100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Starter Crock

Sourdough Starter Crock

By Cat, May 2011 (Crock, right, by Ronny H.; Photo by Cat)

Includes: 1. 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

See also: 1. Sourdough Introduction2. Ronny’s Simple Sourdough Bread; 3. Sponge Methods for Sourdough Bread, an Overview4. Bread & Rolls menu

At ESP’s Panel Presentation on Sourdough, Ronny demonstrated mixing the dough using whole wheat starter, water and whole wheat flour for a loaf of bread. Then one of the lucky attendees got the dough to take home, rise and bake. See Ronny’s Simple Sourdough Bread.

At the time, I was avoiding wheat and wanted to try a mix of spelt, oat, barley and rye for my starter and bread. I later changed my experimentation to 100% spelt starter and flour. Consequently, I never tried her method, nor the recipe presented here, from Sourdough Home (1). I have, however, made 100% whole wheat Sponge Methods for Sourdough Bread, an Overview, both without and with an autolyze (a resting period to hydrate the flour after it is added to the sponge, making it easier to mix; this is usually followed by mixing in of salt, to slow down the process, tho some recipes add the salt before the autolyze (3)). I found that including an autolyze made for a better rise, and a lighter, less sour bread.

I’ve not tried this recipe, from Sourdough Home (1), as I prefer to use the sponge method, with autolyze.

100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

This recipe is from Sourdough Home (1), and uses only whole wheat flour and starter. I include it here as a point of reference for my own experimentation. The original recipe measures ingredients by mass (grams), but they also provide volume equivalents, which I use here.

This recipe includes addition of vital wheat gluten as an optional ingredient. I presume this is because fermenting the grain breaks down some of the gluten in the original grain – which is why many sourdough breads are heavy and don’t rise much. The addition of gluten replaces what was lost, but unless you are certain you don’t have a gluten sensitivity, I would not do this.

This is a good example of aggressively feeding a starter prior to making the bread. You start this at least 2 days prior to making the bread. The author claims this is much lighter than he would expect.

Although I have not tried this recipe, I keep it here as a reference. It uses a short autolyze (5 min), but after the salt is mixed into the dough, which I do not think would give the best result. I would recommend a 20 minute rest, then mix in the salt, honey and oil.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • ¾ cup (210 g) whole wheat starter
  • ¾ cup (180 g) non-chlorinated water
  • 1 ¼ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil (30 g total)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp (30 g) local honey
  • 2 ⅔ cup (320 g) whole wheat flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp vital wheat gluten (20 g total; optional)
  • butter or oil (for pan)


  • 1 -2 bowls
  • kneading surface
  • cotton cloth and optional plate
  • 4” x 8” baking pan
  • instant-read thermometer
  • cooling rack


Starter: Aggressive Feeding before Making Bread

  • At least 2 days prior to starting the bread, feed the starter 4 times (each about 12 hours apart), doubling volume each time, starting with 1 Tbsp starter plus 1 Tbsp flour and ½ Tbsp water. After 4 feedings (2 days) you should have at least ¾ cup starter. See Maintaining & Feeding a Starter for more detail.


  1. Combine starter, water, salt, honey and oil in a bowl, whisking together.
  2. If using gluten, sift it with the flour. Add flour or flour/gluten mix to liquids 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly, and testing with the fingers to ensure all the flour is moist. Dough may seem too wet.
  3. Turn out to floured board and knead about 5 minutes. Cover and let rest 5 – 20 minutes (autolyze, to let the flour absorb the moisture), then resume kneading until elastic (he uses the windowpane test). Try not to add more than an additional ½ cup flour during kneading.

Windowpane test (2)

  1. After kneading, pull off a piece of dough about the size of a walnut. Roll it between your hands for a few seconds to smooth the damage done when you pulled the dough away from the larger chunk of dough.
  2. Using both hands, gently pull the dough between your hands, occasionally rotating the dough 90 degrees so you will be pulling on different sides.
  3. As you pull on the dough, it should form a sheet, or film that is thin enough that light can pass through it. The dough shouldn’t tear when you do this.

Rise and bake dough

  1. Oil the bowl. Add dough and rotate to coat with oil. Cover bowl with damp cloth (and plate) and let rise until doubled in bulk, 2 hours or more.
  2. Punch down and reform ball by pulling corners to bottom. Cover and rise again about 1.5 hours, until double in bulk. Punch down again, then form into loaf and rise again.
  3. Cut slit along top of loaf and bake in preheated 350°F oven; check after 30 minutes. If too brown, reduce heat to 325°F; if too pale, increase to 375°F. Continue to bake until reaches 190°F internal temp, about 15 minutes more.
  4. Remove from oven, remove loaf from pan and cool on rack.


  1. Sourdough Home bread recipe (sourdoughhome.com/100percentwholewheat.html)
  2. Sourdough Home windowpane test (sourdoughhome.com/index.php?content=bakingintro3#windowpane)
  3. Epicurious, Bread Basic Steps (www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/howtocook/primers/breadbasicsteps)

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