Basic Knowledge of Wholegrain and Wholemeal Dough- Part 1

In order to be able to include wholegrain and wholemeal breads in my upcoming posts, I would first like to answer some basic questions on the subject of “wholegrain baking”. Even if the trend is towards light breads with a strong emphasis on wheat, the “dark and wholesome” companions will never disappear from our bread basket. They will always remain an important and varied component in our bread sortiment.

What one should know:

The degree of fineness of the meal not only affects the crumb and resulting breads, but also the properties of the dough. Fine meal increases the water absorption and the volume yield. This also ensures moist and inelastic crumbs. The taste of fine meal breads is more acidic.

Breads made with coarse meal must swell more intensively and for longer. The coarser the meal, the more difficult it is to achieve a good, cohesive crumb. The taste of the coarse breads is milder. By mixing the different types of meal, dough, crumb, acid and taste properties can be optimized and rounded off.

Basically, you can say:

  • Indirect processing
  • Long kneading time
  • Long dough rest
  • Long baking time

For an optimal dough consistency, it is important that the sourdough is kneaded for a long time. This can take up to 20 minutes at a slow speed. The good cohesion of the sourdough supports the dough formation and improves the later crumb structure.

Long and slow kneading is more favorable than short and fast kneading for meal dough. Depending on the degree of uniformity, the dough stiffens more or less, so it is not uncommon for water to be added when kneading.

However, depending on the degree of fineness of the meal in the main dough, long kneading times (up to 40 minutes) are necessary. The wholemeal dough only gets its cohesiveness through the long mixing time. So that the dough does not ripen too much, the yeast is only added in the last third of the mixing time. If, for certain reasons, mixing times are only required for half the time, the dough rest, which is normally 1 hour, should be extended to 2 hours. Over kneading or aging the wholemeal dough is next to impossible!

Dough consistency:

The optimal dough consistency depends on the fineness of meal used and the desired shape

  • Coarse meal = softer dough
  • Finer meal = firmer dough
  • Loaf pan = softer dough
  • Free-formed meal dough = firmer dough

Dough temperature:

Wholegrain/meal doughs have higher dough temperatures than regular bread doughs. Wholemeal bread dough should have a dough temperature of 29-33°C. The high temperatures promote the swelling of the meal in the dough. This enables good subsequent swelling during kneading, rising, and proofing.

Warm wholemeal doughs are more active and require less yeast. Excessive amounts of yeast lead to a strong build-up of carbon dioxide in the dough during the oven spring. This can lead to a highly undesirable loosening of the bread, which can lead to an uneven rise and a bread that is difficult to slice. 

With slow kneading, the dough is only slightly warmed. So that the warm dough temperatures can be set, a well-considered temperature control via the temperatures of bulk water, soakers, scalds, bread soakers, wholemeal, etc. is needed.

Soakers and scalds that are stored in the refrigerator must therefore be tempered in good time. Should a wholemeal dough still cool down, which is especially possible with small doughs and in winter, longer dough resting times are necessary.

Kneading time:

When kneading the wholemeal dough, a distinction must also be made between rye and wheat meal dough. In the case of whole wheat/meal dough, no coarse meal is generally used. Nevertheless, whole wheat/meal doughs need more intensive kneading so that a sufficient gluten structure can form as the basis for a well-loosened and relatively elastic crumb.

Mix and kneading times for whole wheat/meal breads:

  • Medium wheat meal = 4-6 minutes slow / 6-9 minutes fast
  • Fine wheat meal = 4-8 minutes slow / 6-8 minutes fast

Mixing times for rye meal breads:

  • Extra fine rye meal = 10 minutes slow
  • Fine rye meal = 15-20 minutes slow
  • Medium rye meal = 35-40 minutes slow
  • Coarse rye meal = 40-45 minutes slow

Dough maturity:

The dough rests depend on the type and intensity of the pre-soaking. The higher the proportion of soaker or scald and/or the longer the kneading time, the shorter the dough rest can be.

As a rule of thumb: for coarse meal approx. 60 minutes, for fine and soft meal approx. 30 minutes. A dough rest of for well kneaded dough can even be omitted if it is kneaded for a long time.

Wholemeal doughs have a “short” dough structure and mostly a soft dough consistency. Therefore, they are preferably baked in pans or pushed together.


I unfortunately can’t give guide values for baking times and temperatures. The bread should always be well baked and still have sufficient crumb moisture. This is the only way to ensure good taste and long freshness.

Wholegrain and wholemeal breads are less loosened than other types of bread. This means that the baking heat takes longer to penetrate from the outside into the core of the dense bread crumb. At the same time, wholemeal breads have a higher hydration (TA) and therefore require a longer baking time


  • Larger breads bake longer than small ones
  • Breads in a pan and those baked together, bake longer then free-formed breads
  • Breads in a sealed pan bake longer than those in open pans
  • Breads that have a bigger rise bake for shorter than those with a more compact crumb
  • Breads with longer baking times are baked at lower temperatures

Guide values for baking times:

Tin 12x9cm without lid:

  • Steam: normal
  • Dough amount: 650g
  • Baking temperature: 230°C reduced to 200°C
  • Baking time: 55-65 minutes

Tin 12x9cm covered with a pan:

  • Steam: normal
  • Dough amount: 850-900g
  • Baking temperature: 220°C reduced to 200°C
  • Baking time: 70-75 minutes

Toast bread tine 24x10cm open:

  • Steam: normal
  • Dough amount: 1300g
  • Baking temperature: 260°C reduced to 200-180°C
  • Baking time: 80-90 minutes

Pure wholemeal bread- free formed:

  • Steam: normal
  • Dough amount: 1700g
  • Baking temperature: 270°C reduced to 190°C
  • Baking time: 80-85 minutes

Please note: Wholegrain/meal breads baked in a tin should stay in the tin for a short time after baking. This way the breads are easier to remove from the form.