Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread With a Soft Crumb

This is a delicious sourdough whole wheat bread with a terrific soft crumb that is fantastic for sandwiches and makes the best breakfast toast!

sourdough whole wheat bread on a cooling rack

Every weekend here begins with a fresh loaf of bread. For the last several weeks, I have been making up this super soft, blended whole wheat sourdough bread. We like to use it mainly for toast and sandwiches. But it is also great with some butter at room temperature.

I wanted to try a whole wheat version of our standard sourdough loaf that is made completely with white flour. I scoured the internet and found many versions of whole wheat sourdough loaves but I wasn’t completely crazy about the texture. They were all so similar to my standard loaf. Most didn’t add much more than a 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour to boot. What was the point?

So I decided to make my own version and came up with using more water to soften the dough itself and go 50/50 with the two flours. In this way, I could bake something with a little more whole wheat and gain the benefits of using a higher protein flour that would give the loaf a good rise and structure.

Of all the variations of sourdough loaves that I have baked, this one is exceptionally softer. Exactly what I had been looking for!

This is due to the higher hydration amount in the dough and the blend of flours that not only create a great texture but also a consistent rise. Baking with whole wheat lends itself to a little bit of a learning curve as whole wheat flour reacts differently than standard white flour. Blending it with bread flour is the key.

Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread Is…

  • Easy to slice and keeps well for several days when stored correctly.
  • The perfect loaf for sandwiches and wonderfully toasted.
  • Super soft in the center and so good at room temperature or warm from the oven.
  • Our favorite loaf that I make weekly for our bread supply.
  • A simple straightforward recipe that I am going to walk you through step by step to get it right the first time.

Ingredients

Flour- For this sourdough whole wheat bread we will be using a combination of bread flour and whole wheat flour. In doing so, the bread flour will help create a nice rise while the whole wheat flour adds flavor, texture, and a more nutritionally dense loaf.

Sourdough Starter- Make sure your sourdough starter has been fed several hours before mixing the batter. You will need a robust bubbly starter for this since we doing a longer fermentation for the bulk rise.

Salt- I like to use sea salt in my kitchen but Kosher salt and even standard table salt will work here.

Water- You will want to use standard drinking water or filtered water for your dough.

Tools

Large Bowl

Dutch oven

Banneton Basket or Colander with a linen towel

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through the links I provide (at no cost to you).

Directions

Begin by ensuring your starter is nice and bubbly. It should be fed active and ready for use. In a large bowl combine the two flours, salt, active starter, and water with a fork. Mix until it just comes together. The dough will have a very shaggy appearance and will be very sticky. That is exactly what you want.

a bowl of levain mixed

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

After the rest time, uncover the dough and do the first set of stretch and folds.

To do this, wet your hands, then grab one end of the dough and pull it up to fold it over itself. At first, the dough will wet and straggly.

woman working with dough
Pick up a corner
stretching dough in a bowl
Pull it upwards to stretch
folding dough over
Fold it over itself

Give the bowl a slight turn. Grab another end, stretch it up, and fold it over once more. Turn the bowl then repeat for a total of four times. Recover and allow it to rest for another 30 minutes.

Note: For this recipe, we are going to do 4 sets of stretch and folds with a 30-minute rest time in between. See the Sample Baking Schedule below).

Bulk Fermentation

After completing all four sets of stretch and folds cover the dough once more and allow it to sit overnight or for a minimum of 8 hours.

Note: Bulk fermentation time can vary due to many factors including room temperature and activity present in the starter. If after 8 hours, the dough has not puffed up and almost doubled, allow it to sit longer for a longer rise time.

Shape and Proof

The next morning, punch the dough down to deflate. Place the dough on a floured surface. Use a bench scraper to remove the dough. The dough will be very sticky so it is a good idea to also flour your hands when handling. Have your banneton bowl floured and ready to go (if you don’t have one, see notes).

bread dough in a proofing basket

Shape into a round and quickly flip the dough into the basket top side down. Place into the fridge to chill the dough for a minimum of 6 hours.

Note: Chilling the dough will help firm it up enough to shape and also allow for scoring the bread when ready to bake.

Baking Time

When ready to bake. Preheat oven to 450℉ and place a Dutch oven with lid on inside. Leave the Dutch oven inside the oven to heat after the oven has reached the temperature for another 20-25 minutes. When the Dutch oven is heated, remove the basket from the fridge, and cut a large piece of parchment paper that is big enough to hold the loaf.

Flip the loaf onto the center of the parchment paper.

woman scoring bread

Use a razor blade or sharp knife to score a few slits to the top of the loaf. Remove the hot Dutch oven from the oven with heat-proof gloves or oven mitts. Remove the lid carefully, grab the sides of the parchment paper, and place the loaf in the center of the Dutch oven. Place the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes.

a loaf of bread ready for the oven

At the 30-minute mark, remove the lid of the Dutch oven and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours before slicing.

sourdough whole wheat bread on a cooling rack

Note: Allow the loaf to cool completely before slicing for about 1 1/2 hours. Slicing too soon can result in a gummy loaf.

Sample Baking Schedule

Sample Baking Schedule

Following Evening
8 pm: Mix dough
8-8:30pm- Dough rest
8:30pm: First set of stretch and folds
8:30-9:00pm: Dough rest
9:00pm: Second set of stretch and folds
9:00-9:30pm- Dough rest
9:00-9:30pm- Third set of stretch and folds
9:30-10:00- Dough rest
10:00-10:30pm- Fourth and final stretch and folds
10:30-8:00am/Overnight- Bulk rise
Next Day
8:00am- Punch dough down, shape and place in floured banneton
8:05am-2:05pm- Dough chill/Proofing
2:05-2:15pm- Preheat oven
2:15—2:40-Heat Dutch oven
2:40-3:10pm- Bake the loaf
3:10-3:25pm- Uncover and finish baking
3:25-5:00 pm-Cool loaf
5:00-5:25 pm Slice and enjoy!

Baking Notes

  • Be sure to use an active sourdough starter not sourdough discard.
  • If you don’t have a banneton basket, you can use a linen towel and colander. Be sure to flour the inside well.
  • The dough is very stick to work with, it is a good idea to flour your hands when handling it as well as the work surface while using a dough scraper.
  • Score the dough as this will help the steam escape and help the bread rise.
  • Allowing the dough to chill for a minimum of 6 hours is important. This will help the loaf keep its shape and allow you to properly score it before baking.

Why The Stretch and Fold Method?

The stretch and fold method is a gentle way to achieve structure in your loaf. It works especially well for high hydration doughs like the one we are making today. Instead of heating the dough by aggressively kneading in a stand mixer; the dough is allowed to rest in between gentle sets of folds. Working with stickier doughs can be tricky if you are not familiar with this method but with it, it allows you to work almost effortlessly to achieve your desired result.

How To Store

Due to the moisture level in this loaf, I have found it will stay soft a little longer than other loaves. I like to wrap mine in a tea towel and store it on the kitchen counter. A linen bread bag is also another great option to store the loaf as it allows the loaf to stay fresh while absorbing excess moisture. Be mindful of using a plastic ziptop bag as it can create excess moisture and depending on the humidity in your kitchen, can go moldy quicker.

How To Freeze

When in doubt, freeze! Sourdough bread freezes very well and this sourdough whole wheat loaf is no exception.

To freeze, allow the loaf to cool completely. Place it in a ziplock gallon-sized freezer bag. Push any excess air out of the bag. Then seal and label the bag. Place the bag into the freezer.

You can also opt to pre-slice the loaf and then freeze it that way too. This is my preferred method since it allows me to take slices from the freezer as needed. They toast up well and defrost pretty quickly. To do this, you will need to place pieces of parchment paper between the slices. Then place the slices into the ziplock bag, push out the air, seal, label, and freeze.

To thaw, if thawing slices for toast, you don’t have to wait for them to thaw. You can just pop them straight into a toast oven. However, if thawing an entire loaf you will remove it from the freezer and place it on your countertop to let it thaw. Before reheating your loaf or slices, you will want to make sure the loaf is thawed all the way through. Avoid the temptation to throw the frozen loaf into a hot oven. This will result in a loaf that will burn on the outside before warming in the center.

FAQ

What to do if my dough has not doubled?

In sourdough baking, it is important to understand that working with wild yeast as opposed to store-bought yeast can yield unpredictable results. Some loaves will take more time than others. There are many factors for this. Things like temperature and starter strength will greatly affect the bulk dough rise. If you find your dough has not doubled or risen enough, just give it more time. Bulk fermentation times can range anywhere from 8 to 24 hours! So watch the dough, not the clock.

Why didn’t my loaf rise when baked?

There can be many factors for this. First, when working with a dough this hydrated, it is very important to allow the dough to chill for the full 6 hours at a minimum. It will help the dough keep a form and also allow you to score it. Scoring is extremely important for a good oven spring. The loaf will expand almost 30% in the first 10 minutes of baking and giving a good score will help.

Second, the loaf might have been over proofed. When the the dough sits for too long, the air bubbles begin to pop within the dough causing the loaf to not expand. Scoring it slightly deeper than you normally would might help give the dough a little extra nudge before it collapses in the oven.

Once the loaf is baked there is no fixing an over proofed loaf of course. But if you find you have over proofed another loaf in the future, an easy fix is to punch down the dough and reshape it. Then let it proof again. If all else fails, use the dough as a pizza dough or flatbread.

Can I use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour?

No, I would not use all-purpose flour. This recipe requires the high protein amount found in bread flour to help build the gluten structure within the loaf. Although all flours contain some protein. Most bread bakers count on the higher amounts of protein found within bread flour since protein contributes to not only the gluten development but also the success of its rise.  The type of flour or in this case, flours we are using are very important in the final result. For best results stick to the flour ratio in the recipe. 

What is the purpose of the dough chill/proofing step?

The dough chill (or proofing), in this recipe, is very necessary and important. First, it will make the dough easier to handle. Second, it will firm up enough to score the top of the dough properly before baking which is essential for a good oven spring.

It also intensifies the flavor of sourdough and is a great way to extend the wait time between baking because it allows the yeast to become dormant and prevents it from over proofing. Cold proofing allows a baker to hit the pause button on baking so you can bake when convenient. 

Benefits Of Sourdough

Sourdough starter is essentially a wild yeast starter that is used to levain bread and has been used since the time of ancient Egypt. This is not only a tried and true method but one that results in healthier baked goods. Sourdough has phytase, which is a type of fermentation that works by pre-digesting the phytic acid during the fermentation process.

If you’re sensitive to gluten, sourdough may be a good option for you. It’s a fermented food with a bacteria-to-yeast composition that breaks down starches in the grain even before it’s eaten. In addition to being a healthier option, sourdough can also be considered a pre-biotic food that can help maintain your gut bacteria.

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Other Sourdough Recipes You May Like…

Yield: 1 loaf

Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread with a Soft Crumb

sourdough whole wheat bread on a cooling rack

delicious whole wheat bread with a crusty outside and soft center that is made with sourdough starter

Prep Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 8 hours
Total Time 11 hours 55 minutes

Ingredients

  • 280g of bread flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 280g whole wheat flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup of active sourdough starter
  • 450g of water (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt

Instructions

Mix The Dough

Begin by ensuring your starter is nice and bubbly. It should be fed active and ready for use. In a large bowl combine the two flours, salt, active starter, and water with a fork. Mix until it just comes together. The dough will have a very shaggy appearance and the dough will be very sticky. That is exactly what you want.

Dough Rest

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Bulk Rise with Stretch and Folds

After the rest time, uncover the dough and do the first set of stretch and folds. To do this, wet your hands, then grab one end of the dough and pull it up to fold it over itself. At first, the dough will wet and straggly. Give the bowl a slight turn. Grab another end, stretch it up, and fold it over once more. Turn the bowl then repeat for a total of four times. Recover and allow it to rest for another 30 minutes.

Note: For this recipe, we are going to do 4 sets of stretch and folds with a 30-minute rest time in between. See the Sample Baking Schedule below).

After completing all four sets of stretch and folds cover the dough once more and allow it to sit overnight or for a minimum of 8 hours. Have your banneton bowl floured and ready to go (if you don't have one, see notes).

Shape the Dough and Proof

Punch the dough down to deflate. Place the dough on a floured surface. Use a bench scraper to remove the dough. The dough will be very sticky so it is a good idea to also flour your hands when handling. Shape into a round and quickly flip the dough into the basket top side down. Place into the fridge to chill the dough for a minimum of 6 hours.

Bake the Loaf

When ready to bake. Preheat oven to 450℉ and place a Dutch oven with lid on inside. Leave the Dutch oven inside the oven to heat after the oven has reached the temperature for 20 minutes. When the Dutch oven is heated, remove the basket from the fridge, and cut a large piece of parchment paper that is big enough to hold the loaf.

Flip the loaf onto the center of the parchment paper. Use a razor blade or sharp knife to score a few slits to the top of the loaf. Remove the hot Dutch oven from the oven with heat-proof gloves or oven mitts. Remove the lid carefully, grab the sides of the parchment paper, and place the loaf in the center of the Dutch oven. Place the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes.

At the 30-minute mark, remove the lid of the Dutch oven and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and allow it to cool on a wire rack for at least 1 1/2 to 2 hours before slicing.


Notes

  • Sourdough rise times can vary due to many factors including room temperature and activity present in the starter. If after 8 hours, the dough has not puffed up and almost doubled, allow it to sit longer. Be sure to use an active sourdough starter, not sourdough discard.
  • If you don't have a banneton basket, you can use a linen towel and colander. Be sure to flour the inside well.
  • The dough is very stick to work with, it is a good idea to flour your hands when handling it as well as the work surface while using a dough scraper.
  • Score the dough as this will help the steam escape and help the bread rise.
  • Allowing the dough to chill for a minimum of 6 hours is important. This will help the loaf keep its shape and allow you to properly score it before baking.
  • Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    10

    Serving Size:

    1 slice

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 239Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 352mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 4gSugar: 0gProtein: 8g

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