Bakers Journal

Technical Talk – June 2006

December 3, 2007
By Karen McPhee

Making Whole Grain Bread

This column is written by Karen McPhee of the Guelph Food Technology Centre.

Question: I would like to make whole grain bread. What should I be concerned about with such a product?

Answer: It is no wonder that you would like to develop a product containing whole grains, given the many health benefits associated with them and the consumer demand for these products. Not only do whole grain cereals taste great, they also offer potential health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.


Examples of whole grain foods include: whole grain wheat, whole oats and rye. Whole grain foods contain all the components of the grain: the bran, germ and endosperm. For a long time, the majority of grains produced and consumed have been refined. The refining process removes the germ and bran and leaves the endosperm, which is ground to produce white flours. Grains were and still are refined for very good reasons. Refined flours produce high quality products and do not have oxidative shelf life issues. However, the whole grain includes the bran and germ portion of the kernel and has high nutritional value. The bran layer provides antioxidants, protein, B-vitamins and fibre. The germ contains B-vitamins, proteins, minerals and unsaturated fats.

Developing whole grain bread can offer some challenges. First, the unsaturated fat in the germ is sensitive to oxidation and may develop off flavours in bread. It is important to make sure the whole grain flour is as fresh as possible. As well, adding an antioxidant such as tocopherols, ascorbic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), would help extend the shelf life. 

Formula and processing modifications are required to address the bran in whole grain flours. Bran absorbs a lot of water and therefore, more water is required in the formulation. The jagged pieces of bran interfere with the gluten network that helps form the structure and ultimately loaf volume. As well, the overall percentage of gluten in the flour is decreased due to the presence of bran and germ. Thus, adding protein such as vital wheat gluten to the bread formulation helps improve loaf volume. It’s also important not to over-mix the dough,  as the bran particles tend to shred the gluten during mixing.

Using a multi-technology approach to developing a whole grain bread will create a quality product that should satisfy everyone.

For more information, or fee for service help with product or process development needs please contact the GFTC at (519) 821 1246, by fax at (519) 836 1281, by e-mail at

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