James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

100% Whole Wheat Food Processor Sandwich Bread Explained

For the recipe click here

In my last post I featured a recipe for a light-textured 100% whole wheat loaf made with a food processor. It’s an extraordinary bread. I make it at least once a week,  and once you try your hand at it, it could easily become a favorite of yours. I developed the recipe many years ago when I was national spokesperson for Cuisinarts, Inc. I traveled all over the country giving cooking classes that taught “machine cuisine,” and I was always looking for new ways to use the food processor. I’m proud of this recipe and I included it in my cookbook, “Baking in America.”

It’s always been hard for me to leave a recipe alone. I keep thinking that if I tweaked it here and there it might be even better than it was the last time I made it. So the recipe in my last post is the final version. And remember, the food processor does all the work for you. You’ll find that this dough is extremely sticky. Way too wet to be kneaded by hand. And a stand mixer is not the proper tool for it. Why does the dough have to be so wet and sticky? I’ll get to that in a minute.

One of wheat’s special characteristics is its ability to produce marvelous breads by making gluten. The protein molecules that join together to make gluten, glutenin and gliadin, live in the starchy portion of the wheat grain’s endosperm. The endosperm makes up about 83% of the grain, the bran 14.5%, and the germ, 3.5%. When wheat is ground to make flour, all parts of the grain get mixed together, and when you make a 100% whole wheat dough, the bran, especially, can interfere with gluten formation. Bran has sharp edges, and kneading cause those sharp edges to interfere with glutenin and gliadin uniting to make gluten. Is there a way to get around this problem?

A wet, sticky dough is one way, and that’s where the food processor comes in. First, I make a “sponge,” which is a preliminary dough containing most of the flour and all the yeast and water. It takes only a few seconds to combine these ingredients, and the water activates gluten formation, hydrates the flour, and the yeast begins to create more yeast cells while making carbon dioxide, getting the dough to begin rising.

After about an hour, the sponge has doubled in size and that’s when I add an egg, vegetable oil, molasses, and salt and whiz everything around for a few seconds. The last of the flour goes in and I process the dough for 1 minute. At this point all the ingredients are in the bread. I give the bread a 5 minute break to allow that last addition of flour to complete its hydration, and then I turn on the machine one last time to give the dough a final kneading for 90 seconds. By then the gluten has been maximally activated, and the dough is ready to begin a second rise.

At this point you’ll probably think there’s no way this shapeless sticky mess will turn into bread. But once you scrape the dough into a bowl coated with cooking spray and pick up the dough and squish it between your hands, you’ll see how supple it is. Shape it into a ball, plop the dough back into the bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it rise until is has almost tripled in size. This takes from 1 to  1 1/2 hours in a 70˚ to 75˚ kitchen.

The next step is to lightly spray the top of the dough with cooking spray, and turn the dough onto your work surface. Shape the dough into a loaf (see the video), and place the dough into a loaf pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover the pan loosely with a shower cap, adjusting it so that there’s plenty of headroom, and let the dough rise until the center of the loaf is a full 2 inches above the rim of the pan. This can take from 30 minutes to an hour, depending upon the warmth of your kitchen.

The final step is the baking. About 30 minutes before you expect the loaf to be fully risen, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position, set a heavy baking sheet on the rack, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the loaf, set its pan on the baking sheet and bake about 45 minutes, until the loaf is a deep brown color and the internal temperature of the loaf measured with an instant-read thermometer registers about 200 degrees. Immediately turn the loaf out of its pan and set it on its side on a wire cooling rack. Cool completely, 2 to 3 hours, before slicing and eating. This loaf is huge! At its center it measures more than 5 inches in height. Wrapped airtight, this bread keeps very well at room temperature for about 5 days. You can also freeze this bread for up to 1 month.

Makes one loaf, weighing about 1 1/2 pounds.


16 thoughts on “100% Whole Wheat Food Processor Sandwich Bread Explained”

  • Greg, I remember attending some of your cooking demonstrations when you were a Cuisinart rep. I am on my third Cuisinart! I use it for bread making in many recipes. (I also use a stand mixer and just mix by hand sometimes.) I notice you are using the processing blade rather than the bread kneading (white) ‘blade’ for this bread. Is this because you don’t want to knead it too much or????

    • Dear Jean,
      The Cuisinart FP is a great machine, and I was proud to represent it. I use the metal blade for this bread because the dough is so sticky that the dough blade doesn’t knead it as well as the metal blade. When I first made the bread, I used the metal blade first, then switched to the dough blade. But with this final version, the dough is too wet for the dough blade. Hope this answers your question. Happy baking!

  • Can’t eat wheat & don’t like most gluten free flours. What do you recommend? Bob’s Red Mill is too powdery for baked goods.

  • This bread recipe sounds just like what I’m looking for… However, I am in serious need of a seeded rustic bread recipe, not unlike the bread produced by On The Rise Bakery in Bozeman. Might you have any suggestions or recipes in your stash to share?

    • There are so many excellent bread books that have just the kind of recipe you’re looking for. My suggestion is that you google what you’re looking for and see what comes up. My “stash” exists in just those bread books. Very glad to hear from you, Loretta.

  • My food processor is nowhere near 14 c capacity! – I have a smaller Cuisnart Pro. Is there any way to make this in a stand mixer?

    • I think it’s worth trying to make this bread using the flat beater in a stand mixer. As a guide, I suggest you make the initial sponge with all of the flour, and let it double in size as written for the FP recipe. The sponge will be quite stiff. You may need to add an extra tablespoon of water, but don’t add more or your final dough will be too moist. Wait 1 1/2 to 2 hours to allow the flour to hydrate. Add the egg, molasses, oil, and salt, and beat with the flat beater for 5 minutes or so to activate the gluten as much as possible and to make a wet, sticky dough. As you can see in the photographs, what you end up with doesn’t look like it could possibly. become bread. From here on, follow the FP recipe. Please let me know your results!!

    • Glad you and your family love this bread. I really appreciate your letting me know. I’ve also got a method for making it with a Kitchen
      Aid mixer (5-quart bowl) using the flat beater. I’ll be posting it soon.

  • Hi Greg! I was so excited to find this recipe and hope to try it this week. For health reasons I have been wanting to make 100% whole wheat bread from my own organic grain, turned into flour using my mill. But yes, though I’ve tried many tricks, the results have been overly dense and heavy. I have a couple of questions…

    First, I noticed that the recipe in your book and the recipe here on your website use different proportions of flour for the sponge. Could you please explain why the difference?

    Second, what is the purpose of the egg? I’ve never used an egg in bread making and would like to understand why it is used here.

    Lastly, can this dough be used to make a free form loaf, or is it too soft and requires a loaf pan to keep the dough from spreading out?

    Thanks so much! I discovered your website accidentally and both the website and book (Baking in America) are inspiring.


    • Hi, Andrea
      To your questions:
      1. The recipe in the book and the one online will both give you a great loaf of whole wheat bread. The total amounts of flour are the same in both recipes. I keep playing around with certain recipes over the years when I feel there might be a better result, and that is why certain things change, such as proportions in a sponge.
      2. Ah, the egg. Many of my bread recipes contain egg because of the lift and flavor they contribute to the final product.
      3. This dough is so wet there’s no point in baking a free form loaf. Besides, it’s a sandwich bread, so it gets baked in a loaf pan.
      I hope this all helps. Happy Baking!

  • Hi I just tried mixing in my very old(40 yrs) cuisinart, and the dough pushed the blade up and dough ended up under the work bowl and wrapped around the post after only about a min, once the egg/molasses/last of the flour. went in. I had to knead by hand for a few minutes. What did I do wrong? I had weighed the flour on a scale.

    • My goodness, I am so sorry you had this problem. You may have done nothing wrong. Please check the capacity of your processor work bowl. My Cuisinart food processors are just shy of 40 years old. The model I use is the DLC-7 and it has a 14-cup capacity. The dough needs a lot of room to slap around the sides of the bowl. Please check to see what the work bowl capacity of your machine is. If you’re not sure, send me a photo of the front of your machine with the model number and I’ll check it out. On another note, if you have a KitchenAid 5-quart stand mixer, you can beat the completed dough with the flat beater for 5 minutes on speed 6 to knead the bread. A 6-quart KitchenAid will do the job in 3 minutes.

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