peter reinhart's whole wheat sandwich bread

by Stacy

I know, I know, another whole wheat sandwich bread recipe. But this one is amazing!

While white bread definitely has its place (baguettes, delicious toast, and more), whole wheat bread is my strong preference. Also, now that the husband is taking sandwiches to work most days, we’re going through bread at a bit higher rate.

When I first started making bread, my original “go-to” recipe was Peter’s Reinhart’s light wheat bread:

light wheat bread

Then King Arthur Flour’s 100% whole wheat sandwich bread was a little faster and all whole grain:

whole wheat bread

The KAF recipe stayed as my “no-fail” recipe to be whipped up in an afternoon.

Then we moved.

And it started to fail. Worse — I started to fail!

First, I didn’t have my loaf pan here yet. I bought a new one only to discover that I bought the wrong size (9×5 instead of 8.5×4). I made bread anyway, but it was shaped oddly and my husband wouldn’t eat the mutant loaf. Then my proper pan arrived (hooray!), but when I went to mix up the dough, I had to add a considerable amount of additional flour, then managed to under-grease the pan so that the loaf would not release. After prying it out, the crust was broken off in chunks making the slices both small and sad-looking. Sigh.

Despair was starting to set in. Was I going to have to cave in and buy bread?

Luckily for me, there are two people in the internet and print worlds upon whom I can always depend: Bridget from Crumbly Cookie and Peter Reinhart. Bridget posted the recipe for 100% whole wheat sandwich bread from a follow-up to The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor. It is, I think, a testament to Reinhart that his book prices vary by only $3 and are not often re-sold. Also, the recipes (sorry, “formulas“) are fantastic.

whole wheat sandwich bread

My only problem was that the top browned a bit too quickly, but I am still adjusting to the ridiculous temperature swing of this oven. Next time I will check it earlier.

It is a two day recipe, but the first day is about as easy as it gets. Breaking the process into two days also means that the work is broken up. You mix a soaker and a biga which comprise almost all of the dough, then let those sit for 12-24 hours. The next day, you chop them up and mix them together with a bit more salt, yeast, sugar, oil, and few tablespoons of flour, resulting in a wonderfully smooth and elastic dough. Some rising, some shaping, some baking, and you’ve got yourself a tender-but-hearty loaf of wheat bread. Yum.

whole wheat sandwich bread

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads

1¾ cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon (4 grams) salt
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons (198 grams) milk, buttermilk, yogurt, soy milk, or rice milk

1.) Combine flour, salt, and milk in a bowl and mix for 1 minute until all flour in incorporated and dough forms a ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. If it will be longer than 24 hours, refrigerate up to 3 days, removing from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

1¾ cups (227 grams) whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
¾ cup (170 grams) filtered or spring water, at room temperature (about 70F)

1.) Mix together flour and yeast. Add water, stirring to combine. With wet hands, knead the dough to ensure all the flour is hydrated and dough feels tacky, about 2 minutes. Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 more minute. Dough will still be tacky, but it will get smoother.

2.) Transfer dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours (up to 3 days). Remove from fridge 2 hours prior to mixing final dough. It will have risen slightly.

Final dough:
7 tablespoons (56.5 grams) whole wheat flour, plus extra for adjustments
5/8 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
2¼ teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
2¼ tablespoons (42.5 grams) honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, melted, or vegetable oil

1.) Chop the biga and soaker into 12 pieces of approximately the same size using a metal pastry scraper. Sprinkle the pieces with a little flour to prevent sticking if needed.

2.) Combine soaker and biga pieces in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the salt, yeast, honey, and butter or oil. Mix using the paddle attachment on low speed for 1 minute until dough forms a ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the biga and the soaker are evenly combined. Add more flour or water as needed; dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and be soft and slightly sticky.

3.) Turn dough out onto a floured work surface, turning the dough to coat. Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, incorporating just enough flour so the dough feels tacky, not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

4.) After the 5 minute rest, knead for 1 final minute, ensuring that the dough is soft and tacky, but strong and able to pass the windowpane test. Make any final flour or water adjustments as needed. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl, rolling to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes until dough is about 1½ times its original size.

5.) Once risen, turn dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and shape into a loaf. Place dough in a well-greased 8½ by 4 inch bread pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes until dough is about 1½ times its original size (it will have crowned over the top of the pan).

6.) Preheat the oven to 425F. When the dough has finished rising, place in 425 degree oven then turn down the oven temperature to 350F. Bake for 20 minutes at 350F, then rotate the pan 180 degrees to ensure even browning and bake 20-30 minutes more. Bread is done when the loaf is a rich brown on all sides, sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, and registers at least 195F in the center.

whole wheat sandwich bread

7.) Let cool on a wire rack at least 1 hour before slicing.

whole wheat sandwich bread

Submitted to YeastSpotting

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny November 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Great post! I have Peter Reinhart’s BBA, but I’m looking forward to trying some of his recipes from his other books. Thanks for posting this one – I’ll add this to my list!


stacy November 10, 2009 at 10:15 pm

BBA is fantastic, but we just eat more sandwich bread. I’m actually going to mix up another soaker and biga tonight to bake tomorrow!


tater1112 November 10, 2009 at 6:47 pm

I ought to try one of his recipes – a friend loaned me his book when I got my stand mixer, and I haven’t really looked at it. My problem with them is that there are so many steps, I have to read the recipe about 14 times to count back and figure out when I should start making the bread!

OK, knead for 1 minute, then rise for 10 minutes, then knead for 3 minutes, rise for 45 minutes, do nothing for 3 hours, juggle for 23 minutes, then knead for another 5 minutes….


stacy November 10, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Hahaha! So true! You really should try one, though. The pain a l’ancienne and his Napoletana pizza dough are my faves.

That’s the good part AND the bad part: he’s so specific. It’s good because if you follow the steps, it will turn out. It’s bad because sometimes the directions get so long, it’s hard to follow. The good thing is that there’s no rush – it’s not like something is on the stove, burning, while you read the recipe.


Mimi November 13, 2009 at 12:36 pm

What a great looking sandwich bread. Your husband is a lucky man, indeed!


stacy November 14, 2009 at 12:32 am

Thank you. I will make sure to remind him of that when he gets home from work. 😉


Laura November 14, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I love the whole grain book. I have made the whole wheat challah with tremendous success. The lightest whole grain bread ever. I found out something interesting, though. One day I forgot to prepare the soaker and biga the day before. I mixed up everything together on the same day I baked it and got the same amazing results. Wierd, right?


Bridget February 7, 2010 at 9:47 am

Oops, I missed this post when you first published it.

Anyway, I’ve actually only made this bread that one time, when I posted about it. But I often adapt the technique for other favorite bread recipes by mixing up the soaker with half of the recipe’s flour and some salt and liquid. I’ve adapted all sorts of recipes this way to make great whole wheat bread (although I usually only do half whole wheat flour).


Megan March 30, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I checked out Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads from the library, but then forgot to write down this recipe, so thanks!
Also, in response to the oven temp… I thought the book said to preheat the oven to 425, then turn it down to 350 when you put the bread in. Not 100% sure on that though… but may explain why your bread got too brown…
You take lovely pictures!


stacy March 30, 2010 at 6:58 pm

You’re welcome. =)

You know, I think I saw someone else mention the lower temp, too, and that’s actually what I have started doing. I will change the post to reflect as much. Thanks for visiting!


Glo December 7, 2011 at 11:09 am

What kind of liquid did you use? Yogurt, full fat, fat free or butter milk?


Menaka February 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm

hi there,
i made this bread today and it turned out quite “damp/wet” inside. i followed the recipe to the T and i’m not sure what i did wrong:(


Denise August 11, 2012 at 12:53 pm

How do you slice the bread so perfectly!? Your slices are absolutely beautiful!

I’ve tried lots of different whole wheat bread recipes and I agree – this is definitely the best sandwich bread.

Menaka, did you make sure the bread was at least 195 in the center? It sounds like it just might not have been baked long enough.


Stacy August 17, 2012 at 11:33 am

Ha! Many years of slicing bread badly and being annoyed a half-raw, half-burned toast will do wonders for your bread slicing skills. 😉


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