. If at any point you must interrupt the rising process, simply refrigerate the dough and add about 20 minutes to its remaining rising time when you remove it.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, form it into a loaf and place it into a greased 9-by-5-inch or 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Cover and allow it to rise for about 45 minutes. Again, it should be about 1 1/2 times (not double) its original size going into the pan. Allowing dough to over-rise weakens its structure, resulting in smaller and misshapen loaves. The dough should be allowed to rise to its fullest extent after it goes into the oven.

While the loaf rises, preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. For the best results and the most consistent heat, preheat the oven with a baking stone or unglazed tiles (found at hardware stores) on the bottom rack and a cast-iron pan on the top rack.

Lightly mist or brush the top of the loaf with water. With a swift, confident motion and a sharp, serrated knife or bread-slashing tool, quickly slash the top of the bread down the middle or make a few diagonal cuts, aiming for a quarter-inch-deep cut. Slashing the loaf gives a place for the dough’s gases to escape. If you don’t do this, the dough will decide where to puff up all on its own.

Working quickly, place the loaf pan on the stone in the center of the oven. Immediately add about one-half cup of hot water to the heated cast-iron pan, covering your hand and arm with a kitchen towel to prevent a steam burn.

Lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. (You can spritz the oven walls with a mister early during baking, but be fast and limit your spritzing to only once or twice.) Rotate the pan and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes. For a crisper crust, prop the oven door open slightly with a spoon for the final 5 minutes of baking.

The bread is done when the top — including the portion under your slash — is golden brown, the bottom sounds hollow when thumped, and a thermometer inserted into the loaf reads 195 degrees or above.

Remove the loaf from its pan immediately and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow the homemade whole-grain bread to cool at least an hour before slicing.

Read more: Learn more tips and tricks for making delicious and nutritious whole-grain bread in Homemade Whole-Grain Bread: You Have to Try This Amazing Recipe.

12/5/2016 11:19:09 AM

I make this bread on a weekly basis. It is not hard, and I always double the recipe to feed my family. I use the cup measurements instead of the weight, and, other than adding a tad bit more liquid to the sponge, make everything as is. It is our favorite!

12/5/2016 11:19:04 AM

I make this bread on a weekly basis. It is not hard, and I always double the recipe to feed my family. I use the cup measurements instead of the weight, and, other than adding a tad bit more liquid to the sponge, make everything as is. It is our favorite!

12/5/2016 11:18:59 AM

I make this bread on a weekly basis. It is not hard, and I always double the recipe to feed my family. I use the cup measurements instead of the weight, and, other than adding a tad bit more liquid to the sponge, make everything as is. It is our favorite!

2/1/2016 8:09:17 AM

One must need to be a very seasoned baker, perhaps professional to pull this one off. It does not discuss grain preparation, which if cooked or soaked, adds so much addition moisture, you'll need at least another cup and a half of flour. Its been my experience, imbalancing the recipe this much will doom the outcome. Too many steps and variables to assure outcome. While I'm awaiting the third rise, I have lost hope for anything but a delicious smelling lump of dough, of unknown consistency, when baked. With all due respect, a recipe for people that have a weekend to baske one loak of bread. I am a bit envious of anyone who has this much time.

8/28/2014 5:46:52 PM

I have tried this recipe on three occasions and very impressed,I would like to be educated on a couple of points. Firstly I do not have a mixer, so I have to rely on either hand kneading (difficult to combine sponge and soaker) or using the dough cycle on a bread machine; very slack with commercial flour, any tips would be welcome. Secondly, the first two times I used commercial wholemeal flour, and baked in my Romertopf, it resulted in a tasty, moist loaf, dough was a little slack. Second time I baked freeform, still happy but did not get as much spring. Third time I ground my own wheat, initially it was pretty dry but eventually as the water was absorbed it improved, this time also in the Romertopf, not as much spring as the first time, in fact if anything it shrank; needs more water?? Last questions; will Olive oil satisfactorily replace the butter? What is the advantage of the sponge and soaker method in this recipe, what would the difference be if the ingredients in both those were soaked together overnight or longer? In the past when baking 50/50 wholemeal and white flour I have soaked the wholemeal separately overnight. I like this recipe and intend to use it as my regular bread. All comments welcome. Incidentally there has been some debate here re the amount of flour, the recipe states that it makes a one pound loaf, so the stated ingredients appear correct 8 oz x 2 is 16oz= I pound which is the volume I have been using, with maybe a spoonful or so of more water.

6/5/2014 12:42:23 AM

That's a great unique dish from my point of view. In fact, I have been relying on the most http://gourmed.com/recipes/ in the choice of bread. This was one quite a unique recipe to eat for me.

6/21/2013 12:31:17 PM

I've been trying to see the "Cooking Grains Chart" listed above, but every time I click on it, it simply brings me back to the recipe. Anyone know what other grains can be used in this recipe? Thanks

pamela davis
2/21/2013 5:24:03 AM

I think there may be an editing mistake in this recipe! I am wondering why you recommend refrigerating the sponge immediately after mixing it and keep the soaker at room temp for a day. It seems the sponge should be at room temp to allow it to develop as for sourdough, and the soaker should be refrigerated to keep the cooked and wet grains from spoiling. I am an experienced bread maker (used my own starter for the sponge) and was confused by the method, so when I made the bread I left both mixtures out for a few hours, then refrigerated over night, then took out to warm up before I mixed it up for rising. I kneaded by hand throughout the process. It turned out great, but I will use white flour for the sponge next time.

joanne cipolla-dennis
1/27/2013 7:30:42 PM

GREAT article on bread making..bought the mag at Green star in Ithaca NY..now sharing it on facebook ! thanks for a great mag

michelle murray
12/9/2012 5:30:34 AM

Good comments....do you really need a stand mixer or can you just knead the bread?

law tyler
12/7/2012 10:49:57 PM

There is a typo in the recipe online and in the mag. It states "1 3/4 cups(8 ounces) whole wheat flour." It should read-1 3/4 cups(14ounces) whole wheat flour.

deborah jacques
12/7/2012 4:40:47 AM

You're thinking of liquid measure to get 8oz/cup. I checked conversions, and actually, 8 oz of whole wheat flour would be 1.9 cups! Wow!!! In doing further research on using a biga, what's missing is instructions saying that it will be very shaggy at first, but kneading will work that moisture into the flour--and it will take several minutes to get there. After adding extra liquid to both the biga and the soaker (it didn't look wet enough either), I wound up with a very moist loaf. Good flavor, and a lot sweeter than I expected, but very moist and chewy! I'll try it again, using the prescribed amounts more closely, and see what happens.

12/6/2012 1:20:42 AM

Deborah, Same problem, because 1-3/4 cups of flour is not 8 oz as stated in the recipe! 1-3/4 cups is 8oz +6oz=14oz So I think there is 1cup(8oz) flour in the sponge, the same as there is 1cup(8oz) in the soaker. Let me know what you think. Law Tyler p.s. This assumes that someone has not confused volume with weight in the original recipe...

deborah jacques
12/2/2012 8:05:10 PM

I've just begun making this loaf, and there is NO way that 3/4 cup water will even moisten 1-3/4 cups of whole wheat flour unless it's got a lot more moisture in it already than mine does. I had to add a few tablespoons of water just to make a REALLY stiff dough that no dough hook would manage at all. I've been making bread using various techniques for more than a few years, so I can adapt--but wanted to let others know that adaptation may well be necessary.