A 100% Whole Wheat Loaf, soft and pillowy Aata Bread!

So a 100% whole wheat bread, a loaf of aata bread as good as the best white bread, like really!
Whole Wheat Bread
When I got this loaf out of the oven, I all but danced with joy; absolutely soft bread with the earthy warmth of honey and the crunch from the walnuts; aha!!
I have got a decent loaf with half aata and half maida in the past, but this one was in a different league altogether. Soft and squishy and yet held its shape on slicing (My slicing skills need work, of course :P) We had some kickass tomato basil sandwiches for lunch and the whole loaf was gone. Burp!
100 percent whole wheat bread

I have been experimenting a lot with breads the last couple of weeks. The experiments have been with a sourdough starter  as well as Instant yeast, thanks to an excellent baking group I am a part of. Also, I’ve been reading a fair bit and chatting up a lot with a dear friend Pragya who blogs at Cook and Share. She has been able to bake a nice and flavorous loaf of sourdough, something I am still struggling with :/

It has been such a great learning experience!  Bread is as much about recipe as it is about technique. So, in this post I will share what I learned about technique and got excellent results with 3 recipes I have tried so far. I am sorry for the long post!

Recipe for 100% Whole wheat bread
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Mom Makes)
4 cups/500 grams Aata/whole wheat flour ( I used Aashiwaad aata)
1 Tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten*
1 ½ tsp salt
1 1/3 cup warm water (I needed ¼ cup more to get the dough to desired consistency)
2 ½ tsp Instant yeast
5 Tbsp honey (may replace with sugar but the flavour will not be the same)
3 Tbsp butter/oil
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Combine all the ingredients except walnuts. Add only 1 1/3 cup of warm water at first. Mix together. Do not knead yet. It will be a rough, shaggy dough. Add more water if the dough appears too dry.  Cover and leave for 20 minutes.

Kneading the dough:  Knead till you get a somewhat smooth ball of dough. It takes 7-10 minutes. Do not over-knead. Spread the dough out and add the walnuts and incorporate into the dough. The walnuts can be added right at the beginning, but I found it difficult to knead the dough with the walnuts in and hence added them after the kneading was done.

First Proof: Rest covered in an oiled bowl till it doubles in volume. The time taken for the first proof will depend on the temperature and humidity. In muggy Mumbai, it took me only 30 minutes. (The recipe at King Arthur says two hours, but this time will depend entirely on the weather where you live)
Do the Poke test :Stick two fingers into the dough till the knuckles. If the dents remain, the dough is proofed and ready for shaping. Do not over proof.
Hundred percent Whole Wheat Bread poke test
Shaping and Second Proof : Gently deflate the dough to get the gases out. Shape into a rectangle and roll up to make a log shape. Place in a greased 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf tin. Leave covered for the second proof till the loaf rises an inch above the rim of the pan. Again, King Arthur asks for  a 2 hour rise  and my loaf was all nice and puffed in 40 minutes. If fact, I feel it was a tad over proofed. Next time I will check in 30 minutes. Be very careful about not over- proofing your loaf. Else it will go flat in the oven and you will end up with a brick instead of pillowy soft bread.
To check, stick a floured finger gently into the loaf. If the dent springs back quickly, the dough is not proofed yet.
If it springs back very slowly, it is the right time to get it into the oven.
If the dent remains, the dough might be over proofed. Be careful!
Hundred percent Whole Wheat Bread prep
Preheat your oven to 200C for 15 minutes. Put the loaf in and bring the temperature down to 190C. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Tent with aluminium foil halfway through to avoid over-browning the loaf. Remove from oven and brush liberally with butter.
(Source of information- Red Star Yeast)
Slice only when cooled completely. Please do not rush to slice, else the bread will be dense and gummy. To store, transfer the loaf to a paper bag. Keep the bag sealed to keep the bread fresh.

*To get a perfectly soft aata bread, you need ‘Vital Wheat Gluten’. I ordered it online from Bakersmart.co.in. They delivered within four days. It can be kept in the refrigerator/freezer for months. If you plan to bake regularly, so invest in gluten. Skipping the gluten will not give a soft loaf. I have tried several times before. If you don’t have gluten at hand, go for a half aata and half Maida bread rather than 100% aata bread)
Aata Bread


Here is the original recipe from King Arthur Flour
1 1/3 cups (10 5/8 ounces) lukewarm water
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) olive oil
5 tablespoons (3 3/4 ounces) honey, molasses or maple syrup
4 cups (16 ounces) King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or 100% White Whole Wheat flour
1 tablespoon King Arthur Whole-Grain Bread Improver, optional
1/4 cup (1 1/4 ounces) sunflower seeds, chopped*
1/4 cup (1 ounce) walnuts, chopped*
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

*A quick whirl in the food processor does the job nicely.

To prepare the dough: Combine all of the ingredients, and mix them till you have a shaggy dough. Let the dough rest, covered, for 20 minutes, then knead till fairly smooth. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, shape it into a log, and place it in a lightly greased 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ bread pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap (or a clear shower cap), and allow it to rise for about 2 hours, till it’s crowned about 1″ to 2″ over the rim of the pan.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 40 to 45 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil for the final 20 minutes of baking. Yield: 1 loaf.

38 thoughts on “A 100% Whole Wheat Loaf, soft and pillowy Aata Bread!

  1. Been following since the day you posted the pics:-) please tell me is vital wheat gluten same as wheat gluten as I saw just wheat gluten on bakersmart.
    Thanks waiting to try it out 🙂

  2. I always look forward to your detailed recipes…full of tips and pictures…it really helps people like us… Great going Cafe Garima!

  3. My question still remains, how do I understand whats a hollow sound on tap 😦 My breads always come out uncooked in the center!

    1. Why don’t you go for a digital thermometer! I got one as a gift and it’s really helpful. When the internal temperature is about 100C, the bread is done.
      The hollow sound you will understand only by baking a few times 🙂

  4. Hi Garima,Baked this bread and patiently waited for it to cool down!While the bread is very tasty it is not as light and pillowy like yours.I sent you pics in your inbox.Please check.Do you think that the type of wheat makes the difference?Aashirwaad Atta is known to have more of a maid a content.Your recipes are amazing and so easy to follow.Thanks

    1. Hi Deepali
      I use aashirwaad aata for baking.
      Probably that is why the bread came out light.
      It is ground slightly thinner than punjabi aata and this works well for bread. If the aata is too coarse, it might not work well.
      I keep a bag of aashirwaad exclusively for breads. At least it’s better than the all Maida plus preservatives breads of the store 🙂

  5. I baked this bread around 5 times it came out very well but today it got flat from middle. It took 1 hour for first proof and another one hour for second proof . Please help where have I gone wrong.

      1. But it did rise initally and then it sunk on baking. I hav also changed the atta earlier I was using different wheat flour but this time I used ashirwaad sharbati mp wheat .can this be the reason.

  6. Hey Garima you are a genius. You were right my bread dough was over proofed. I tried again and did the poke test and the dent test .And finally got a awesome loaf. Thanks so much.

  7. Hi Garima Di,

    I love following your blog.Have tried many recipes ie sambhar masala, soups, and focaccia bread, all came out excellent. Thanks for sharing wonderful recipes with us.

    Have a question on this recipe though, can I substitute honey with something else? We being Jain’s don’t eat honey, but am tempted to try this bread 🙂


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