100% Whole Wheat Dutch Oven Bread

The Results

This bread is very different from the artisanal style with white flour. It is more flavorful, the crust has a similar chewiness and resilience, and the crumb is nice. It is, however, denser than I like. On the whole it is quite pleasant to eat, but there is room for improvement. The color is dark, almost like rye bread, but the flavor is distinctly “whole wheat”. There was some caramelization of the crust edges and bottom, which makes it taste a little toasty—a flavor I rather like.

The loaf did not loft as high as I wanted. To try to enhance the loft, I would let the oven preheat longer, raising the temperature of the casserole. That might give more steam-powered spring to the loaf. I would add a little bit more water, the loaf was drier than the white flour loaves made from the same recipe. Being too dry makes the dough stiffer, and perhaps this keeps the steam-spring from lofting the bread. Finally, I would let the loaf’s second rise last longer than an hour, so that it really doubles in size.

Why Make This?

Whole wheat grains, but not flour, stores very well for food storage. Using it, however, is not so easy. Certainly the foods we are used to having from white flour, pasta and breads, require adaptation both of our palates and of our recipes. Bread baking is one of the principal ways to use and consume flour. How do we cook it without an oven, which typically requires electricity?

The best method I have is the Dutch oven, heated with charcoal. Solar cookers could work too, but I don’t have one. For experimentation I use a regular home oven for the heat, and a Pyrex casserole as a substitute for the Dutch oven. I also used store-ground wheat flour, since I don’t yet have a wheat grinder.

In short, this experiment was done to determine if 100% whole wheat Dutch oven bread would be palatable. And the answer is, yes—quite good actually. I would miss white flour if I had to forego it. On the other hand, I would be smart to quit it anyway. The whole wheat stuff is supposed to be much more healthful.


  • 3 C Whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp Active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ C warm water (plus some more)

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a non-metallic bowl. Add the water and stir it with your hand just until it comes together in a sticky gooey mass. If it seems like you could turn it out and knead it, then you didn’t add enough water. It should be messy.

Cover it, and let it rise 12 to 18 hours. Really.

Dump the dough out and use just enough flour to keep it from sticking while you form it into a ball. Put it to rest on something that you can clean. I used parchment paper last time, next time I’ll use parchment paper covered with oat bran or corn meal. It stuck like hell to the parchment paper. It is going to rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it has increased to almost double in size.

Put your Dutch oven (or casserole) in the oven and preheat to 450 F. I think, actually, that you should go as low as 420 if you are using a glass casserole.

Pop the doubled dough into casserole, cover, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 to 20 more minutes.

Note that “pop the doubled dough into casserole” is code for “make a huge mess and possibly burn yourself”. Turn the TV up before this step so the children aren’t scarred by your cursing.

Finally, I got this recipe from the Mother Earth News (which I love)—their recipe, Easy, No Knead Crusty Bread, emphasizes one of the main benefits, not kneading.

The New York Times also covers this recipe and includes a link to a video that is well worth watching.

4 thoughts on “100% Whole Wheat Dutch Oven Bread”

  1. Have you ever tried scoring the top of the loaf? If your crust is forming fairly quickly, that might be stopping the loaf from expanding. But, if you make a few cuts across the top, that might let it expand a little more. Not really sure if it’ll work, but I always see cuts across the top of bread like this. It might be purely aesthetic, or it could be functional.

  2. I have scored the top in many loaves, though never in this “no knead” recipe. It is certainly worth a try. I believe the cuts are functional, and for exactly the reason you suggest–to let the loaf spring higher.

    I will have to try it, though you gotta understand how soft this dough is. It may heal itself as soon as I cut it.

  3. Coincidentally, I was reading about making crescent rolls this evening in America’s Test Kitchen “The New Best Recipe”. (Yes, I read cookbooks for fun) They said that prof. bakers often use a very high temp during the first half or so of cooking to enhance oven-spring. I’m not sure if this is very feasible given the already high temp called for in this recipe, but it’s an idea.

    And also interesting, although perhaps unrelated: They also said that retarding dough (sticking it in the fridge before the last rise) produces acetic acid, thereby improving flavor and crusty blistering.

  4. Some oven spring comes from preheating the Dutch oven, which carries enough thermal mass to make the 425 or so really count. I don’t think most kitchen ovens can go much over 450.

    Interesting that you were reading “The New Best Recipes”–presently I have the their “The Best Recipes” from the library. I should note that my wife enjoys reading cookbooks for fun.

    I will have to try retarding this no-knead dough. I’m thinking we’re headed for a full 24 hours rise between the overnight initial rise and the retarding (or retardation?!).

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