The Fresh Loaf

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How to tweak a recipe to introduce whole grain flour

thebreadybunch's picture

How to tweak a recipe to introduce whole grain flour

Hi everyone,

with some time, study and tweaking I have found a recipe for a sourdough white bread that work very well for me (here for those interested).

Now I would like to make "this same bread" (let's say in terms of crumb and crust) but with whole grains flour (starting with 20% and going up, possibly).

I see some problems for myself:

- whole grains flour will absorb more water

- whole grains flour will have less sugar (since there are more fiber for the same weight)

- whole grains flour will have less protein and specifically gluten (for the same reason above).

First question: is all of the above true ?

Second question: I could i tackle this problem ?

More water, but in which proportion ?

Add some sugar, but how much ?

More gluten ?

I know that I could just follow one of the awesome recipes that are floating around, and I will probably do it, but I would like to play with "my recipe" and I do not really know where to start.

Can you give me some suggestion ?

Thanks in advance


idaveindy's picture

  Bien venu a TFL.

"Now I would like to make "this same bread" (let's say in terms of crumb and crust) but with whole grains flour (starting with 20% and going up, possibly)."

No, no, no.  It is not the same bread, at 20% and up WW.

It will no longer be the same recipe. It will not be a tweak or adjustment.

Maybe at 5% it is close enough to "tweak."  at 20% No.

Your proposed scenario is not a tweak or adjustment. It would be inventing a whole new recipe.

To think it's just a tweak, and to ask the other questions, shows you don't yet have the base knowledge and experience for "inventing" your own recipes.

That said, it's your kitchen and your time. Use them as you wish.

But inventing WW recipes before you attempt actual established and tested recipes, leads to wasting time, wasting flour, frustration, and loaves your family won't eat.

IMO, a beginner should bake an established-and-tested 20% WW  recipe (there must be thousands) so you have a basis for what to expect how your own 20%WW dough and finished loaf will look and feel like.

You're not the first person to think they can "transform" a white bread recipe into a 20% + WW recipe.   But it's like thinking a zebra is a horse. 

here's a fundamental: the quickest way to learn to bake is by doing other baker's established recipes before you invent you own.  

I wish you happy baking.  And that's why I strongly recommend you abandon this "convert a white bread recipe to a 20% WW recipe" path.  

You can get to tasty 20% WW bread quicker and happier via another path: learn by doing established recipes before inventing your own.

Bon appétit.

GaryBishop's picture

Go for it and go slow. Try 5%, then 10, then 15. Keep careful notes. I recommend a tiny pan so you can experiment more often. 

clazar123's picture

With the recipe and method you have, it should be easy to start dabbling in WW. First of all, don't be afraid to experiment but make sure you do it methodically. Get a notebook and just change 1 thing at a time. It will take a number of tries but I believe the first try (at 20%WW) will be an easy start.

WW needs a lttle extra water but mostly it needs time to absorb it. If you hold to the recipe you provided, the overnight cold retard is excellent for that. I have often made a 100% WW dough with a 100% preferment, mixed enough water so the dough was a bit sticky and by morning, was just tacky instead of sticky. Perfect dough for shaping and baking.

As for sweetness, none is needed. Your AP loaf has none, adding anything to a WW loaf is merely a personal preference. If you want a little sweetness, merely add a few tablespoons of sweetener of choice-honey,syrup,sugar,molasses,etc,etc.It doesn't affect the texture much.

Here is the recipe ingredients you have:

Water 346 grams

Farine (in France they have a strange rating system, I use mostly T65 white flour) 654 grams

Gluten 3 Tbsp

Salt 9 grams

Sourdough starter (100% hydration, refreshed a couple of hours before starting) 250 grams


It looks to me that your hydration is about 62%.

Flour= 654 +125 (starter)=749


Bakers % of hydration= 471/749=62.8%

That seems a bit dry. I would try with 75% hydration as a start.

.75 x 749 = 561ml water

The final dough (before the overnight rest in the refrigerator) should feel a little sticky. If you lay the flat of a finger and pull away, some of the dough will stick to your finger. Not wet, not slippery.-just slightly sticky. Next morning, it should be tacky-kind of like a post-it note.As you pull your finger off the surface of the dough, no dough sticks onto the finger-it releases and the finger is clean.


So just try it and see what happens.



semolina_man's picture

I do this / have done it alot.  I started with Tom Cat's semolina filone, which contains white all purpose and semolina.  

I use the basic Tom Cat's formula with white all purpose, whole wheat, whole rye and whole spelt, in widely varying percentages. 

When you have built a level of experience, you have a general idea how a recipe will behave when elements are changed.   Go for it.  

mariana's picture


here are my answers to you questions

First question: is all of the above true ?

1) whole grains flour will absorb more water. True of False? It depends on the grain and on the flour. Some whole grains absorb a lot of water, other will absorb less than white wheat flour. So you cannot predict, you have to add water as you mix your dough and stop once you get the desired dough consistency. 

2) whole grains flour will have less sugar. True of False? Again if it was milled from the same wheat, then it's false.

Whole grain wheat flour is sweeter, higher in sugar than white flour milled from the same bag of wheat grain. So, on average, white flour has 2-5 times less sugar than whole grain wheat flour. However, you will buy flours milled from different batches of wheat so you cannot predict. Simply read the labels.

Normally, a bit of sugar or malt is added to white flour for better fermentation but it is not necessary to add sugar to whole wheat dough. It already has all sugar it needs for fermentation. 

3) whole grains flour will have less protein and specifically gluten... True or false? False. Whole grain flour will always have much more protein than white flour. As far as gluten is concerned, it depends on the wheat from which the flour was milled. You might end up with low protein and low gluten white flour (and that is why the recipe that you use adds dry gluten) and with a high gluten whole grain wheat flour.

Read the labels, it will tell you whether it is a strong flour (bread flour, high gluten flour) or not and you will know. 

Second question. How to tackle the problem. I see absolutely no problem with substituting part of white flour with whole wheat or all of white flour with whole wheat, because the recipe that you use adds dry gluten and it makes the formula good for any kind of flour. 

Water is always, a l w a y s added by watching how much your flour will absorb, until you get dough consistency that you like. I assure you that not all whole grain flours absorb more water than white flours, so you can't predict. Start with the same amount of water and if it turns out to be not enough, add more water, and write it down for the next time. 

Additional sugar or additional gluten is not necessary. Whole grain flour is already sweet and the amount of added gluten in the recipe is already very high. Often honey is added to the whole wheat dough, in order to reduce bitterness associated with wheat bran. It is up to you. It is not necessary for fermentation or baking, just for taste. 

HansB's picture

Adding 20% whole wheat should not take any tweaking at all if you are using at least 70% hydration. Certainly no need to add sugar.

thebreadybunch's picture

WOW ! Thank you so much to everyone! So many answers and, funnily enough, with a lot of variance among them !

I guess I will try some whole grains established recipes, see how it goes, and come back to "my" recipe and follow your suggestions.

Thanks again !

texasbakerdad's picture

Your question and the resulting responses, while unintended, turned out to be a great baker personality test.

I'm in the camp of, make your own recipe, have fun, messing up a recipe occasionally is totally worth it!

I frequently modify bread flour recipes to swap out 30% of the bread flour with WW and am 95% of the time happy with the results. This is actually my default behavior when I have an all processed flour recipe.

dbazuin's picture

Indeed making the recepi your own is lots more fun.
And you learn much more that way

If you understand a few basic principles you can create your own recepis.

A small example:
50% bread flour (that needs 67% hydration) and 50% with whole wheat flour (that needs 75% hydration)
67% of 250 gram = 167,5
75% of 250 gram = 187,5
So 355 gram water is a good starting point.