A loaf with a story: Jan Brett’s Crunchy Whole Grain Bread

Jan Brett, a wonderful writer and incredible artist, has been delighting families with her internationally famous books for years. Featuring magical tales of children and animals, and intricate, beautifully painted pictures, Jan’s books are the source of many a bedtime story.

We were thrilled to find out recently that Jan is a baker, too. And that she’s developed a recipe for a delicious whole-grain bread – using all kinds of our King Arthur flours and grains.

We discovered the recipe posted in her blog, and asked if we could reprint it here. To which Jan graciously assented.

This dark, earthy, whole-grain bread, studded with cranberries and walnuts, makes marvelous sandwiches and toast – perfect for sharing with your young children, along with one of Jan’s books. And while we’ve clarified the recipe slightly, it remains true to its origins – with Jan.

Thanks, Jan – for the pleasure of your books, AND your bread.

Here are some of the key ingredients that make Jan’s bread special. Clockwise from the bottom, we have Harvest Grains Blend, an ultra-high fiber, easy-to-use mixture of seeds and grains, both whole and flaked; 9-Grain Flour Blend, offering the goodness of nine different nutritious whole grains, plus the rising power of high-gluten flour; stabilized wheat germ, the vitamin- and mineral-rich heart of the wheat berry, ground for easy use; nutty, flavorful toasted sesame seeds; and organic milled flax seeds, a great source of fiber and antioxidants.

Now, before we start, let’s examine how different methods of measuring flour can yield very different results.

If you scoop your measuring cup into your all-purpose flour or bread flour canister, gently tap the cup to settle the flour, then level it off, here’s what it’ll weigh:

About 5 ounces of flour in a 1-cup measure.

If you stir the flour in your canister, SPRINKLE it into your measuring cup, then weigh, you’ll have about 4 1/4 ounces of flour.

Most bread recipes include between 3 and 4 cups of flour. That means there can be a variance of almost 1 cup of flour, depending on how you measure.

That’s a HUGE difference, especially when you’re trying to make dough with perfectly balanced hydration: not too moist, not too dry.

Jan’s bread rises very differently, depending on how moist the dough is. If it’s super-sticky, it’ll rise quickly. If less sticky, it’ll take longer.

Neither way is “right” or “wrong;” just be aware that rising times may vary a lot, and it’s often due to how you measure flour.

Begin by putting the following in a large mixing bowl:

2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup molasses
1 large egg

Whisk to combine.

Add the following:

1 tablespoon salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup softened butter
1/4 cup milled flax seeds
1/4 cup stabilized wheat germ
1/4 cup Harvest Grains Blend
3 cups (12 ounces) 9-Grain Flour Blend

Stir to combine.

Add the following:

1 to 1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 to 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Stir to combine.

Finally, add 4 cups (17 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour.

Mix until cohesive.

Scrape the soft dough into the center of the bowl…

…then knead for about 3 minutes. The dough will seem quite sticky.

Scrape it into a ball in the center of the bowl again…

..and continue to knead vigorously for about 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts to leave the sides of the bowl.

It’ll remain sticky, but look at that nice, stretchy gluten!

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl (or dough rising bucket, as I’m using here; I like to be able to track its rising progress). Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise until it’s expanded, though probably not doubled in bulk

This will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours; though it might go faster, if your dough is a bit moister.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it in half.

Lightly grease two 9” x 5” loaf pans.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, flatten it into an oval, then fold it over on itself, pinching the seam with the side of your hand.

Don’t fuss over it; just press it down.

Flatten it out slightly…

…and fold it over again.

As you do this flattening/folding process, you’ll notice the dough is lengthening itself into a log shape.

Turn the log over so the seam is on the bottom. Place it in the pan.

Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

To prevent burned, acrid fruit or nuts, gently push any cranberries or walnuts poking out of the dough’s surface back underneath.

Like this.

It’s a finicky thing, but it does make a difference.

Tent the loaves with plastic (shower caps work well), and let them rise until the center of each loaf has crested about 1” above the rim of the pan…

…like this. It’ll take 1 to 2 hours.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 to 45 minutes, until the center of a loaf registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Tent the loaves lightly with aluminum foil after about 30 minutes, to prevent over-browning.

Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pans onto a rack to cool. If desired, run a stick of butter over the crust for a satiny sheen and buttery flavor.

Cool completely before slicing.

I see a piece of warm, buttered toast in my near future…

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Jan Brett’s Crunchy Whole Grain Bread.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Rhalee Hughes Perry

    Hi PJ,
    Jan Brett’s latest book is “Gingerbread Christmas” (Putnam 2016) and I was wondering if you wanted her “secret” gingerbread recipe to celebrate? It includes King Arthur’s exceptional cinnamon from Vietnam.
    Have a good weekend!

    Rhalee Hughes Perry
    rhalee hughes public relations + marketing
    o. 212.260-2244 m. 917.224-4457
    rhughes@rhalee.com / rhalee.com

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Thanks, Rhalee. I love Jan’s work. If her recipe is secret, far be it form us to purloin it! But if she’s sharing, sure, we’d love to see it. PJH

  2. Della Taraska

    I well remember this flour. It reminds me of the when I would spend summer vacation and part of fall with my Great Aunt Nellie in West Virginia. She taught me how to bake biscuits and breads.
    She made the best biscuits so light and fluffy. She swore this was the only flour that was the best for baking. I plan to try and make this recipe soon. I love the smell of the bread when it is baking. It brings back so many wonderful memories from my childhood.

    Della, glad we could help you relive those happy memories. Baking is like that, isn’t it? 🙂 PJH

  3. ontheridge

    I made this bread yesterday and got a big beautiful loaf. I cut the recipe in half and mixed it in my bread machine on the RASIN/DOUGH cycle. I added the nuts (I used toasted pecans) and the cranberries when the Add Fruit timer beeped. I shaped the dough by hand and baked it in the oven. It is very good but there are two things I will do differently next time. I thought it had a slightly bitter taste (no, I did not use blackstrap molasses!) so I will replace 2 ounces of the water with orange juice and I will tent with foil after 20 (instead of 30) minutes of baking so the top doesn’t get so brown. This recipe is a keeper!

  4. r11445

    Well I made Jan’s recipe and fell in love with it. I have a Oster bread machine that I use rarely and only on dough cycle. This recipe is too large for it, I would suggest scaling it in half. I first had put all ingredients in machine and found it to be too much. I then switched everything to my Kitchen Aid mixer and followed directions given. The only thing I found was in the proofing. It didn’t take as long since I was using the proofing function on my range. Cooking time was on the lower end of the scale also. I almost always use my instant read thermometer to check for doneness. I will definitely make it again.

    Thanks for sharing your experience here – valuable tips. PJH

  5. deb1223

    This bread is FANTASTIC. Absolutely delish especially as toast. THANK YOU!!

    It IS good, isn’t it? Perfect for a cold winter morning. I had it the other day with peanut butter/crunchy ground flax and beach plum jelly from Cape Cod… PJH

  6. Diane

    This bread looks, so good. I’m going to have to give it a try. Is your website the only place i can find the special 4 ingredients? Can i make substitutions? Thanks. I love reading your blog, i am always so inspired! Thanks again!

    Diane, read the tips to the right of the recipe – it explains about substituting. Not sure which special 4 ingredients you mean – the Harvest Grains Blend is only available on our Web site; 9-Grain Flour and milled flax could probably be found at a Whole Foods type store; and the rest of the ingredients (wheat germ, sesame seeds, etc.) are fairly common, right? Thanks for your kind words—PJH

  7. Irene in TO

    I have stored raw bread dough in the fridge for 4 days and it still rises and bakes just fine. I use an extra-large freezer weight zip bag with a good dose of salad oil to keep the dough moist. You might use half the salt and slightly less yeast for such a long rise and NO it does not taste like sourdough.

    I mix by hand using only enough flour to keep the kneading process going. When I lived in MA I always used KAF “for bread machines only” for hand mixed bread. I use a LOT more liquid (like 20-25%) in proportion to a fixed weight of flour than KAF recipes call for.

    I measure the liquid and add flour as required. I always add whole wheat flour first and let the sponge rise before I knead in unbleached bread flour. This gives the final bread an extra day’s shelf life after baking.

    I stop adding flour as soon as the mass of dough turns from slightly bouncy to silky under my hands. That transition tells you that the gluten is ready to hold the bubbles from the yeast. The kneading time depends on amount of dough and temperature of liquid and flour.

  8. lwclark

    This recipe is just what I have been looking for, but I would like to bake just one loaf at a time. Would the remaining half of the recipe keep in a container in the refrigerator for a week?
    Thanks to you and to all who contribute suggestions and tips in your fabulous blogs!

    I don’t think so… this isn’t meant to be a no-knead refrigerator bread, one that can last as dough for awhile. How about baking one loaf, and freezing the unbaked dough for the other? Let it rise its first time in the bowl, then deflate, wrap tightly, and freeze. You could probably successfully freeze it for a month or so (less time in a self-defrosting freezer). When you want to bake, thaw the dough overnight in the fridge, then go from there – understanding everything will take longer, as the dough will need to warm to room temperature before it can rise. Good luck – PJH

  9. spookys6

    Jan Brett is that childrens’ book rarity- not only an outstanding author, but a superior artist. I did meet her on an author visit to our school- an honor. As a school librarian, her books are not only outstanding story hour reads (big pics with short, understandable dialogue), but great books to snuggled up with an individual or small group. Her words tell a story, but often there is a whole diff’t one going on in the borders with no words whatsoever. Just love her work.
    If Jan developed it, it’s GOT to be good. Thanks for the posting.

    And thanks for your kind words about Jan. She’s a treasure… PJH


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