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Peter Reinhart's 100% Whole Wheat sandwich bread kneading issues.

Christopher Barreto's picture
Christopher Barreto

Peter Reinhart's 100% Whole Wheat sandwich bread kneading issues.

The recipe follows from Peter Reinhart's 100% Whole Wheat sandwich bread:


1¾ cups (8 ounces, 227 grams) whole wheat flour (100%)

½ teaspoon (.14 ounces, 4 grams) salt (1.75%)

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (7 ounces, 198 grams) milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk, or rice milk (87.5%)

Total: 15.14 ounces, 429 grams, 189.5%

1. Mix all of the soaker ingredients together in a bowl for about 1 minute, until all of 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.)



1¾ cups (8 ounces, 227 grams) whole wheat flour (100%)

¼ teaspoon (.03 ounces, 1 gram) instant yeast (.4%)

¾ cup (6 ounces, 170 grams) filtered or spring water, at room temperature (about 70°F/21°C) (75%)

Total: 14.03 ounces, 398 grams, 175.4%

1. Mix all of the biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead the 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 again 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 have risen slightly but need not have risen significantly in order to use it in the final dough.



Use all (15.14 ounces, 429 grams) soaker

Use all (14.03 ounces, 398 grams) biga

7 tablespoons (2 ounces, 56.5 grams) whole wheat flour

⅝ teaspoon (.18 ounces, 5 grams) salt

2¼ teaspoons (.25 ounces, 7 grams) instant yeast

2¼ tablespoons (1.5 ounces, 42.5 grams) honey or agave nectar or 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces, 42.5 grams) sugar or brown sugar

1 tablespoon (.5 ounces, 14 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil


extra whole wheat flour for adjustments

Total: 33.6 ounces, 952 grams

1. Using a metal pastry scraper, chop the soaker and the biga into 12 smaller pieces each (sprinkle some of the extra flour over the pre-doughs 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 of 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 to 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 to 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 1½ times its original size.

5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form it into either a loaf pan shape or a freestanding bâtard (see Techniques for Forming Traditional Bread Shapes for shaping instructions). For loaf pan bread, place the dough in a greased 4 by 8½ -inch bread pan. For a bâtard, place it on a proofing cloth or on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and, if you like, dusted with flour. Mist the top of the dough with pan spray (optional), cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1½ times its original size.

6. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C), and, if baking a freestanding loaf, prepare the oven for hearth baking, including a steam pan (steaming is optional for a sandwich loaf). When the dough is ready to bake, place it in the oven, pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan, lower the temperature to 350°F (177°C), and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf 180 degrees and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is a rich brown on all sides, sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and registers at least 195°F (91°C) in the center.


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



The current adjustments I made:

I simply scaled down to 100g of Whole Wheat for the soaker and biga, but attempted to keep the ratios for everything except the yeast, including the final dough.

Since I'm using active yeast, I increased the amount by 25% as instructed by the book.

Instead of buttermilk, I used kefir thinking it might substitute.


Everything went decently up until mixing the final dough. Kneading the dough was a nightmare since it seemed after an hour of mixing, no matter how much flour I added it keep getting sticky despite it's relatively low hydration. Did I over-ferment the biga when placing it for 24 hours? Was adding kefir a bad idea?

Christopher Barreto's picture
Christopher Barreto

This is how the loaf turned out. While the flavor is decent and the crumb is soft, it can still definitely use some more oven spring. Apologies for the disorientated pictures.

I forgot to mention that I did not have access to hearth baking tools. Instead I relied on using a small toaster oven and some aluminum foil over a rack for the dough. The only tray that I have was used to create steam.

Any pointer on how to properly invest in hearth baking tools like stones, steels, and Dutch Ovens without breaking the bank would be nice.

Petek's picture

I've made Reinhart's recipe dozens of times with buttermilk, milk and soy milk (but never with kefir). The recipe is rock-solid and I doubt that the kefir is the problem. You state that you mixed the dough for an hour. That's way too long. I suspect that you overmixed (or overkneaded). According to The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book (which deals exclusively with whole grain flours): 

"Too much kneading makes the gluten disintegrate; the dough gets wet and sticky again and can never regain its strength."

It sounds like that's what happened to your dough. Hope this helps.

Christopher Barreto's picture
Christopher Barreto

The book suggested to use water when kneading/folding the dough. However, I had to either wet my hands or flour my workspace every time I did two folds tops throughout the kneading. Is that intended or am I still doing it wrong?

Ironically, It gained some strength in the first rise, and a little more on the second.

inkling's picture

I've made this recipe many times with kefir. The only time I have had trouble with this recipe was when I had flour that was too low in protein. I was so frustrated when several loaves in a row were giving me trouble! So I bought a bag of KA whole wheat, which is more standardized than what I usually get (bulk, often single-field harvest, no guaranteed protein percentage). The recipe was totally fine. 

It shouldn't be crazy-sticky. You could add vital wheat gluten if your flour is low. Or try a higher protein flour and see if that fixes it.

Christopher Barreto's picture
Christopher Barreto

I also used King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour. As far as I remember, the protein content of that flour is hovering around 14%. However the gliadins and glutenins content as well as the starch constitution is something I'm uncertain of.

Though I do notice that when I knead it does from time to time get tight. Maybe more frequent rests?

Anon2's picture
Anon2 (not verified)

Is add to the leavening. While it's fermented milk, similar to yoghurt in that respect, the microbiology is more similar to sourdough starter. One can use kefir to raise bread as the sole leavening agent. If using kefir and yeast I can see there might be an issue if over fermentation when following the timings allowing for just the yeast and not taking into account the kefir. However when it comes to the structure of the dough it shouldn't make a difference at all. 

Crobran's picture

 I'm about to make this for the second time but I noticed that the surface of the soaker had turned considerably darker after 24 hours. It still felt tacky to the touch so I don't think it was dark because it was drying out. I'm wondering if it's still safe to use.

inkling's picture

It's pretty normal for the surface of the soaker to turn dark. No worries, it's still fine!