Honey Wheat Berry Bread

The following recipe I cloned from a particular brand I grew up with and now have trouble finding in the stores near me. It’s similar to some other recipes on the Internet, but there are a few subtle differences. According to my records, this recipe went through 11 iterations before I was happy with it.

First I looked through a variety of different cookbooks, and devised a hybrid model of 3-4 separated-by-book recipes, to get me started (since I’m not a “pro” baker, and only have easy access to “consumer” type cookbooks). It helps to have some familiarity with generalized cooking and baking principals to find recipes that might be similar. The sources for these recipes aren’t as important as using multiple sources and noting the patterns between the ingredients, particularly the ratio patterns.

I looked for the commonalities in these recipes, and discarded the differences, from both an inter- and intra-recipe basis. For example, I might start with six recipes, then I may discard, say, two complete ones if they don’t share the same basic model the other four possess. This process would also be practiced on the individual ingredients within each recipe, if all four recipes don’t have the ingredient, it’s generally discarded. The remaining ingredient differences tend to indicate a ‘range’ of values that may be ‘typical’. This results in a basic dough model that is different from any particular consumer-level recipe.

I also looked at the ingredients listed on the trademarked label for hints as to relative amounts to use: ingredient labels list predominate ingredients first. Later stages of recipe refinement included comparing the color to the trademarked brand (this adjusted the whole-wheat:bread-flour ratio), then comparing the taste and adjusting other ingredients accordingly. With this particular recipe, when I was adjusting the sweetness there was a small range of honey amounts that matched the branded product closely, but I chose the richer one because I could discern the flavor of honey: at slightly leaner levels or ratios I could not.

This makes this recipe somewhat different from the packaged product, where only sweetness, and not a honey flavor, was noted or perceived.

I bake this in a 2-lb bread machine on the setting for large basic loaf, normal crust. I do not use the setting for whole wheat bread. The large yeast amount of this recipe provides the proper volume of rise for the pre-programmed and or pre-set rise time of my particular machine; a different manufacturer’s machine might require an adjustment to the amount of yeast.

I’ve also baked this recipe in a regular oven and if so, I reduce the measure of active dry yeast to 2 1/2 teaspoons and the salt to 3/4 teaspoon and allow for a longer rise time before baking. I’ve found a relationship between yeast amount and the flavor that salt adds: with lower yeast amounts, less salt is required (for my taste). Various cookbooks also claim that salt tends to inhibit yeast.

Therefore, in the recipe below there are two sets under the sub-heading “Yeast and Salt”: these two sets indicate a range of measure that I’ve used under different conditions that work well, but use only one set or some value in between. Do not add both sets (unless you really do need that much yeast and salt, you probably won’t). If you make this bread and believe it either didn’t rise enough or rose too much (rose and fell) and you cannot change the amount of time for the rise, as well you’ve confirmed that your yeast is active, then adjust the yeast amount upward (for faster rise) or downward (for slower rise) and also adjust the salt.

For a 2-lb bread machine
Or make by hand and bake in oven
Measured in U.S. customary units

Grains to precook:

  • 5/8 cup cracked wheat (uncooked, dry measure)
  • 1 1/2 cups water


  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/8 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons refined vegetable oil (I use soybean, non-hydrogenated)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Dry Ingredients:

  • 3 cups white bread flour
  • 3/8 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
  • Yeast and Salt (see text above, use only one set below)
    • set for my particular bread machine
      • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry, granulated yeast (not instant yeast)
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • set for oven baking with increased rise time
      • 2 1/2 teaspoons dry, granulated yeast (not instant yeast)
      • 3/4 teaspoon salt

The cooked grains provide most of the moisture for the dough. I put the water and cracked wheat berries in a small pan and quickly bring it to a full boil, then immediately turn off the heat and cover it with the pan’s lid and let it cool for about 3-4 hours or until it’s room temperature. I don’t want it to boil for any length of time; as more steam escapes the pan the moisture of the soon-to-be-mixed dough will be reduced; the less moisture the cooked grains have within them, the drier the final dough.

The liquid should be completely absorbed once it’s cool. If you try to add this to the other ingredients before it has cooled, it affects the rise and can kill the yeast if it’s too hot.

When I’m in a hurry, after the grains absorb the moisture, about 40 minutes, I’ll place the covered pan in ice water being careful not to allow more water into the pan. Because yeast is sensitive to temperature, chilling the grains too much then mixing with the other ingredients results in colder dough that needs a longer period of time to rise, and this quick cool method can chill it more than desired.

A precooked grain variation is 3/8 cup cracked wheat to 1/4 cup whole red wheat berries, with the same amount of water added.

With respect to the dough, I place the whisked liquid ingredients in the machine first, then the precooked and cooled cracked wheat, then the stirred dry ingredients. The machine is set for basic bread, normal crust.

When it’s done baking, I let it cool completely, several hours, before placing it in a plastic bag. If it’s not fully cooled, any remaining warmth will condense moisture on the inside of the bag.

The vinegar seems to extend the shelf-life of the loaf.

Source recipes, all were printed and published on paper:
Joy of Cooking
“Breads” volume of well-known cookbook series
Vegetarian Epicure
Blue Ribbon Recipes
Country Living Magazine
Bread machine booklet


17 thoughts on “Honey Wheat Berry Bread

  1. This is wonderful bread. We’ve been having a loaf every week or so recently. All the experimentation really paid off, I think. I prefer it with the bulgur rather than wheat berries.

  2. I like the ‘coarseness’ that the whole wheat berries add, but the few near the loaf’s crust do dry and become crunchy. I wonder if any grain mill makes “slightly” cracked wheat? In other words, a milling process that splits each grain lengthwise into no more than two pieces.

  3. Whole wheat kernels in a blender make a “slightly” cracked wheat. Run it longer for finer particles. The result is not uniform, but usable for cracked wheat cereal, and probably (I haven’t tried this recipe yet) for honey wheat berry bread.

  4. I have tried cooking the wheat berries a bunch of different ways, I’ve tried the method described above, and I’ve tried boiling and letting sit overnight, and cooking for longer times- but I get very hard wheat berries in the crust of my bread, so hard that the bread is inedible. WHAT am I doing wrong????

  5. Anonymous, sounds like maybe you’re using whole, instead of cracked, wheat berries. If so, try grinding them. David Jeppson’s idea should be workable, though I haven’t tried it yet.

    If they were ground finely enough, I believe the resulting product would typically be called whole wheat flour.

  6. Is there any way this recepie could be adapted for a bread machine? The booklet I have with my machine makes terrible wheat bread–I can barely eat it!

  7. Hi Sarah, the above recipe was for a 2-lb bread machine as proportioned. I edited the post to make that a little clearer.

    I’m also making a longer comment that includes additional information about yeast leavening for breads, information that I’ve either gathered or learned over the years. It all began decades ago, when my second attempts at bread making resulted in dough that failed to rise properly. . . .


    My bread machine is a slightly larger one than some, yours may be smaller, so it’s possible that it’s slightly too much dough for yours. The best way that I know to adjust ingredients downward or upward is not by the historical or customary U.S. measure (cups, teaspoons, tablespoons, etc., all of which are volumetric measures), but by mass and or weight.

    For example, the whole grains are likely a different volumetric amount when milled finely as flour, so if one wanted to substitute whole wheat flour for the cracked wheat berries, perhaps because you don’t like their texture in the baked bread, especially the crust, then weigh out the above recipe’s cup measure of “cracked wheat”, note the weight, and then substitute an equivalent weight of whole wheat flour. In this example, there was no downward or upward adjustment.

    If an increase or decrease in the total amount or batch of dough had been desired, a simple mathematical percentage adjustment is possible, but all the ingredients would need to be weighed, then reduced (or increased) so each ingredient’s respective weight-ratios remain constant to each other. I’m certain this is easiest with metric instead of avoirdupois weights. The recipe ingredients above haven’t been transcribed to weight because I do not have an acceptable kitchen scale for weighing ingredients, and it seems the best way is not to follow a conversion formula, but to actually weigh. Perhaps one day. . . .

    Dough moisture is a little trickier since atmospheric conditions vary, but for those of us who’ve kneaded dough by hand more than a few times, after awhile, a sense is developed as to what the dough should “feel” like, so when first learning, trial and resulting error, along with analysis and intentional correction, tends to work out any ratio problems. Or you could use a moisture analyzer, such as that linked in robert sands’ comment above, which likely achieves a high batch-to-batch consistency. Moisture levels affect the yeast and the dough’s rise.

    Non-viable or no-longer-alive yeasts are often the cause behind yeast-bread failures. Most bread machine recipes seem to use instant yeast. Converting instant to active dry yeast is another conversion to be aware of; the recipe above uses active dry yeast. The reason I don’t use instant yeast is the flavor it added to plain, non-sweetened white breads. I made that choice some years ago, perhaps in the 1980s, after a taste test on two nearly identical and baked white-bread loaves whose only ingredients were flour, water, yeast (too much yeast), and salt, changing only the yeast type in each loaf. Now that I’ve written it out, I see I should have omitted the salt, for the purposes of comparing the two yeasts’ flavors.

    It’s possible that the instant yeast strains sold now have improved or regressed since then, I simply don’t know. It’s claimed by the manufacturers that active dry yeast doesn’t work well unless it’s first dissolved in water before adding to the dough, a disclaimer not applied to instant yeasts, but with the active dry yeast strains available in the past, I haven’t found this to be a big issue for the purposes of substituting in a bread machine. Manufacturers from time to time update their processes resulting in a change to their product(s); they may change their yeast strain and consider that information proprietary: so sometimes these ‘improvements’ aren’t announced to the end user, and the only thing a home baker may notice is that the recipe doesn’t seem to rise precisely the same way it used to. Therefore, while mixing active dry yeast in with the dry ingredients has worked in the past, as in the recipe above, there’s no guarantee that it will continue to work in the future. For those who are attempting to troubleshoot a poor rise, if the bread machine will begin its cycle immediately (not using the timer function to delay the beginning of the machine’s bread-making process), then dissolving the active dry yeast into cool, or slightly warm water (subtracted from the recipe’s measured amount), may be an additional step to consider.

    Different types of yeast are commercially available and which usually require a conversion for substitution, but the critical point is that generally they may be substituted for each other in recipes if you learn how. Some commercial bakeries apparently like cream yeast, this yeast type is said to be nearly impossible for home bakers to obtain. Other bakeries use compressed (cake) yeast, it may be easier to obtain, but it’s not necessarily widely available to home bakers, though I used it at least once as a young child before I really knew what or why yeast was used in some breads. At the time it came in a foil wrapped cube about 1/2″ per side, and it was purchased at the grocery store. Both cream and compressed yeasts are said to have a short refrigerator life. These are likely considered premium yeasts, I believe they’re referred to as ‘fresh yeasts’.

    ‘Dry yeasts’, which include both the newer Instant types and the decades-long-standing Active Dry Yeast, have both had their moisture reduced (I’m guessing by a vacuum and temperature process), and as a result they have a much longer shelf life when they are stored under such a vacuum, as long as they do not get too hot. Today, these two types of commercial yeasts seem widely available to home bakers. Some also use wild-yeasts, but I’m limiting my discussion to commercially-available yeasts. Instant Yeast and Active Dry Yeast may be substituted for each other, but will need a substitution conversion: one rule of thumb I’ve seen is that you need up to twice as much Active Dry Yeast in any recipe that calls for Instant Yeast, others claim the conversion is less than that: the bottom line is always to use the least amount of your chosen yeast that will rise your bread both in the allotted rise time & at the temperatures you’re using.

    Some bakers have extolled the virtues of poolish, a sponge method of pre-fermentation that can be made with various yeast types. If you want to know more, do a search, or visit this Authentic French Bread using poolish tutorial, or get a copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which has a section covering it. One quite practical advantage of poolish is that you have some confirmation of your yeasts’ viability before mixing all the dough’s ingredients; it also seems to improve the crumb, which is desirable.

    An outside-the-box information source regarding how temperature and time affects enzyme chemistry, which is said to be at work in bread-dough rises is, surprisingly enough, all-grain liquid-bread or beer brewers. Artisan brewers have been sharing information on the Internet about these enzymatic digestive processes that critically occur during their mash of malted grains for a long number of years. Mash simplistically refers to modulated-temperature steeping of the grains, while malted simplistically refers to sprouted grain. With beer, a common malted grain reportedly used is barley. Of the bread flours that I’ve purchased, their labels have reported they contain a small percentage of barley flour. After the mash portion of making wort, brewers strain it, and at some point when it’s cool enough, the yeast is pitched into the wort which starts the fermentation process. Obviously, bread and all-grain beer are not the same products, yet there are conceptual parallels that seem somewhat-to-quite similar, certainly so when one considers that a portion of this bread’s recipe starts with cooking cracked wheat berries.

    Rise time is related to temperature: the warmer it is, up to a point, the faster the dough rises; the cooler it is down to freezing (which marks another point), the slower the dough rises. Rising temperatures likely should never exceed 110-120°F, as these and higher temperatures are said to begin killing the yeasts. Lower rising temperatures are better. It’s also said that rising dough is usually warmer inside the dough, though I’ve never measured this. Here’s a comprehensive bread-making reference that seems decently short for the amount of information, is well organized, and has a nice troubleshooting chart. This reference claims yeasts’ terminal temperature is 140°F.

    I’ve made some wonderful pizza doughs with very little yeast using covered rising (for high humidity so a skin or crust doesn’t form) in a non-heated room on a cool Southern California day, but it takes longer to rise. Mix the dough in the morning, bake in the evening, or something like that.

    Currently, we don’t seem to be able to lengthen the pre-programmed ‘rise time’ of bread machines, or change the pre-programmed rise-temperatures, the only way to vary the rise is to increase the yeast amount: this is not the ideal way to approach yeast bread, so perhaps these automatic machines have been slightly over simplified. In general, the less yeast you are able to use, using lower rising temperatures and increased rise times, and still achieve a satisfactory rise, improves the baked bread’s flavor.

    I don’t prefer the way our particular machine makes whole wheat bread using the whole wheat setting, and other than studying any timing information which may be included in the documentation, and which may or may not be accurate, the only way to know if there’s another option is to try a setting other than what the manual recommends.

    I currently tend to make two loaves at the same time, and am thinking of increasing that to four, so when making more than a single loaf, I bake them in a typical home oven. The recipe above works in my bread machine just as well, with only an increase in the yeast amount, and when using it there’s no timer or rising dough to watch, no temperature knob to adjust at any particular times, so bread machines are definitely more convenient for a single loaf. Most typical oven-baked yeast-bread recipes can be adapted for a bread machine, or vice versa. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whether you use a bread machine, or regular oven, a brick oven, or even a convection oven which is likely ideal, for baking bread, though each method seems to have its unique characteristics that require some adaptations.

    A simpler way to approach yeast bread is to find recipes that you like, get a bread machine for hands off operation, and let the complicated stuff go. Using a bread machine which does the kneading, rising, and baking, all hands off except for the initial measuring and loading of ingredients, is one very-convenient method that tends to achieve quite uniform results provided that you measure ingredients carefully and your yeast is viable.

  8. I have had a bread machine for 2 years now, it is a home essential as one of my children has celiac condition and it is easier to make gluten free breads at home.

    Over the period I have had to learn how to amend recipes to take into account the reactions of different flour types but your posting here has opened my eyes to a whole new underlying chemistry relating to bread making. In particular your thoughts on the impact of the yeast …. back to the kitchen experiments.

  9. Hi Elle, I’m glad that you’ve been able to find adaptations that work for your child! Diet is so important, especially when we’re young and just getting started with our lives.

    When there’s a small population of people who have a particular diagnosed condition that requires a specialized diet, it can certainly give pause to wonder about subclinical sensitivities in other populations that don’t typically think of themselves as affected.

    While on the momentary topic of what foods to avoid, there’s also the tangential issue of those who can’t afford to eat anything, and the diets they are forced to consume to stave off hunger pangs.

    Maybe one day we will figure out how to compassionately handle all of these dietary and health problems with equivalent acumen.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Ken,

    The diagnosed celiac population varies country by country and ranges from 1 in 5000 down to 1 in 150 according to what country you look at and how aware the medical community are.

    Whilst the 1 in 500 could represent over diagnosis ( irritable bowel syndrome being classed as celiac condition) the 1 in 5000 for countries with essentially a similar genetic profile suggests that many coeliac cases are not being diagnosed.

  11. This is awesome bread…I just wish it had a bit more whole wheat flour in it.

  12. Thanks Kristy. If you use more whole wheat and less bread flour, it is said to reduce the gluten content.However, some of that loss can be replaced by the addition of a concentrated gluten product like Vital Wheat Gluten or an equivalent. More gluten seems to make the dough more ‘elastic’ which, if other rising factors are working well, results in a lighter, more airy, baked texture.

    The last few times I’ve made this I thought it had slightly too much honey!

  13. Lol, I used whole berries in my first batch and realized I should have grinded them beforehand. Oh well, the second round was worth it!

  14. While I was growing up then I always had a brand of honey wheat berry bread that came from a company called South Pacific (or something thereof) just wondering if the bread that you couldn’t find any more was from that same company.

  15. Hi Robert,

    I made a decision to not divulge the name of the trademarked brand. Whether it was a good decision or not, I don’t know, but either confirming or denying it’s a particular brand starts a guessing game which, if the first guess is correct or the game continues to play out, eventually eliminates all but the correct one, so it’s only a little different from stating the brand. Therefore, I have little comment! Sorry :-)

    It was my intent to “show” one method someone might use to clone a favorite bread, using an example, hopefully without trespassing on anyone’s intellectual property, which a trademark is. Therefore, I didn’t intend to mention particular trademarks, even though that may have introduced more ambiguities.


    This is also a good time to link to another excellent yeast bread reference I recently found, it adds to knowledge I linked to earlier on the poolish and biga starter methods (PDF file).

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