Breads / Breakfast/Tiffin items

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Whole Wheat bread Peter Reinhart

It was 9.15 pm and the phone rang just as I was planning to take my son into the bedroom to sleep. Okay, Now, my son’s no early-to-bed kind of guy. But that day he’d missed his afternoon sleep and was really cranky.


“Hey, I’m leaving from office only now and I’m terribly hungry. What’s for dinner?”

“Great! Ikshu’s almost asleep. I’ve baked some bre…”

“Don’t say bread! This is the fourth straight night that you’ve planned bread for dinner!”


And reading about home bakers in blogs and newspapers, one would think that their family displays contented smiles each time their wife or mommy told them there was something in the oven! Well, my family does love baked goodies. Just that they’re too traditionally tam-bram in their food preferences and will vote for a typical south-Indian meal over ‘fancy’ bread.

whole wheat atta bread Peter reinhart

More importantly, hubby was bored of breads because for most of the second half of March, I’d been planning and baking breads of all sort to gear up for the month-long baking marathon that starts today! No, I’m not pulling any April Fool’s prank on you. I blog with a group of food bloggers twice every year for an online event that we call the Mega Blogging Marathon. Basically, we blog every day of that month, leaving Sundays out. Valli, who is the brainchild behind these monthly marathons, came up with the idea of doing a month-long baking marathon and everyone was really excited about it, even those who bake only occasionally.So we’re calling this edition Fire Up Your Oven

So this entire month of April, I’ll be blogging about baked goodies and to make it more challenging for me and interesting (hopefully) for my (tiny) audience, I thought I’d stick to breads mostly. There will be a few non-yeasted bakes, but not more than one a week (I hope!).  And I’ll start it off with one of the most fool-proof whole wheat breads that I’ve ever baked. Mind you, this one’s made with low-protein Indian whole wheat flour without any added commercially available gluten.

Now I don’t remember the number of loaves I’ve made from this recipe. It is probably my most favourite bread recipe till date. If I had to choose just one loaf of bread to bake, this would be the one. This is my go-to recipe for any whole-wheat based bread dough.

Now this one isn’t one of those white pillow-soft breads. It isn’t meant to be either. It is one wholesome loaf of bread made with whole grains, with very little sweetener, a little oil. But wait. This is no door-stopper either (although my oven and I have had the fortune of flinging quite a few of those into the dustbin and forcing some of those down my gullet too!). It is a close-crumbed but very soft loaf of bread that works great for sandwiches, slices very well: no crumbling there, and is neither too sweet nor salty.


It also makes great grilled sandwiches. Use it as a base for simple jam or peanut butter sammies or for heavy-duty sauce and salad loaded delights – this one recipe works very well. My mother-in-law and I love dunking slices of it into soup. And if there’s pesto in the freezer, which happens to be whenever there’s bread on the menu, I load every other piece of bread with shameless quantities of the green dip and munch away. And yes, I store pesto frozen, else I eat it by the spoonful (tablespoon at that!) each time I open the refrigerator door!

I love the smell of simple phulkas when they puff up on direct flame. The taste of those rotis, sans any ghee/butter/oil  is simply wonderful. It most-beautifully brings out the flavour of wheat. I’d say this is the loaf of bread that brings out the lovely flavour of whole wheat in the same way. The bread is tasty on its own. Give it a shot. It is a long process that’s spread over two days. But don’t let that intimidate you.

The only work on the day prior to the day of baking is to soak up the coarse grains overnight so as to soften the bran in the wheat – known as the soaker – and to make what is known as a poolish, a sort of pre-ferment. A pre-ferment is basically part of the final dough that is fermented in advance. In whole grain breads, these methods are particularly effective since these use lesser yeast than regular three-hour breads and bring out more flavour from the grains used. This is especially so because the whole grains get a longer time to soak and ferment making them more digestible and nutritious.

The pre-ferment used in this particular bread, poolish, is a French term taken from the Polish people who originally used this technique to improve the flavour of their breads. This is a wet sort of dough, not unlike dosa batter. It is made with flour, water and a little bit of yeast. The dough is allowed to ferment and then (ideally) refrigerated for some time before being incorporated into the final dough. I think I’ve lectured enough for today. But mind you, there’s more coming this week.

PS: The loaf you see in the pictures in this post is baked in a 4.5 inch by 3 inch pan. I need somewhat less than half the original recipe to bake a loaf of this size



(Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s  The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

Makes 2 x 8” by 4” loaves; each weighing around 450-500 gm. I prefer to use slightly smaller pans that measure 7 ½ inch by 3 ½ inch to get taller loaves (see Notes)


For the soaker:

Coarse whole wheat flour – 1 ½ cups

Water (room temperature) – 1 cup + 2 tbsp

(Note: You could use stone-ground wheat for the soaker if it is available. You can also use other whole grains ground at home. I often use a combination of oats, buckwheat and different millets)

For the poolish

Whole wheat flour – 1 ½ cups

Instant yeast – ¼ tsp

Water – 1 cup


For the final dough

All of the poolish and the soaker, plus:

Whole wheat flour – 2 cups

Salt – 1 ½ tsp

Instant yeast – 1 tsp

Oil – 1 tbsp

Honey – 2 tbsp (I tend to use either jaggery or caramel syrup instead)

Water – ¼ – ½ cup or as required *

Optional: Oats or sesame/sunflower/flax seeds for topping

*Peter Reinhart’s recipe doesn’t call for any additional water in the final dough but the wheat I use seems to need almost half a cup of additional water when mixing up the final dough


The poolish and the soaker are ideally prepared a day ahead

Making the poolish

Mix up the flour and the yeast and then stir in the water. Stir the mixture just enough to wet all of the flour. Cover it with a lid and leave it aside for a couple or hours or so till it starts to bubble. Then refrigerate overnight.

I prepare the poolish in the evening before the day I plan to bake the loaf and refrigerate it overnight once ready. This can be refrigerated for up to three days.

Preparing the soaker

Simply mix up the coarse grains/flour and add water. Put a lid and leave it out on the counter overnight

I make the soaker at night and leave it out on the counter till baking time the following morning. I’ve left it out for as long as 10-12 hours and it is fine. Longer than that, and I find it starts to turn sour. If you plan to bake it later in the day, put it in the fridge in the morning

Preparing the final dough

An hour before you plan to mix the final dough, pull out the poolish (and the soaker if you put it in the fridge) from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature.

Dump the wheat flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Mix it up. Add the polish as well as the soaker, plus oil and honey/caramel syrup/jaggery syrup

Mix well and add additional water as required. I add almost ½ cup of water. Mix well with a large wooden spoon till the dough comes together

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured counter and knead for 10-12 minutes till you get a soft and not-so-sticky dough

Oil the mixing bowl and place the ball of dough in it. Cover it a lid and set aside till it close to doubles. This can take anywhere between 30 minutes to upwards of an hour depending on the heat and humidity

Once the dough is close to double in volume, oil your loaf pans

Transfer the risen dough gently to the counter and divide into two

Shape each half into a sandwich log and carefully place in the pan. Cover with an oiled sheet of plastic and set aside to rise (about 30 minutes to an hour). You can refer to my post on Whole Wheat Cranberry loaf (with pumpkin puree) for step by step pictures and shaping instruction

Start preheating the oven to 180 deg C when the dough has risen close to the top of the pan

Gently brush water on the top of the loaves gently and sprinkle seeds/oats if you wish to. Take care not to deflate the loaf. Put the pans into the oven when the dough rises higher than the edge of the pan

Bake the loaves for 40-50 minutes, till golden brown on top. Thump the loaf on its bottom – it should sound hollow

Remove the pans from the oven (be careful and use oven mitts…I’ve burnt my hands once too often!) and the loaves from the pans immediately. Cool on a rack


Leaving the loaves in the pans for longer than a few minutes after it is out of the oven will make them sweat and turns the bottoms soggy

I have altered the recipe slightly to get a reasonably tall loaf. The original recipe is said to give two 8″x4″ sandwich loaves, but my loaves turn out somewhat short in those pans. So i increase the quantity of soaker a bit more and bake them in 7.5″ x 3.5″ inch pans for loaves that are nearly as tall as bakery-style breads. I attribute that to the fact that the whole wheat flour available in the West has higher protein content than Indian flours. I’ve read that a particular strain of wheat from Madhya Pradesh, the Sharbati variety, has a higher protein than other Indian varieties. I’m still trying to get my hands on some organic Sharbati wheat!

I also find that I need much more water than the original recipe calls for. This could be due to the kind of wheat available in India. I use freshly ground organic wheat flour.


29 thoughts on “100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

  1. At my home I am the only one eating the breads I bake.. The bread looks good and am sure it is worth all the effort that went into it. I am relatively new to bread baking and will hold on to the this recipe until I am more comfortable baking white breads and graduate to whole wheat bread baking. Wonderful bread to start off the marathon and looking forward to your breads this month.

  2. The conversation with your husband brought a smile on my face! Lovely bread. I echo Usha’s words about holding on to this recipe until I get comfortable baking a bread loaf!

  3. This is one of the fool proof breads that I often make and simply love this recipe. It has been pouring breads for the past few days and the same story is revolving around in my household as well, but nothing is stopping me….looking forward to the rest of your bakes.

  4. I got the book for my birthday this year. It scared me more than all my engineering text books did. So I have very gracefully kept it somewhere I can admire it from a distance. I loved the whole of your introduction. I am really looking forward to all the breads and the reading :-). And btw, I am full and full with cakes for this marathon :D. The scales arent very happy about it :D.

  5. The bread has come out very well and perfectly made with a nice golden crust..worth it for the effort. As Usha and Harini said,will hold on the recipe till get comfortable with bread making..Looking forward your bread recipes…

  6. I knew all the way that you will post some Fantastic breads and trust me I have actually been looking forward, as they are going to be organic and healthy, something my family eats. awesome one, and of course I know where to come when I want to bake breads:))

  7. The loaf looks great and the crust is a nice golden brown. Great start! Looking forward to the rest of your bakes.

  8. aah ! lovely to have u back, Nandini !! we are all set to hear and learn some super technical stuff on bread baking :-)) reminds me of the starter for the bread we discussed all late night during the meet !! super delish looking loaf… am sure my bookmarks are going to hit the roof by the end of this BM ! super start.. look forward to ur series :-))

  9. Lovely nandini, so a month full of breads, i m waiting to see them all!!! Peter Reinhart, i almost fainted reading the name, i so love that name, hope i will get that book soon and start making those amazing breads!!!
    Bread looks stunning, dip in soups or with green chutney or grilled with some cheese i m ready for anything with such a healthy and a fluffy bread!!

  10. Welcome back Nandini, I will be putting a clause that you should do more BM than the half yearly stunt you put up..however just for all the breads that you are going to post, I might be little ok..:) have written so much girl, so good to read all that!

  11. So true Nandhini that our family members don’t smile for all the baked goodies as any one would expect. I loved making this bread too but your looks so nice with that beautiful dome..

  12. So nice to see you back to blogging Nandini. The description of the bread itself makes me want to bake ti right away.I have that book and now am feeling so bad that I haven’t tried out anything from it!!!

  13. this is some kind of interesting post…i can print it out and read it for days to come …but i have to mention that i enjoyed doing the bread with you last month and am only assured of your skill now looking at the bread…it has come out so well

  14. Welcome back to blogging Nandini. That whole wheat sandwich bread looks amazing.. Nice way to start the marathon. Looking forward to all your bakes this month.

  15. Pingback: 100% Whole wheat sandwich loaf 2 – with orange juice | foodiliciousnan

  16. The bread looks amazing. I have baked one or two breads in the oven so far as I use the bread machine. Seems like I am going to end up with a long list of bookmarked recipes this time.
    And the conversation with your husband brought a smile on my face. My husband keeps telling me that I cook good when I am not thinking about the events. 🙂

  17. Great to have you back Nandini. And I enjoyed reading all the techy stuff about Bread baking. Though I haven’t been successful in taming Mr yeast, just reading you kindles my interest towards Bread. Sometime back, read your detailed post on another whole grain bread and still remember that you have put in so much of valuable info into a single post. Hats off and thanks to your passionate writing. Looking forward to all your fab bakes. Btw, this bread is absolutely stunning, as always.

  18. Pingback: Cinnamon Banana Flatbread (with sourdough discard) – all whole wheat | foodiliciousnan

  19. One advantage of reading old posts is that the rest of the series is already out there. I moved to a small city where the inhabitants don’t seem to relish whole grains the way I do. Even breads that claim to be 100% whole wheat are not. I am unsure why they are (legally, if no other way) allowed to make that statement. Finding good bread here is impossible, although one bakery has started making sourdough bread. I have to rely on making my own, but in these days of the virus pandemic, I can’t always find the supplies I need. You are a blessing; I will read all your recipes in this marathon.

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