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I cannot get the recipes from Reinhart's "Whole grain breads" right

thebreadybunch's picture

I cannot get the recipes from Reinhart's "Whole grain breads" right

Hi everyone,

I'm writing for help because this issue is becoming so frustrating that it is eroding my wiliness to bake.

So, the topic is in the title. I cannot get the recipes, not even the "simple" master formula, from Reinhart's book right. Specifically, I follow the instruction as in a ritual, but everything fall apart (quite literally) when assembling the final dough.

Specifically, in the instruction, it is said that after mixing the preferment and the soak with the rest of the ingredients, I should have a soft and sticky dough. No doubt about the stickiness, I can assure you. The point is that following the instruction, 3/4 minutes of kneading should be enough to have a dough which is "tacky, but not sticky". Well, I cannot get the dough to leave the stickiness for the tackiness. No way. Impossible. I tried to knead longer (up to 10 minutes), to change style of kneading (everything apart the french kneading, that I am unable to perform), to give the dough multiple rests. The dough stay sticky, almost running, and cannot hold in place (if left on the bench it quickly become a sort of puddle).

I know that someone could say: have you tried to add a bit of flour ? Of course I have, but here we're not talking about adding a couple of pinch of flour. To have something even slightly manageable I have to add almost 100 grams, that offset the hydration completely.

I wonder if whole grain flours are somewhat different (more gluten ?) in the US than here in France. I have tried both "farine intégrale" et "farine complète" telling myself that maybe the problem was the flour: same story. One thing that I should add about the flour hypothesis, is that something is off even before the final mixing. Reinhart suggest to cut the soak and the preferment in 12 pieces to facilitate the mixing. Now, this instruction is something I cannot follow, for the simple reason that both the soaker and the preferment are way to running to be cut.

Another hypothesis is that my kneading skills are awful. This could be the case, I never had a course, but still, this feel a little to much to be about the kneading alone. 

Have someone run in the same problem ? Do you have any suggestion ? I am getting so frustrated at this that sometimes I just want to throw the dough away.

Thanks in advance


idaveindy's picture

Welcome to TFL. I saw your intro a couple months ago.

I have that book.  which formula in particular?

If you have tried several formulas, then please just pick one to discuss, so that we can look at the same page and talk about the same thing.


Trying to match flours across national boundaries is difficult, but can eventually be worked out, if you do some research and some experimentation.

First, in EU, you need to be aware of the protein content of both the "white" flour and the whole wheat/complet/integral when trying to match American AP or Bread flour.  

American AP flour has 10.5% protein in the American measuring system, but that would be 12.2% in the EU measuring system, because EU does not include moisture in the denominator of the fraction, whereas the US system uses 14% moisture in the calculation. To state another way: EU measures protein as a percent of "dry weight", and the US measures protein as a percent of "total weight" and assumes moisture (water) makes up 14% of "total weight."

If I have the math right, take the American percent, divide by .86, and that is the EU percent you need. So if an American whole wheat is 12.5% protein, then by EU measurement, it would be clasified as 12.5 / .86 = 14.5%.

But there is more to flour than protein % and ash%.  So protein % does not have to be an exact match.

Trying to match the name of the flour does not work across borders - you have to match the protein content, as well as the ash%.

Then, even if you get close, you still have to adjust the water. (It sounds like you need to use less water, not more flour.)


Using less water may be the solution. But if not, there are several TFL users in EU who could recommend a brand of French flour that better matches American flours.

Otherwise, Reinhart's formulas, being designed for American flour, will have to be modified for your French flour.

Buona fortuna, et bon appétit.

thebreadybunch's picture

Thanks a lot for your answer. I have tried the master formula that is reported at page 78 and followings and again, under the name "100% whole wheat sandwich bread" at page 95 and followings, both in a pan and as a freestanding bâtard.

As for the exact protein content, I think that in the book the author never explicitly states the % of proteins he recommends. He only says "whole wheat" or "rye" flour. On the contrary, at page 121 seems to say that in the end the brand or even the grind is not really important, and the recipes should work (with some adjustment) for all whole grain flours. Of course, this may be true only in the US. But I wonder if such an enormous difference (we're talking going from a viable dough to something closer to batter !) is really possible.

idaveindy's picture

"On the contrary, at page 121 seems to say that in the end the brand or even the grind is not really important, and the recipes should work (with some adjustment) for all whole grain flours. Of course, this may be true only in the US."

He is writing for a US audience using US flour made from hard wheat, that is intended for bread-making. Pastry flour, made from soft-wheat, even if it is whole grain, would not work for his formulas.

French wheat and flour is different.  Your naming and classification system is different too, focusing on ash%, but not protein %.

Try less water to make a proper dough, and see how that works.

And hopefully, a French baker will join the conversation and recommend a good high protein French complet bread flour that will be a closer match to US whole grain flour.  

Maybe you are using complet pastry flour (soft wheat) instead of complet bread flour (hard wheat).  Pastry flour, from soft-wheat, even if it is complet/integral will not make good bread.


thebreadybunch's picture

Thanks again. I will try to reduce hydration from 75% to 65% and see how it goes.

thebreadybunch's picture

"Maybe you are using complet pastry flour (soft wheat) instead of complet bread flour (hard wheat).  Pastry flour, from soft-wheat, even if it is complet/integral will not make good bread."

The bag say indeed "for natural levain bread". The declared protein percentage is 12%, but then I am reading this differently now, in the light of your explanation about the differences in the way this % is calculated here and on the other side of the pond.

idaveindy's picture

I think Mariana explained it well.  Water adjustment will likely work.    You will need to experiment at first, going by feel, so make good notes of how much water you use.

But also, I suspect that bulk fermentation and final proof times may need adjustment.

So... as they say "watch the dough, not the clock."

Bon chance.

mariana's picture

Hi thebreadybunch, 

Reinhart means whole wheat bread flour made from either hard winter or spring wheat, US grown. Winter wheat is not that widely available in the US, and spring wheat is harder than winter wheat. So his formulas are for medium dry (10% moisture content) very strong whole wheat flour which is nearly always supplemented with both enzymes and ascorbic acid when milled, so it is very strong and doesn't run no matter how much water you add in. 

In your case, start with adding a tiny bit of vitamin C to you flour, if none is listed on your flour package, and less water, one cup less per each kilogram of flour. It is possible that your flour is moist and doesn't need that much water and that it has less protein which is OK.

European flours on average have much less protein and they make amazing bread. But they do absorb quite a bit less water, since they have less protein. A typical baguette flour in France (type 55) has 10% protein vs 12-13% protein in Canada, for example. It's a 20-30% difference in protein and in water needed for the same dough consistency. 60% water for a baguette dough in France and about 76% water for a French bread in the US, 27% more water in the US. 2/3 of a cup more water per 1 kg of type 55 flour. 

The same is true for the whole grain wheat flour (type 170 in France). Pain complet in France requires about 60-65% water, whereas in the US-Canada it will require up to 82% water and more if there is no honey or butter in its formula, which is a huge difference, at least a full cup of water more for 1 kg of flour. 

best wishes


thebreadybunch's picture

Thanks, that's very clear and extremely helpful. I am going to do some math about how much I will need to change hydration and see if I can find some ascorbic acid (in powder, I guess) to add to it.


thebreadybunch's picture

Quick follow up question: when calculating the hydration, how should I consider butter ? Does it goes with water and milk in the hydration%, or should I consider it separately ?

mariana's picture

Hydration is just water. How much water per 1 kg of flour in %.

Milk is a bit different. You would need much more milk than water to make dough of the same consistency, because milk has its own solids, sugar, fat, etc. Milk is not water. 

Butter will tie up about the same weight of flour in the recipe.

Let's say, you have a formula with 1kg of flour and 600 g of water for a normal bread dough consistency. Then you decided to add 100g of butter to that dough. How much water should you withhold? 

100g of butter will take up 100g of flour, therefore only 900 flour should be moistened with water now. 

60% hydration of 900g of flour is 0.6x900= 540g of water. 

Adding 100g of butter reduced need in water from 600 to 540g grams.

Your dough hydration fell from 600g water per 1 kg of flour to 540g of water per 1 kg of flour, from 60% to 54% hydration. That is why pannetone dough for example has such low hydration, even though it is a very soft dough and baked pannetone has a very soft, moist crumb... it has a lot of sugar and eggs and fat in its formula and very little to no water. 

for sugar it's 100g of sugar - 70g of flour

for eggs it's 100g of eggs - 140g of flour

best wishes, 


Benito's picture

Marianna that is super helpful, I’ve never seen those adjustment calculations before.  I assume that the 100 g of butter hydrating 100 g of flour refers to a white flour and not whole grain?

Do you have any other fabulous pearls like that for us?


mariana's picture

Hi Benny, 

yep, I've got another fabulous pearl. Of course, I do ?

When you are adding butter later on in dough mixing, for example, you prepare poolish or some other levain and then you add your flour, salt, water and autolyse, then you add the remaining ingredients: butter, eggs, sugar, it is good to separate a portion of flour and blend it with the enriching ingredients. Then add that paste to your dough, as you knead it. 

For example to add 100b of butter to you dough, separate 100g of flour from the total amount in the formula and blend it with butter. 

To add 100g of sugar, separate 70 g of flour from your you formula and blend it with sugar and only later add into your dough, when gluten is already developed. 

Same with eggs, you would separate 140g of flour per each 100g of eggs in the formula. 

In other words, calculate the sum total of butter, eggs, sugar and set aside the appropriate amount of flour, blend it all into a paste and add into your dough in later stages of dough mixing or development. This way you will improve your results immensely.

All that sugar, butter, eggs, they take away moisture from the particles of flour and yeast cells (osmotic pressure), block access of water, by enveloping flour particles and yeast with fat, and inhibit dough formation and fermentation. And it is easier to admix flour-butter paste, for example, than pure butter. 

Benito's picture

This totally makes sense and is another great pearl of information.  Thanks again.  Anytime you feel like you want to share pearls I’m all ears.


cfraenkel's picture

Thanks for the pearls!  Great information.

MikeV's picture

I'm a beginning baker living in the Netherlands, and was really surprised at how substantially the hydration of US-centric recipes need to be adjusted to work with typical western European flour. I was trying to follow Tartine-style recipes (500 g flour of which 20-30% whole grain, 100 g liquid levain, and ~ 75% hydration) and found myself constantly struggling to handle sloppy batter that would make flat loaves, even when it didn't stick horribly to the proofing basket. I'd read European flour needs a bit less water, so I went down to 70%, and didn't see much difference. Finally I dialed all the way down to below 65%, expecting an unpleasant dry-crumbed result, and instead was treated to manageable dough, oven spring, and still a very tasty result.

Clearly I should have signed on to this forum and asked for advice earlier. Thanks Mariana for the calculation tips!

By the way, about the vitamin C: I have seen some German recipes call for ~ 2% lemon or orange juice as part of the hydration for this purpose, especially for spelt breads. Maybe easier to source than pure ascorbic acid?

charbono's picture

King Arthur Flour recommends 10-15% orange juice with whole wheat, just for flavor.

Ilya Flyamer's picture
Ilya Flyamer

Ascorbic acid will be available in any pharmacy. Easiest for measuring will be to take the dissolvable tablets, and take a required portion of the water to get the amount of ascorbic acid that you need for the recipe.

G. Marie's picture
G. Marie

Have you made other high hydration doughs? There is a learning curve on how to handle dough. I am by no means a master but I can keep a dough together that would be a mess in other peoples hand. You'll get there in time.