Bakers: How do I substitute in bread recipes?

I’m hoping this is the correct forum for a cooking question.

Anyway, I recently started baking homemade bread, with the help of Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book and the bread section of the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Recipe. I know that baking recipes are much more tightly controlled than other recipes, and substitutions are much more likely to make the whole thing fail.

I don’t really understand how the mechanism of baking works exactly, so my question is: if a recipe calls for, say, six cups of whole wheat flour, and I want to use half white and half wheat instead, do I have to adjust anything else in the recipe? Cooking time, amount of liquids, etc.? What if I want to use wheat germ? Can I just use five cups of wheat flour and one cup of wheat germ and assume the rest of the recipe can stay the same? Can I substitute other types of flours (rye flour, etc.) like this? Or not? What do I have to take into consideration?

I’m hoping there are some master bakers out there (or even apprentice bakers; I’m not picky) who can help me.

Well, since you aren’t picky.

The critical things for bread are yeast and gluten in the flour. As long as the yeast if fresh and the temp. is warm enough for the yeast to work you are nearly home free from worry about the yeast. IIRC some sugar is supposed to be a help.

The flour called “bread flour” has the most gluten in it and that gives the dough the elasticity to rise nicely. Regular flour is okay and all other flour substitutes have less gluten.

Flour just doesn’t sit there like a block of cement but actually gains and loses moisture with moisture in the air. Even the best of bread recipes can’t be exact for the amount of flour or water because of this.

So substitute flours as you wish. IIRC (and the general rule I follow) is that half the flour has to be regular or bread flour. That way I’m sure to get enough gluten to make the bread elastic. You might be able to substitute more but this is what seems to work for me.

While you work with the dough you’ll see it is too dry or too moist and that should clean up most of the worries of adjusting both flour and water, just add one or the other. Some recipies I’ve seen say that if you use honey instead of sugar you need to change the amount of milk or water added but just adding more flour doesn’t seem to do any damage.

I add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 or even 1/3 cup of instant potato flakes, ditto of dry skim milk or dry skim buttermilk, dash of pepper, to regular white bread receipes and like the difference in texture or taste that they make. Try substituting honey for sugar, corn syrup for sugar, egg beaters for eggs, egg whites for whole eggs (two whites=one egg) and anything else that strikes your fancy.

Have fun,

You would be correct in that. Since other flours such as rye and whole wheat flours do not have the gluten that is necessary for creating the structure needed for bread to form and rise.

I’d personally suggest that if you’re going to try out using other flours, to purchase bread flour and not use all-purpose flour.

Actually, the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book uses recipes that call for all whole wheat flour and no white flour, and they rise just fine. Delightful and yummy, no less. Maybe a little denser than your typical wheat sandwich bread, but that’s not such a bad thing, imho.

Just experiment, In my experience (which isn’t much) the recipies are good starting points but as soon as you are happy that you are getting consistent results, play around with the ingredients.

Pergau (who got a breadmaker recently)_

IMHO 100% Whole Wheat bread is a delightful high density bread. However, as mentioned above, whole wheat flour lacks the baking strength of white flour so something has to give.

A loaf of 100% whole wheat with the same amount of flour, yeast, rise time, etc as a loaf of white/wheat is going to be considerably smaller.

I think Lorenzo’s right and you’ll get a smaller loaf of bread if 100% whole wheat and no other changes in the recipe. Cuter slices!

I thought about how to tell if the loaf is “done” after I finished the replay last night and no matter which kind of bread I bake I go by the time allowed in the recipe and banging on the bottom of the baking tin for that hollow sound of done-ness.

Anything errors go to make toast :slight_smile:


Thanks for the info, everybody. As suggested, I am going to go ahead and experiment. I just sort of wanted reassurance that adding, say, a cup of wheat germ (or whatever) wouldn’t cause the bread to simply not rise, or turn into something hideous, or what have you.

The Best Recipe cookbook’s recipe for whole wheat bread calls for half whole wheat and half white flour (also some wheat germ and rye flour), but I like making the 100% whole wheat flour breads, both because we have a 10-pound bag of wheat flour on hand, and because I like the snob factor of saying, “Why yes, that’s 100% whole wheat bread!” :wink: