Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

I have woefully neglected my bread-making over the last couple of years. Even though I’ve always to be thatย person that baked fresh bread every single week, it just didn’t happen. We’ve been keeping a steady stream of grocery store bakery bread in the house, and a couple of weeks ago I decided to revisit my attempt to keep our kitchen stocked with homemade bread. Around the same time, one of my best friends texted me and asked if I had a good whole wheat bread recipe that she could use for making her daughter’s sandwiches for school lunches. She had made the honey-oatmeal bread, but we both agreed that it was better suited for toast – a little bit too heavy for everyday sandwiches. I told her I hadn’t come across anything that I loved, each whole wheat bread recipe that I tried was on the heavy and dense side, not the light and fluffy variety you want for your run-of-the-mill turkey sandwiches.

On Friday, I asked for suggestions and I got tons of responses – thank you! I went ahead and tried the Cook’s Illustrated version, since it was specifically formulated to be a soft and light sandwich bread. Not surprisingly, it was everything I was looking for in a loaf of whole-wheat bread suitable for everyday sandwiches.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

The one caveat with this recipe is that it is more time-consuming than its white bread cousin, American sandwich bread. You’ll definitely need to plan ahead to make this, but if you have been on the hunt for a great whole wheat sandwich bread, then you’ll love that you found this. Plus, the recipe yields two large 9×5 loaves – you can use one right away and pop the other one in the freezer. Depending on how many sandwiches you go through each week, you could have enough bread for at least two weeks worth of lunches.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

The day before you plan to make the bread, there are two components that you’ll need to prepare. The good news is that they each only take about 5 minutes to mix together!

The biga (pictured below, immediately after mixing and then the next day) acts as a bit of a starter, which helps to develop the flavor of the bread. The soaker, meanwhile, is a combination of whole-wheat flour, wheat germ and milk, and softens the bran, which creates a less-dense loaf of bread. It also helps to cut the bitterness in the flour, giving the bread a sweeter flavor.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

On the day that you bake the bread, there are three different raising times, though very, very little actual hands-on time. After the dough is partially risen the first time, it is folded onto itself multiple times just like the ciabatta bread I made recently. After that, it is left to finish its initial rise, then the loaves are shaped and left to rise again before baking.

To say that I am thrilled with this bread is an understatement. While a thick and hearty bread is great for toast or some “special” sandwiches, I’d rather get filled up by what is between the slices of bread than the bread itself, if that makes sense. This bread is absolutely perfect for your everyday sandwiches, whether you’re eating at home, taking something to work, or packing a lunchbox. It’s light, fluffy, and tastes justย wheaty enough with a hint of sweetness.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread | browneyedbaker.com #recipe #baking

One year ago: DIY: Homemade Greek Yogurt
Two years ago: Malted Milk Chocolate Chip, Peanut & Pretzel Oatmeal Cookies and DIY: Homemade Yellow Cake Batter Mix
Three years ago: Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles
Four years ago: Spinach Artichoke Dip
Six years ago: Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones and Fontina-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates
Seven years ago: Ranch Pretzels

Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread

Yield: Two 9x5-inch loaves

Prep Time: 12 hours to 28 hours

Cook Time: 40 to 50 minutes

Total Time: 13 hours to 1 day

Homemade whole wheat bread that tastes just like the sandwich loaves you buy at the store.


For the Biga:
2 cups (312 grams) bread flour
1 cup (240mL) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
½ teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

For the Soaker:
3 cups (468 grams) whole-wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
½ cup (57 grams) wheat germ
2 cups (480mL) whole milk

For the Dough
¼ cup (85 grams) honey
4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons (28 grams) vegetable oil
Bread flour, for work surface


1. Prepare the Biga: Combine the bread flour, water and yeast in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until a uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).


2. Prepare the Soaker: Combine the whole-wheat flour, wheat germ and milk in a large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until a shaggy mass forms, about 1 minute. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Return soaker to the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).


3. Prepare the Dough: Tear the soaker into 1-inch pieces and place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.


Add the biga, honey, salt, yeast, butter and oil. Mix on low speed until a cohesive mass starts to form, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft and slack. Transfer the dough to a large clean, lightly greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes.

4. Lightly flour your fingertips. Gently press down on center of dough to deflate.


Holding the edge of the dough with your fingertips, fold the dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward the middle. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold again. Turn the bowl and fold the dough 6 more times (for a total of 8 folds).


Cover and allow to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.


5. Adjust the oven racks to middle and lowest positions, place a baking stone on the middle rack, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray two 9x5-inch loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the dough to a well-floured work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, pat each into an 8x17-inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, roll the dough toward you into firm cylinder, keeping the roll taut by tucking it under itself as you go. Turn the loaf seam side up and pinch it closed. Place the loaf seam side down in the prepared loaf pan, pressing it gently into the corners.


Repeat with the second piece of dough. Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, 60 to 90 minutes (the top of the loaves should rise about 1 inch above the edge of the pan).


6. Place an empty baking pan (not glass!) on the bottom oven rack and bring 2 cups of water to boil on the stove. Using a sharp serrated knife or single-edge razor blade, make one ยผ-inch-deep slash lengthwise down the center of each loaf.


Pour the boiling water into the empty loaf pan on the bottom rack and place the loaves on the baking stone.


Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees (177 degrees C). Bake until the crust is dark brown and the internal temperature registers 200 degrees F (93 degrees C) on an instant-read thermometer, 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the loaves 180 degrees and side to side halfway through baking.

7. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans, return to the wire rack, and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. The bread should be double-wrapped in plastic wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. The loaf can be wrapped with an additional layer of aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.

(Recipe from Cook's Illustrated)


56 Responses to “Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread”

  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks on August 26, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Your bread is beautiful! About two years ago I was getting so many requests for whole wheat bread b/c I was in a (white) bread-making phase and it took me forever to get a soft, not dry, not dense, wheat bread – finally did it but not without lots of effort. I wish I knew the CI recipe existed because it looks like a winner! Your loaves look totally professional!


  2. Liz @ Floating Kitchen on August 26, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Your bread looks perfect! Can’t wait to try it!


  3. Reshana on August 26, 2014 at 4:41 am

    Looks so beautiful BEB.. Totally agree with Averie Cooks, very professional. Great job….as always ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Mir on August 26, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Wow. This is super impressive, and the step-by-step pics are amazing! Whole wheat can be hard to do, but this bread is so clearly fluffy and delicious!


  5. nosh on August 26, 2014 at 6:30 am

    can we leave out wheat germ? the bread looks perfect,


    • Michelle on August 26th, 2014 at 11:20 am

      I haven’t tried omitting it, so I couldn’t say what effect that might have.


      • MS Baker on September 13th, 2014 at 7:39 pm

        I misread the recipe & used 85 g wheat bran instead of 85 g wheat germ, and the bread is still fluffy and delicious. Best wheat bread I’ve ever made — I am so happy with this bread! (though I will try it with the germ next time just to see what the original is like) Thanks for a great recipe!


        • MS Baker on September 13th, 2014 at 8:06 pm

          Oops — 57 g, not 85 g.


  6. Julie @ HostessAtHeart on August 26, 2014 at 7:36 am

    I too made lots of bread and then let it go. I never did get a good light wheat. Thank you for this one! Can’t wait to get back to baking good bread!


  7. Lori on August 26, 2014 at 7:53 am

    I am going to make this for sure. I hate all the additives and ingredients I cannot spell nor pronounce in the store bought bread. Thanks so much for sharing.


  8. Terri A. on August 26, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I was just thinking last night that I needed to start making whole wheat bread instead of white. I will try this this weekend.


  9. Christina M on August 26, 2014 at 8:27 am

    This is my go-to whole wheat sandwich bread recipe. I LOVE it. It turns out beautiful and tasty loaves ever time!


  10. Michelle on August 26, 2014 at 8:49 am

    This is one great looking loaf of wheat bread. Mine have always been too dense and squat. I appreciate being able to see your step by step pictures. I’ve never seen a bread recipe that requires a “biga” , “soaker” & “dough” . . . I have to admit my laziness: I saw this CI recipe and immediately dismissed it because I didn’t want to sit and read through their process when I saw biga, soaker & dough. You did a GREAT job on your post and process of this recipe. YOU make me want to give this recipe a try. Thanks!


  11. Lavonne Cookman on August 26, 2014 at 9:05 am

    It looks like we are leaving the oven preheating at 400 degrees for 60-90 minutes while the bread rises in the loaf pans. Does it really need to preheat for that long?

    The bread looks amazing! Is there such a thing as whole wheat bread flour? Then it could be 100% whole wheat. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thank you for the post. I’m will be making some today!


    • Michelle on August 26th, 2014 at 11:25 am

      Hi Lavonne, Anytime you use a baking stone, it needs to be preheated for a substantial amount of time so that it can get nice and hot. The same thing is done when making pizza.


    • Michelle on August 28th, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      I forgot to answer your question about whole wheat bread flour – unfortunately, it’s not something I’ve ever seen.


    • Rita on November 5th, 2014 at 10:19 am

      Lavonne, regular whole wheat flour is “bread” flour. It’s the higher gluten hard winter wheat that white “bread” flour is made with.
      I had the same question at one point, and finally figured this out after a lot of internet research. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I agree that I wish this recipe was actually “whole wheat.” Using white bread flour makes it not whole wheat, so the title is misleading.


      • Michelle on November 6th, 2014 at 8:35 am

        Hi Rita, Unfortunately, I have to disagree – bread flour and whole wheat flour are two very different types of flours with different properties. They cannot be readily substituted for the other.


        • Rita on November 6th, 2014 at 9:10 am

          Actually white bread flour and whole wheat flour are only different in that one has the bran, germ and endosperm removed, and other leaves it in. But they are both made from the same high gluten, hard winter wheat, as opposed to the soft spring wheat that is best for pastries and quick breads. Whole wheat flour and white “bread” flour are both intended for the same kind of yeast risen recipes. They can be subsituted, but all the good stuff in the whole wheat will make the results very different.


  12. sandee faye on August 26, 2014 at 9:28 am

    can you substitute soy milk for the whole milk?


    • Michelle on August 26th, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Hi Sandee, The fat in the milk is an important piece of the bread puzzle. I’m not familiar with soy milk and what the fat content is like. If it’s similar to whole milk, I think you could safely make that substitution. If not, however, I would stick with whole milk.


  13. Jamie | Jamie's Recipes on August 26, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for sharing this looks like exactly what I’ve been looking for. I will get started on this today.


  14. Kerry on August 26, 2014 at 10:01 am

    This looks fantastic!! I have twin boys and can definitely see myself making ALOT of sandwiches in the near future- this could certainly cut down on costs! And health reasons! Hooray! One question though – I only have one bread pan – what would I do with the second loaf of dough while the first is baking? Thanks!!


    • Michelle on August 26th, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Hi Kerry, You totally need to get yourself another bread pan! ๐Ÿ™‚ There are tons of great recipes that yield two loaves. In the meantime, I’m honestly not sure what you could do with the other half, because without another pan you couldn’t even shape it and have it rising. The only thing you could do is leave it in the bowl, covered, just be aware that sometimes dough can over-rise if left too long, which can result in deflated dough that turns out dense loaves.


      • Helen zanone on March 1st, 2015 at 7:41 pm

        Freeze the other loaf after the first rise. When you are ready to use it, let
        it thaw, then rise a second time in a loaf pan before you bake as usual.


  15. Emily on August 26, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Beautiful! I really like the step by step pictures. Makes it easier when I’m flour-deep in the process. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  16. Debbi on August 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Sounds great! What kind of pan is that? Doesn’t look like a normal loaf pan or pullman?


    • Michelle on August 27th, 2014 at 9:42 am

      Hi Debbi, It is just a regular 9×5 loaf pan. It’s an old Magic Line pan – they all have that lip around the edge for easier handling.


  17. Dionysia on August 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    I m reading your blog from Greece and I can say that your recipes are reallyyy good! I want to ask you what exactly is the wheat germ. I don’t know if we have here in Greece and if its easy to get? Can i use something else??? Because I really want to make my sandwich bread. Thank you!!!


    • Michelle on August 27th, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Hi Dionysia, This is the wheat germ that is most commonly found in grocery stores here in the U.S.: http://www.kretschmer.com/about-wheatgerm. You could try substituting things like oat bran, wheat bran or flax meal.


      • Dionysia on August 27th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        Thank you very much for your respond!!!I ll try the oat bran!!!Tomorrow morning I will bake!!!


  18. Eva on August 26, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    These loaves look awesome! I will definitely be trying this recipe. I love the idea of a biga with whole wheat and baking in traditional loaf pans for sandwiches. I have a Peter Reinhart buttermilk bread recipe that I make all the time for sandwiches (and the bread for your tomato soup recipe!) but no “go to” whole wheat. This one sounds like a winner! I can’t wait to try it!


  19. Gayle Schrier Smith, MD on August 26, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Dear Pittsburgh Sister,
    Thank you so much for inspiring my daughter and my patients to cook. OK, it was cupcakes at first… but this is my Whole Wheat Bread recipe (from Cooks Illustrated) and you have seen the importance of learning to cook lots of stuff! I love it that kids can begin with treats and learn to cook healthy things that taste great, too. No shame that Moms and Dads can learn along with them. There is a lost generation who can discover the joy of preparing something that is so tasty and so good for you: THIS loaf of bread.
    Now that you are soon to join the League of Mothers with the arrival of a wee one, you can help all mothers with your gifts. You write so beautifully, photograph in amazing, instructive ways… you have the ability to learn and teach the fine art of feeding one’s family…and feeding them well!
    I hope you will continue to inspire my daughter with your creativity, and she will continue to ask for my recipes… “Mom, do you think Brown Eyed Baker’s little one would like our Breakfast Cookie Recipe?”

    Dr. Smith


  20. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup on August 27, 2014 at 2:32 am

    There’s nothing like homemade bread, especially when it’s made with whole wheat! Thanks so much for the recipe.


  21. Mel on August 27, 2014 at 11:01 am

    To be honest this looks like too much work :S
    I’ll stick to the bread machine. ๐Ÿ˜›


  22. Cindy G on August 28, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    I’ve got a got a great oatmeal whole wheat bread recipe that I mix and rise in my bread machine and then take it out and form it and do a second rise in a loaf pan. It is light and wonderful. Email me and I will share ๐Ÿ™‚


  23. Jeff on September 1, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I’ve been cooking forever and I’m just getting into baking. I never made a loaf of bread until last week. I did this over the weekend. Literally, the second time I’ve ever made bread. No stand mixer, so I mixed the soaker, biga and other ingredients the best i could by hand, split it in half, and used the bread blade on the food processor to get it mixed good. Kneaded the hell out of it by hand for a while. This came out PERFECT, exactly like the picture and unbelievably tasty. I just had a roast beef sandwich on bread that I made, with meat I roasted, and it’s a hell of a sense of accomplishment!


  24. mimie on October 9, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    hi michele,

    i tried this recipe, and it turn out too wet when shaping the loaf. is it that wet?
    well, i tweak the recipe though; i used wheat bran instead of wheat germ and i put 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup bread flour in the soaker, with same yield of water. could it be the cause?
    i leave in tropical area.. does it has something to do with humidity as well?

    i’m proofing the bread now. finger cross it will turn out well later ๐Ÿ™‚



    • Michelle on October 10th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      Hi Mimie, The substitutions and alterations could absolutely affect the consistency of the dough. The humidity might be a slight factor, but not as much as the substitutions.


      • Mimie on October 11th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

        and for update..
        it proofed beautifully, but when i put into the oven one loaf spilled the dough while the other one still OK. but when i transfered it to rack it collapsed ๐Ÿ™ it didn’t bake completely.
        well i guess i should try again and stick to the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚


  25. Theresa M on November 11, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Hi Michelle,
    Just wondering if this bread stays moist over several days to still be suitable for sandwiches. Several loaves I have tried in the past are great the first day or two but then start to get crumbly and don’t stay together very well when eaten as a sandwich.


    • Michelle on November 17th, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Hi Theresa, This was good for about 5 days or so (that’s how long it took us to go through a whole loaf). I sliced and froze the other loaf.


  26. Kim H on November 17, 2014 at 10:31 am

    This may be a silly question, but do you think this will work as well with wheat flour that I grind myself, rather than using commercially purchased flour? I have both, but prefer to use the flour I grind myself. Thanks!


    • Michelle on November 17th, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      Hi Kim, I have never experimented with grinding my own wheat, so unfortunately I couldn’t say for sure how the bread would be impacted.


      • Kim H on November 17th, 2014 at 10:02 pm

        Thanks so much for your reply! I’m going to try this recipe later this week. I don’t have a baking stone (yet), so I hope that doesn’t impact the cooking process too much. I haven’t made bread since last winter. I have a hard time baking when it’s warm. I’m the same way with knitting. ๐Ÿ™‚


  27. Maureen Teachman on January 13, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I just made this bread. It is delicious.
    Not sure if it should be as soft as it is…sort of like store bought Wonder Bread….
    The taste is excellent. It toasts well too. I did forget to slash the top but as soon as I took it out, I realized what I had done. Oh another hint was one loaf starting to collapse into itself on the bottom. As soon as I put a few holes into the bread to let the steam out I reshaped the collapsed area by pulling it out. I was lucky, I was able to save the loaf from becoming our next oven baked french toast. Wonderful directions. One question, I started to use an old pizza stone but it smoked too much to use. How do I clean it?
    Bread was successful without using the baking stone. One thing I also did was brush some butter on the top crust while it us still hot, so it stays pliable.


  28. Kadi on January 18, 2016 at 6:13 am

    For the soaker, is there a typo on the amount of the flour or the milk? Mine was not even close to being stiff enough to knead. I kept adding flour to have it become a kneadable consistency but I probably added at least a cup and a 1/2 of flour, maybe more. I am in Argentina and didn’t have wheat germ so I just substituted whole wheat flour but I don’t think that would have made that much of a difference with consistency. I have been making bread all my life and I’m old! I would really like this recipe to work but I’m concerned that it will work as written. I’d love to read your response!


    • Michelle on January 18th, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Hi Kadi, I double checked and the quantities are correct for the soaker; it could be substituting flour for the wheat germ.


  29. Aneela on February 7, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Hi there, i want to make bread with your recipe but i don’t have banking stone so what i should use it .


    • Michelle on February 9th, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Hi Aneela, You can do this on a baking sheet.


  30. Nick on February 20, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    This bread dough was crazy sticky and I was basically unable to knead it by hand. I made the recipe per the instructions. Has anyone else had this problem? Did you just add flour gradually until it was manageable?


    • Mark on February 21st, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      I have the same problem: I’ve made this recipe twice, and both times the dough was way too wet and sticky to work with. After the second proof I dumped the dough onto the floured counter and it spread like the Blob. I followed the recipe to the letter. It sounds like others posting here have had this problem too.


      • Alison Amaismeier on July 30th, 2016 at 11:07 am

        I added quite a bit more flour (maybe up to 2 c.) as I was doing the kneading step and that helped make the dough less sticky and more cohesive.


  31. Alison Amaismeier on July 30, 2016 at 11:04 am

    I finally got around to making this bread, and it came out perfectly! Thanks for the detailed instructions and step by step photos.


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