Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This honey whole wheat bread recipe calls for 100% whole wheat flour and results in a hearty, yet still fluffy, sandwich bread. Pin it for Later »

Slices of honey whole wheat bread with honey drizzled on top

Honey Whole Wheat Bread Recipe Overview

Skill Level: Intermediate | Techniques Used in this Recipe: The Sponge Mixing Method 

This honey whole wheat bread recipe creates such a comforting and hearty bread that tastes much better than store bought varieties. The bread is fluffy and chewy and works beautifully for sandwiches or for a simple canvas for homemade jam.

This recipe calls for 100% whole wheat flour and no white flour, creating a bread packed with flavor. The sponge method is used for mixing this bread dough because it creates even more depth of flavor and supports a lighter texture for whole grain breads.

Slices of honey whole wheat bread with jam

Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

  • If you are brand new to working with yeast it might be beneficial to read these two articles to gain a better understanding of the process: Intro to Bread Making: the Basic Process and Baking with Yeast 101.
  • When kneading, try to avoid adding too much extra flour into the dough. It will become less sticky the more it is kneaded, though some extra flour may be required.
  • Bread proofs best in warm temperatures. Setting the loaf near a preheating oven can help it rise a bit quicker.
  • Avoid storing bread in the refrigerator because it actually speeds up staling. If the loaf is not eaten within a few days, store it in the freezer.

Ingredient Functions

  • Yeast is what makes the bread rise. The yeast will feed on the starches and sugars present in the dough which creates carbon dioxide and leavens the bread.
  • Honey adds flavor and sweetness to the bread but is also a food source for the yeast to feed on.
  • Whole Wheat Flour is the main structure for the bread. When wheat flour is combined with water and kneaded, a strong gluten structure is formed. This creates the chewy texture of the bread. Whole wheat flour is also much more flavorful than white flour.
  • Butter adds some tenderness to the texture of the bread.
  • Salt is needed in yeast bread not only for flavor, but also because it helps control the yeast growth. Without the salt, the yeast would quickly over-ferment.

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

This honey whole wheat bread recipe calls for 100% whole wheat flour and results in a hearty, yet still fluffy, sandwich bread. 
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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (12 fl oz, 355 ml) warm water (not hot, around 110F, 43C)
  •  1 package (2 1/4 tsp, 0.25 oz, 7 gr) instant or rapid rise yeast, Red Star Platinum Yeast recommended (*see recipe notes if using active dry yeast)
  • 1/2 cup (6 oz, 168 gr) honey
  • 4 1/4 cups (18 oz, 506 gr) whole wheat flour, divided (*see recipe notes for subbing in white flour, if desired)
  • 2 TBSP (1 oz, 28 gr) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp Morton kosher salt or table salt (use 4 tsp if using Diamond kosher salt)

Directions:

  1. Create the Sponge: In the bowl of a stand mixer, or large mixing bowl if you will be kneading by hand, combine the water, yeast, and 2 cups (8.5 oz, 238 gr) of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. The mixture will begin to grow in bulk to about double in size. (If the mixture does not grow in bulk then the yeast is not active and the sponge should be restarted with fresh yeast.)
  2. Combine the Dough: Use a spoon or rubber spatula to deflate the air out of the sponge. Add the remaining ingredients into the bowl and stir until combined.
  3. Knead: If using a stand mixer, knead the dough with the dough hook attachment at medium/high speed for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally. If kneading by hand, knead on a lightly floured work surface for about 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add more flour if it is too sticky. The dough will become less sticky as it is kneaded. Try to avoid adding too much flour.
  4. Fermentation: Lightly oil a clean bowl and place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until double in size. This should take about 1 hour. It might take slightly longer if your kitchen is very cool.
  5. Punching: After the dough has doubled in size, press down in the center of the dough with your fist (do not aggressively punch it) and bring the sides of the dough into the center, releasing the gas.
  6. Resting: Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes before shaping to allow the gluten strands to relax. Meanwhile, position an oven rack on the center rung and preheat your oven to 350F (177C). Grease a 9 x 5 in (23 x 13 cm) loaf pan with nonstick spray or butter.
  7. Shaping: On a clean work surface, pat the dough into a rectangle with the short end being about the width of your loaf pan. Bring one short end of the dough into the center and then the other end into the center so the ends are touching. Use the heel of your hand to press down and seal. Fold the loaf in half and gently move it into the loaf pan, seam side down. Use the palm of your hand to gently press down the dough and evenly distribute it in the pan.
  8. Proofing: Cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap and allow it rise until double in size. This should take about an hour. The loaf should be crowning the pan by about 1" (2.5 cm).
  9. Baking: Bake the bread at 350F (177C) for 45-55 minutes. To test if it is done, thump the top of the bread and if it sounds hallow then it is done. If you have a thermometer, the bread is done when the internal temperature reads 190F-200F (88C-93C).
  10. Rub or brush butter on top of the bread when it comes out of the oven to prevent the crust from becoming hard. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.
  11. Store uneaten bread in a twist tie bag or in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 3 days. Slice the bread and wrap it well and freeze it if it is not eaten within a few days. Bread can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Recipe Notes:

  • This recipes is written to be made with 100% whole wheat flour. Because it is made with only whole grain, Red Star Platinum Yeast is the preferred yeast because it improves the texture of the bread, making it less dense. However, this bread is still delicious when made with other types of yeast.

Substitution Notes:

  • Active Dry Yeast can be substituted for the instant or rapid rise yeast. Note that the rising times may be up to 2 times longer with active dry yeast.
  • White Flour can be used in place of some or all of the whole wheat flour if you prefer it. Bread made with some or all white flour will have a lighter texture, but less depth of flavor.
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14 comments on “Honey Whole Wheat Bread”

  1. I weighed the ingredients.  I had to add an additional 40g of flour because the dough was so sticky.  It made an odd amount of dough – too much for one 4×8 pan, not enough for 2 pans.  I used two smaller loaf pans.  It did bake up into nice loaves.  The texture was nice.  The taste was good, except that it was way too sweet.  I think 1/4 c of honey would have been plenty.  I do need to go back and check the math to make sure the cup to ounce to gram conversions were correct.  

    Rating: 3
    • Hi Tom!

      Thank you for your feedback. So sorry to hear you didn’t like the sweetness. I personally found it to be very subtle. You can definitely reduce it for your preferences, and of course, different honeys do have varying levels of intensity of flavor. As far as the size of the loaf, as the recipe states, this is meant for a 9×5 pan. It would definitely be too much dough for an 8×4 pan. The math is correct on the amounts. I just double checked it and I did test this recipe multiple times. Amount of flour in any recipe, especially in a bread recipe, can vary sometimes based on the brand you use, where you live, and the humidity that day. This is why the instructions state that some may need to be added during the kneading process. Again, thank you for the feedback!

  2. SUCH a gorgeous loaf of bread! ahhh I bet it smells amazing when it bakes!

    Rating: 5
  3. Outstandingly delicious.

    Rating: 5
  4. I made your recipe yesterday and am going in to make another batch now!  I am so thrilled with your recipe, Baker Betty!  This is the FIRST soft, light, great texture, perfect rise, beautiful…can’t think of enough superlative adjectives here…bread I’ve made using my home milled whole wheat flour and NO gluten or dough conditioner!!  Your sponge technique is THE key here! and this sponge works beautifully with only a 30 minute sit time!   I doubled the recipe and made the sponge in my Bosch Universal Mixer.  I added the rest of the ingredients into the sponge in the Bosch and kneaded it with the Bosch.  I did put the dough in a much larger metal bowl for Step 4-Fermentation!  And I see why the 10 minute rest time is so important to this dough!  Your shaping method makes a perfect loaf.  My doubled recipe made 2 8×4″ loaves and 1 3×5 loaf.  I’m just blown away that finally I can make really wonderful bread with my home milled flour and WITHOUT adding gluten and dough conditioner!  I am going to use your recipe as the basis for bread with added seeds and grains.  Thank you, Baker Betty!

    Rating: 5
  5. Oh–and I did reduce the amount of sweetener.  I used 2.5 tablespoons of Rapidura since I had it on hand.  

  6. And I weighed my wheat–half hard red and half hard whitel–1060 grams in all.  Will probably mill 1080 grams next batch as it was a tiny bit sticky and not quite an automatic release from the bed pans.  This is definitely my go-to recipe for my home milled bread!

  7. Sorry about the typos lack of editing on my part in my post just above 🙁

  8. Kristin “Baker Betty”–
    I’m now making your bread again–and quadrupling it.  The sponge is in my largest stainless steel bowl, since the doubled recipe expanded out of my Boshch Mixer bowl last time!!! LOL!!!  This time I will experiment with adding whole/chopped grains and seeds to it.  Will report back afterwards.  My question is:  I notice that so many sponge method breads have you put some sweetener in the sponge–to help the yeast work?– but your method is extremely successful with waiting to add the sweetener after the sponge doubles in bulk.  Just wondering about your experimentation to arrive at the conclusion one can wait till after the sponge is doubled to add the honey/sugar/etc?  Thanks for sharing.  I’m just amazed at how well my home milled flour works using your method and recipe!

    Rating: 5
    • Hi Evelyn! This is a modified version of a traditional sponge method. In a traditional sponge method you start with only a small part of the yeast, some flour, water, and sometimes some sugar or sweetener. This then ferments for a long period of time. In this version, I wanted the sponge to be ready fairly quickly, so we are using the total amount of yeast. Yeast feeds on any starches, it doesn’t have to be sugar. It will feed on the starches present in the flour. And since we have a large amount of yeast in the sponge, it would be too active if we added sugar or sweetener too it. Hope that helps! I can’t wait to hear how it turned out with some whole grains added in! Sounds delicious!

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