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Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat: Claudia’s Bread (no. 3)

 Claudia's Bread

When I first announced this series last summer, one of my readers eagerly sent her two favorite recipes my way. I tried both of them for our camping trips this summer as the sandwich bread or buns in my Family Camping Handbook meal plan.

That means this was the very first recipe I tested for the series. My family, very used to my regular honey whole wheat sourdough bread, was overjoyed with this unsoaked, yeasted bread. We pretty much went ga-ga over these plain PJB sandwiches I packed for the drive. Compared to the fairly dense, highly flavorful sourdough, however, I don’t know that our opinions could be trusted as totally accurate!

Sandra's bread sandwich

The Original Recipe: Claudia’s Bread

Here’s what my lovely reader, Sandra, actually sent to me:

Many whole wheat recipes call for dough enhancer, which – quite frankly – I don’t know what’s in it, so I won’t use it. I’ve gotten really picky about knowing what I’m using in my recipes. Why make homemade if you’re just using the same junk you’d get in the store-bought stuff? So I don’t use dough enhancer, and as long as I use white wheat flour, I don’t have a need to use wheat gluten either.
This recipe calls for both dough enhancer and wheat gluten, but when I make it, I replace them with approximately an equal amount of flour.

Claudia’s Whole Wheat Bread (makes 2 loaves)
6 C. Wheat Flour
1/2 C honey
2 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil
2 -2 1/2 C warm water
2 tsp wheat gluten
2 Tbs. dough enhancer

Mix together and add
1 1/2 Tbs yeast.

Knead 10 minutes. Shape into loaves. Let rise, covered, until double in bulk – about 30 to 60 minutes. Bake at 350 about 30 minutes until light brown and it smells done. (Who needs air freshener, when your house smells like homemade bread!??!!)

I mostly took her advice, and here is what I did in the summer:

Version One: Unsoaked, Including Gluten


6 C. Wheat Flour (hard red winter wheat)
1/2 C honey
2 tsp salt
3 Tbs olive oil
2 1/2 C warm water
2 tsp wheat gluten

Mix together and add
1 1/2 Tbs yeast.


I used my Kitchenaid mixer to knead for 10 minutes, and I ended up adding almost 2 ½ cups extra flour! I did use the higher of the two options for water, 2 ½ cups, which I guess I would not do again. After kneading, you can put the loaves right in the pans and allow them to rise until doubled. Mine only took about 30 minutes to crest the pans. I was so used to sourdough at the time that I couldn’t believe how fast the rise was!

The final product:

Sandra's Bread

Kimball Family Bread Ratings:

  • Whole Grains: 5
  • Softness: 4.5, only because I’m afraid to peak too soon!
  • Flavor: 4 or 5 (hard to remember last summer)
  • Workability: 4
  • Good Rise: 5
  • Easy Recipe: 5
  • Bonus points: –1 for gluten

Total Score: 26.5-27.5/30 (view the bread rating system and all recipes HERE)

This week I came back to the recipe after a 5-month hiatus and tried soaking the dough following the Nourishing Traditions soaking method. (How to adapt bread recipes for soaking) I made two half batches, one with gluten and one without, which made one loaf each.

Here is a touchpoint post on how I bake bread: Katie’s Basic Bread Baking Techniques (or lack thereof) If you have questions about any of my processes or choices, you’ll find answers there!

Versions Two & Three: Soaked, With or Without Gluten


The night before baking, I mixed with a spoon:

  • 3 c. whole wheat flour (half and half hard white spring wheat and hard red winter wheat)
  • ¼ c. honey (scant)
  • 1 ½ Tbs. Olive oil (I eyed it up)
  • 1 c. lukewarm water with 1 Tbs whey
  • 1 tsp. gluten (in only one batch)

After allowing both bowls of dough to rest at room temperature overnight, I measured out:

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast (equivalent to one packet)

Method and Results:

I used the dough hook of my Kitchenaid mixer to mix in the yeast, helping a bit with a spatula. Once incorporated, I set the timer for 8 minutes and let the KA do its work at level two. I did end up adding about 1/4-1/2 cup extra flour during the first part of the kneading process, just to make sure the dough wasn’t sticking to the sides of the bowl. If you’re hand kneading the bread, you’ll probably have to add even more flour, unless you want the dough to suction your wedding ring off your finger (this is what kneading bread dough feels like to me, which is reason number 7 why I don’t do it!). Adding this ½ cup or so per loaf still generated a fairly sticky dough.

Claudia's bread

The dough passed the “windowpane test”, meaning I could stretch it out enough to see light shining through before it broke – although just barely. Should I have allowed the mixer to knead for two more minutes? I shot low because generally machines are more efficient than hand kneading and require less time.

The loaf with added gluten is on the right. I thought it was strange that it looks like there’s a greater mass of dough on that side, since the recipe was exactly the same but for 1 teaspoon. The dough on the left looks, and was, slightly more firm and workable.

The two loaves took about 60 minutes to rise to the top of the pan, which was perhaps slightly more than double. I’m not sure why, but this recipe generated quite small loaves. I was glad I had narrow pans! The rising took place in my oven with the light on after I warmed it up by turning the oven on to 350F for exactly one minute. It was pretty toasty in there, so I imagine that rising at room temperature would take even longer.

After baking 30 minutes at 350 (at least I think – I forgot to set the timer when I put the bread in the oven!) the loaves were definitely golden brown on top and sounded hollow. I tipped them out to cool on a rack and waited about 30 minutes (until dinner) to slice them.

If you make a soaked loaf of bread and knead by hand, you should leave out about ¼ cup of water from the soaking mixture, along with at least 1 Tbs. of the sweetener (or even all of it). That way you can use ¼ cup of water the next day to proof the yeast. Mix the water (at about 100F), yeast, and sweetener for 5 minutes until you see nice bubbles, then work that mixture into the dough with your hands and proceed with the kneading. I probably should have done that even with the machine doing my dirty work, just to make sure the yeast proofed well and incorporated evenly.

I also wonder if I could have let the loaves rise longer. They had definitely already doubled, if not nearly tripled, in size in the pan, but they certainly hadn’t crested the top of the pan exactly. What would happen if I let them go another half hour? Is there a point at which the dough will collapse when baked because it’s over-risen? I wonder if the bread would have been softer if it was higher, because it certainly was in the summer with the unsoaked version.

Note: The authors of the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day series are firm believers that modern yeast not beyond its expiration date needs no proofing. I tend to agree with them, if only because it is less work!

Claudia's bread

The side-by-side comparison between a bread with a small amount of added gluten and one without was really interesting. Here’s the final difference in the rise of the baked bread, which is evident but practically insignificant:

Claudia's bread

The bread with added gluten is on the right in both photos.

Claudia's bread

Both loaves came out with a lovely browned top and a crusty looking, although not actually crusty, golden bottom.

claudia's bread (6) (500x375)

I served the sliced bread in two halves on our dinner plates and asked my husband if he could tell a difference. He said he would be hard pressed to determine any difference in flavor. When I queried about texture, he said the one with gluten (although he didn’t know the difference at all) looked like it should be lighter and fluffier, but when it came right down to it, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference in the mouth.

I thought I could note a slightly more dense texture in the non-gluten-added bread, but really, for all intents and purposes, the bread was hardly different. See?

Claudia's bread

Gluten-added loaf on the right again. It’s also possible that the loaf had a bit more bulk to it, if you look at the photos of just the dough again. We’ll just rate the no-extra-gluten bread below.

Kimball Family Bread Ratings:

  • Whole Grains: 5
  • Softness: 3
  • Flavor: 3
  • Workability: 4
  • Good Rise: 3
  • Easy Recipe: 5
  • Bonus points: +2 for soaking

Total Score: 25/30 (or 24 for the gluten-added loaf) (view the bread rating system and all recipes HERE)

Which was Best?

Ultimately, I didn’t love the soaked version of this bread. It’s good, it’s fine, it makes a fine toast, but it doesn’t quite have the softness and “Oh, yum, homemade bread!” thing going on that I’m really looking for. I would love to try both versions again, as well as an unsoaked version without gluten, since it seemed like that one was pretty good.

I also wonder what would happen if this dough was given two rise times, once in the bowl and then once in the pans. While it’s nice to have a quicker recipe that only takes an hour and a half to the table, if I’m sacrificing softness, I’m not a fan in the long run.

That said, if you’re looking for a very simple, soaked whole wheat bread recipe without added gluten, this one will certainly do for now!

One More Variation

The reader who sent the bread recipes included one more really cool tip that I didn’t have time to test out (more recipes in the queue at this point!). However, I think it has great potential. She adds extra cooked grains to improve the texture:

Once you’ve made these recipes a couple of times and know kind of what your dough consistency should be, try using some left-over cooked cereal (oatmeal) or some cooked grain (barley, rice or ?) in with the flour. You’ll be amazed at the texture difference it makes in the finished product. And it’s simple to do.

Take a cup or so of the cooked grain/cereal and put it  in your blender with half a cup or more of water to puree the grain/cereal. Use this pureed mixture in place of some of the water in the recipe. (If I use a cup of water in the puree, I count it as a cup of water in the recipe)  When you do this, you kind of have to adjust the flour to get your dough the right consistency, because of the moisture in the cooked grain. That’s why I say make the dough without changing things first to know what you’re shooting for in dough consistency. I know it sounds complicated, but once again, trust me! Don’t worry if the grain doesn’t all get pureed, it will still be yummy!

If I get to the end of the series and this bread is still in the running for the top three spots, I’ll have to try it with the added oatmeal to see if I can increase its soaked softness points a little!

Next on my list to try is the Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day 100% whole wheat recipe and the American-style sandwich bread. Almost all the recipes in that book, even those that have a cup or two of white flour, seem to include 1/4 cup gluten. I’m planning to leave it out…but I wonder if I should follow directions first, then fiddle? I also have our family’s stand-by rolls soaking right now, testing the recipe sans gluten for the first time (and crossing my fingers that they’ll still be okay for the black bean burgers we’re having tonight!).

Want to play along? If you try any variation on this recipe, do let us know how you liked it!

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

23 thoughts on “Seeking the Perfect Homemade Whole Wheat: Claudia’s Bread (no. 3)”

  1. Received the Bread in 5 books last year for my birthday and have been using them every day since. I love them. Looking forward to reading your reviews. I am a cooking fiddler as well and will enjoy reading about your fiddling.

  2. Susan Alexander

    Ok, I tested this recipe with modifications. LOL And again failed at the first step, which is properly reading the instructions.

    So, what I did was 3 cups WW to 3 cups white flour, sub in maple syrup for honey (as I want my 9 month old to be able to join in the eating), no soaking, no added gluten. I proofed the yeast first in maple syrup and 1 cup of the water, added the second cup of water after the proof.

    I hand kneaded until it passed the windowpane (I don’t think my old creaky Artisan is up to kneading this much dough!). Then I let it rise an hour in the bowl. Then I punched down, kneaded into a loaf, put in the pan and let it rise another half hour. Then baked.

    Here’s where I failed. I forgot to notice it was a recipe for 2! loaves and not one. Dear lord, what a tall loaf I have! I’m currently waiting on it to finish baking and will update with the actual final results later. I’ll tell you this, it SMELLS divine and looks pretty, except for being so HUGE. 😉

    1. Susan Alexander

      The verdict – while oversized, this bread was DELISH. I’m ok with the half and half ratio as I do think it’s semi-traditional in its own way. 😉 I rate it 5s across, except I don’t know what you count my substitution for the wheat… 😉 Maybe next time I’ll get brave and soak. But for now… I’m just going to try and actually make TWO loaves next time! 😉

        1. Susan Alexander

          So, I made this bread again. I did maple syrup again and this time used 2.5 cups water and 4 cups WW flour and 4 cups bread flour. No added gluten, no soaking. I double-rose again and this time divided into two loaves. It baked slightly longer than 30 minutes (I used a thermometer). It is very good bread and I’m very pleased!

          One question – what do you store your bread in? Right now I was planning to ziploc them both??

  3. Katie, I still haven’t tried loaf 1 yet, which I plan to try to tomorrow, but FYI, here is a really simple recipe for dough enhancer and yes, you will recognize every ingredient:
    2 Cups Non-Instant dry milk powder
    1/2 Cup Soy Lecithin granules (non GMO)
    6-500 mg Vitamin C tablets, crushed
    1 Tbsp. dried Ginger powder
    1 1/2 Tbsp Cornstarch
    Add one tsp. to each 3 cups of flour in your recipe. If you don’t like one of the ingredients, just leave it out! This is one part of a bread recipe that you can fool around with, with no adverse affects.
    Also, try replacing all the “fat” in your recipe with the exact same amount of Lecithin; it really improves the textures of the bread!
    Thanks for all your hard work on this bread project!!!

  4. I am curious as to why this recipe skips the first rise? I’ve never seen a yeast bread recipe that goes straight from being mixed and kneaded to being shaped and put in the pan for only one rise.

    1. Great question, but it sure worked great the first time! I wonder if the no-gluten version would do better with two rises?

  5. I love your bread pans, they look like they give a wonderful, thin crust. And yes, there comes a point in the rise when you exceed the yeastie beastie’s ability to hold up the dough and end up with a flat loaf. Or a sour, yeasty, heavy, crumbly or collapsed loaf as the case may be.

  6. my favorite whole wheat bread is from the king arthur baking companion, the recipe is called 100% whole wheat bread (original, huh?).

    It’s the best, I throw it in my bread maker and out comes the best bread ever, I don’t use the bread enhancer that they call for though. i LOVE this bread, but I don’t feel compelled to soak my grains or anything like that though. it’s the best I’ve tried so far. 🙂

  7. I am on the quest for the perfect loaf of ww sandwich bread for pbj sandwiches (without my husband knowing that it’s homemade) thanks for the different techniques!

  8. Katie –

    We’ve been using the HBi5 (Healthy Bread in 5) recipe for over a year now. It works great with the hard white wheat I use in my grain mill. I haven’t tried it without the gluten, but I would make an “exact” recipe first, just to compare apples to apples before you do it with no gluten. The bread is a little more dense and doesn’t rise quite as much as a normal “fluffy” loaf — but it’s still quite good. If you have the chance, I recommend making the full recipe and then baking one loaf after the first 2 hour rise, then another after the overnight stint in the fridge. There’s a big difference in the finished product. 🙂

    Happy baking! Glad you’re the one doing this…

    So after all this testing, next month will be “Eating Grain Free,” right? 😉

    1. Bethany,
      Great advice! I know I should always follow recipes correctly first…sometimes I’m just so rebellious! 😉

      Actually, we will be doing grain free for Lent, which is in March. So you’re not that far off! That also means the series must be finished by then…

      🙂 Katie

  9. I’m not a bread expert but I don’t think it’s as easy to tinker with recipies as with other types of cooking/baking. I don’t think all recipies can even be halved or doubled with good results. I would follow all recipies exactly as written so you can make a true determination about them.

    1. Most bread recipes can be halved or doubled. When doubling a recipe however, you do not need to double the yeast. You can increase the amount, but not double.

      1. MaryEllen,
        Really? I wonder if that means when I try half a batch that I should not halve the yeast…or what? This bread baking thing is a whole new realm for me! 🙂 Katie

  10. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    This is nice! We are now grain free though haha. I am going to watch this anyway in case someday we get to eat grains again.

    But for your research…the FIRST day after we went no grain my son did not wake up at night. For the first time in 18 months. Just an interesting thought!

    1. My family is just completing a grains-free trial (2 weeks). My 17 month old started sleeping through the night for the first time since he was 3 months old! There must be some connection; we’re going to try to bring grains in very gradually one at a time to see which was bothering him. Though my husband and I haven’t noticed much different in our digestion…

  11. I just got the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book for Christmas and I am loving it. Right now I am making the light whole wheat bread recipe. I am hoping that it will be great for sandwiches. My mom made the deli-style rye bread recipe yesterday and she said that it is really good. I also plan on trying to make the 100% whole wheat sandwich bread and the American-style white bread. I don’t see gluten listed as an ingredient in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book.

    1. Teresa,
      Nope, it’s not in the first book, but it’s all over in the second book, “Healthy Bread in 5.”
      🙂 Katie

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