This high protein bread is all whole wheat with the fluffiest, softest crumb and the perfect, slightly chewy crust. I designed this bread to be really light, not dense and heavy as all-whole-wheat breads can often be. Each slice has 105 calories and 6 grams of protein. The recipe makes two loaves of bread and freezes nicely, but you might have a hard time not finishing it up in a day or two.
This is my go-to high protein and whole wheat sandwich bread, a recipe I've been making for years now, and it's lived on this blog for a decade. I have recently made some tweaks to it, including reducing the proofing intervals from three to two and reducing the amount of vital wheat gluten it uses, which would sometimes result in a chewy crust. For that reason I wanted to reshare it with those of you who believe unreservedly in the joy that an act as simple as baking bread can bring.
Homemade breads are usually far better tasting than anything you can buy, and this one is all that and so much more. It's very light and low-calorie, and you get two loaves for around -- or less than -- the amount of flour you'd typically use for a single loaf. That's because the vital wheat gluten helps the dough rise really high and gives the bread a very fluffy, light texture when baked. It's not just the perfect whole wheat bread, but it's the perfect bread if you are watching what you eat.
The first time I made this bread I had used a cup of vital wheat gluten in it, and while the crumb was divine, it sometimes caused the crust to get very chewy. This time I've cut down the wheat gluten in half. I tried going lower but wasn't very happy with the rise and texture of the bread, so I really recommend keeping it to at least half a cup for the best results. This way you get the best of both: a soft crumb and a crust with the slightest bit of chewiness.
Table of Contents
Why you will love this whole wheat sandwich bread
- It's fluffy and soft, the perfect whole wheat sandwich bread. Most whole wheat bread recipes, no matter how light they promise to be, turn out too dense for my liking and harden up within a day or two. This bread will keep nicely in the refrigerator after the first day for about a week, and you can freeze it too. Slice it, warm it, and it tastes as fresh as when you first made it.
- It's easy to make. You will need to knead this dough to develop the gluten, but you will also get spectacular results for that work.
- It's light. You get two loaves for just over three cups of flour, and each slice has more protein. So if you're watching what you eat this is the perfect bread for you because you'll be getting more for fewer calories.
- It's all whole wheat. Which makes it really good for you. And if you like seeded breads, you can add seeds to it to make it even healthier, higher in protein, and delicious.
Why vital wheat gluten?
For those unfamiliar with vital wheat gluten, this is a natural protein found in wheat and it is especially valuable in baking wholegrain breads because it helps them build structure-- in simpler words, it helps them rise. I've explained the role of gluten in bread-baking and the gluten content of various kinds of flours in this old post on my Whole-wheat French Bread.
But to do a quick recap, here's the reason whole wheat bread doesn't rise as well as a bread made with all-purpose flour or bread flour: gluten occurs in the grain's endosperm and all-purpose and bread flours are made by milling the endosperm which automatically gives them a high gluten content. Bread flour, especially, has a very high gluten content, making it ideal for breads (but not cakes).
Whole-wheat flour contains not just the endosperm but also the wheat germ and bran which are the outer coatings of the wheat kernel and are devoid of gluten. Since ounce for ounce whole-wheat flour has less milled endosperm in it than more refined flours do, it has a lower gluten content. Adding a bit of vital wheat gluten into the mix helps the bread rise higher and also improves the texture of the whole wheat bread, keeping it from becoming too dense.
While it is entirely possible to make an all whole wheat flour bread without the vital wheat gluten, and I'll share that recipe with you as well in the near future, this bread is way lighter and softer than any whole wheat bread recipe I've ever tried, and it remains my favorite.
Ingredients for whole wheat sandwich bread
- 4 teaspoons active dry yeast.
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup (use sugar or agave nectar as substitutes)
- ¾ cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
- 1 ½ cups nondairy milk (I used oat milk)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup vital wheat gluten flour
- 3-4 cups whole wheat flour
How to make the whole wheat sandwich bread
- Add yeast and maple syrup to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Pour in the lukewarm water and mix well. Set aside for five minutes until the yeast froths to indicate it's alive. Add the vegetable oil and milk to the yeast, then dump in the vital wheat gluten flour and two cups of whole wheat flour.
- Mix until all ingredients come together, then add the salt. Continue kneading the dough, adding half a cup at a time and then, as the dough gets dryer, just a tablespoon at a time. On a low humidity day here in the DC area I needed about 3 ¼ cups. You might need more flour depending on where you are and the weather around you.
- Once you have a pliable, smooth but not sticky dough, continue to knead it further for 8-10 minutes. The kneading will help the bread rise really well, so don't take any shortcuts. If doing this in a stand mixer, which makes this way easier, knead at medium-low speed, around 4 in a KitchenAid.
- Once the dough looks like it does in the picture above, remove it to a clean, unfloured surface and knead briefly by hand before shaping into a smooth ball. Oil the bowl and place the dough back in it, coating the top with some oil or cooking spray to make sure it doesn't dry out. Cover tightly and set aside for 45 minutes to an hour during which time it should rise quite a bit, more than double.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, punch it down and knead it briefly again. The dough should be smooth. Divide the dough ball into two pieces and roll each into a rectangle with a rolling pin, keeping the breadth slightly smaller than your loaf pan.
- Roll up each rectangle of dough into a cylinder and tuck in the ends. Place the loaves, seam side down, in oiled loaf pans. Cover loosely (I use clean plastic shower caps) and set aside in a warm place for about an hour for the dough to rise.
- Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking another 30 minutes.
- Let the loaves cool on a baking rack for about an hour before you unmold them. Continue cooling on the rack before slicing.
FAQs and troubleshooting
What is the best flour to use for this bread?
Any whole wheat flour is fine, but I would recommend using either a white whole wheat flour or durum whole wheat flour, both of which give a lighter, softer crumb.
Why did my yeast not bloom?
Yeast are single-celled fungi and are living organisms. Kept around too long, or in unsuitable conditions, yeast can die and if that happens your yeast will not bloom or bubble when you add it to lukewarm water. Packages of yeast usually have a use by date, so be sure to check that before you use it.
Another reason the yeast might not bloom is if you used water that was too hot. The water you add to yeast should be warm but comfortable to the touch--between 100 and 110 degrees on a thermometer. Water that's too hot will kill the yeast, rendering it useless for the bread.
Why did my bread not rise?
A whole wheat dough needs to be kneaded really well for a great texture and flavor as well as for the rise. If you don't knead the dough long enough, you might not get as good a rise.
Also, don't overproof the bread dough--that could cause your loaves to fall flat in the oven. Stick to the recommended times, going only slightly longer if necessary.
Do I need to score the bread?
I wouldn't usually score a sandwich bread, but I did in this case because in the past, especially when I was using a whole cup of vital wheat gluten, the bread would sometimes form a skin on top when baking with a large air bubble underneath. Having baked with the smaller quantity of vital wheat gluten for a while I feel comfortable saying that you don't have to score the bread if you don't want to.
How long will this bread keep and how do I store it?
The bread will keep wonderfully at room temperature for a day or so, after which you should place it in a plastic bag and refrigerate it for 3-4 days. Warm before eating. For longer term storage place in a freezer safe bag and freeze. You can also slice the bread before freezing.
I loved the old recipe with a cup of vital wheat gluten. How do I still make that?
That really is a great recipe, and if you still want to follow it, you will need to make just need a few tweaks: if you add a cup of VWG you will need less flour--around 2 to 2 ½ cups. The rest of the process is the same but the bread made with more VWG will rise much higher and you'll also have more protein per slice. I do recommend scoring the bread if you use more vital wheat gluten.
More delicious bread recipes
High-Protein Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread
- Mix the yeast, maple syrup and warm water in a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set aside for the yeast to bloom, about five minutes.
- Add the milk, oil, vital wheat gluten and 2 cups of whole wheat flour to the bowl. Mix thoroughly, then mix in the salt.
- Continue to mix in the flour, a quarter cup at a time and then, as the dough gets dryer, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky. I needed about 3 ¼ cups this time, but on more humid days I've needed as much as 4 cups.
- Continue kneading the dough for another 10 minutes. You should have a really smooth, supple dough. Form the dough into a ball. Oil the bowl and place the ball of dough in it, coating the top with some oil or cooking spray so it doesn't dry out.
- Cover the bowl and set it aside in a warm spot. After 45 minutes it should have more than doubled.
- Remove the dough and punch it down, then form into a smooth ball. Divide into two pieces. Roll out each into an approximate rectangle, then roll each rectangle into a cylinder. Tuck the ends into the bottom and place the loaves in two oiled standard (6 cup) loaf pans, seam side down.
- Cover loosely (I use clean shower caps) and set aside in a warm spot for another hour or until they dome over the loaf pans. About 15 minutes before the bread has finished proofing, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Place the loaves into the oven and bake 10 minutes. Turn down heat to 350 degrees and contine baking another 30 minutes.
- Cool on a rack for about about an hour, then remove the loaves from the pan and continue cooling on the rack.
- For loaves that rise even higher you can make this bread with 1 cup vital wheat gluten, as I had in the original recipe. The crust is chewier, but the bread tastes great and toasts wonderfully.
- Before you bloom the yeast make sure you check the date on the package of yeast to make sure it's not expired. Also make sure the water you use is warm but comfortable to the touch (between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Make sure you knead the dough, by hand or in a stand mixer, for the full 10 minutes. This will give you the best rise and texture.
- Don't overproof the bread dough. Stick with recommended times and go only slightly over if necessary. Overproofed bread can fall flat in the oven.
- The bread will keep wonderfully at room temperature for a day or so, after which you should place it in a plastic bag and refrigerate it for 3-4 days. Warm before eating. For longer term storage place in a freezer safe bag and freeze. You can also slice the bread before freezing. Thaw and reheat.