Simple, Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread made from freshly milled wheat berries, salt, water, and sourdough starter. It’s a staple bread I make for our family and is the healthiest whole-grain bread recipe one can make! I share the secret of how to make sourdough bread using all wheat flour! It’s possibly the BEST whole wheat Artisan loaf!
Need ways to use a sourdough starter? Make our scrumptious Sourdough Bagels that taste as if they came from a bagel shop or our Whole Wheat English Muffins made from freshly milled wheat berries and sourdough starter!
Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe
To prepare a sourdough bread recipe you need an active sourdough starter. Making a sourdough starter is just a matter of combining an equal amount of water and flour until you have wet yeast culture. You know the fermentation went well if your sourdough starter is active and passes the float test. However, I typically know my sourdough is active when it grows in size after a feeding or when it has little air pockets coming up after a good stir.
Intimated? You do not need to major in biology or chemistry to keep up with a sourdough starter. The lactic acid bacteria will get the job done for you. All that is required from the baker is faithful feedings to maintain the yeast cultures. That is the key to making a successful sourdough bread–an active sourdough starter.
My sourdough journey began when a friend gifted me a jar of her homemade sourdough starter. I was a beginner trying to make my first loaf of sourdough bread, and to my surprise, some recipes took days to make! Now, if you’re using bread flour (or white flour), then I totally agree it’s worth the cold fermentation and days of labor because an Artisan Sourdough Bread Recipe is truly like a Bakery loaf (I was told it tasted like a San Francisco Sourdough Bread, when I brought a loaf to a church Potluck, by someone who lived there!)
But thanks to my husband who was determined that sourdough bread can be made with 100% freshly milled wheat berries, I was able to come to a gem of a recipe that tastes like Russian Black Bread (aka Candian Black Bread.) It’s actually quite rare to see recipes like these due to the fact that many whole wheat loaves require part white flour for success. However, not this loaf of bread, but there is a secret for success!
The Secret to Making 100% Sourdough Bread
The secret to using all freshly ground wheat flour lies in soaking the wheat flour overnight. If you’ve done some research you’ll know that it is actually recommended to soak grains for better digestion and to break up the enzymes our bodies can’t break down that well.
The overnight process may seem a step longer, but the timing is perfect for my busy schedule as I can feed the sourdough starter the night before and at the same time soak the wheat flour. Then all you have to do the next morning is combine the dough with the starter and leave it alone until the evening, to ferment. After that, you shape and bake. It’s truly so easy to make!
Fermented foods and sourdough baking is becoming a popular trend in modern culture. Many have decided to create their own for survival. However, traditional ancient bread was made with leaven (starter) and simple ingredients (water, flour, and salt) back before it became a trend.
Back in the day, there were no elaborate starter schedules, careful measurements, or science experiments done by professionals. It was a little leaven, leavens the whole lump. Today, we can benefit from the experiments and helpful measurements to achieve a successful loaf of bread packed with nutritious grains and a good-for-your-gut sourdough starter.
I’m amazed how my European culture still holds strong to hearty rye bread and today continues to produce Russian black bread despite the white bread trend America has transitioned to. I can assure you this bread is healthy and so delicious!
What is a Sourdough Starter?
Starter or Leaven also known as “Sponge” is a fermentation mixture of flour and water that eventually becomes alive from the yeasts of bacteria. Devout Bakers will feed this enzyme-rich starch and natural glucose that helps cause the dough to rise. This process takes a longer time than Baker’s yeast but improves the texture and quality of the bread crust like no other.
Sourdough Starter Recipe:
Wondering how to make a sourdough starter recipe? It’s easy! Simply combine equal parts of flour and water, every day at room temperature until it passes the float test! This can be anywhere from 5 to 21 days depending on how quickly the yeast cultures form.
You’ll want to build a sourdough starter from unbleached (Unbromated flour.) I’ve had the best starter from feeding it this way.
How To Feed a Sourdough Starter?
Feeding sourdough starter is simple. The best way to stable the micro-organisms in the starter is to use unbleached (Unbromated flour.) Stay away from overly processed flours as they lack some minerals that can be vital in a homemade culture.
Always feed a starter 6-24 hours before mixing it into the dough. This activates the leaven and helps the dough rise. I usually take my starter out of the fridge the night before baking and feed it, leaving it covered on the countertop. Then I’ll do a second feeding in the morning about 20 minutes before I make the dough.
Although a mixture of rye, whole wheat flour, starchy potato water, and even organic unwashed grapes (skins contain wild yeast), can all be ways to keep the activity of the bacteria alive, I’ve had the best experience with unbleached white flour.
I consistently feed my starter with a heaping cup of unbleached bread flour and 3/4 cup of hot well water. This amount has worked well when my starter was not even a quart-size to a gallon.
Always feed your starter with unchlorinated water. If well water or bottled drinking water is not an option, simply boil tap water and cool to remove any chlorine substances that may interfere with the micro-organisms.
How To Maintain and Store Sourdough Starter?
Refreshing the starter is crucial to keep the starter active. An equal ratio of flour to water is good to maintain when just building a starter from scratch. However, once you have an active starter, you’ll want to use it for baking and store the rest in the refrigerator for longer storage.
After refrigeration refresh (feed) the starter every 2-3 weeks to keep it alive. You will notice a thin black layer of bacteria build up on the top. Stir it back into the starter for a feeding. During this process, you will also notice your starter is runnier than usual. Now, it’s a good time to increase the flour to water ratio for a thicker starter, since, the bacteria altered the consistency.
So when that occurs, my feedings are now 1 heaping cup of flour to 3/4 cup of warm water. I always stir this mixture first before adding it to the starter. This amount is what I feed my starter after I have built it up. If it is too thick to whisk add a splash of water until it starts to stick away from the sides of the bowl before adding it to the starter.
When you see that your starter is running low, simply feed and maintain it on the countertop until you have the desired amount of starter. I keep a gallon of sourdough starter in case I need to share it or make many baked goods in one day. It’s always handy to have extra than to not have enough.
What Is Sourdough Discard?
I never have a sourdough discard, because I have room in the fridge to store my gallon of sourdough starter. Bakers don’t mess around with little portions and careful measurements when it comes to bulk baking. If you do happen to have more starter, than you think you’ll be needing, then you can always share some with a friend or neighbor.
There are also many Sourdough discard recipes like sourdough pancakes or sourdough pizza crust that you can easily make with any unwanted starter.
What is Sourdough Bread?
Sourdough bread is made with natural leavening (typically equal amounts of flour and water that has fermented into a yeast culture.) It can take as quick as 5 days to make a homemade starter and can be used as yeast when used in large amounts.
The preparation method for sourdough bread typically consists of fermenting the dough long enough to leaven the lump of dough. This can take anywhere from 10 hours to 3 days.
Sourdough bread can be served any time of the day, including a savory brunch, fun breakfast idea, or dinner! Serve it with a tossed salad for lunch or a meaty Rueben sandwich for dinner! Whole wheat sourdough bread is similar to a hearty loaf of rye bread, (aka Russian Black bread) that Russians and Ukrainians enjoy with Borscht.
Baking Sameday vs Retardation:
Once the dough has been shaped into loaves, you want to let it rest and rise (proof). For an improved crust texture, you’ll want to refrigerate the dough overnight (called retardation) for a more blistered crust. Producing steam in crust development helps create a blistered look. This can be done by baking loaves in a covered dutch oven pot or placing a steaming pan of hot water to the bottom of the oven rack.
Massive production Artisan Baker’s will feed the sourdough starter a day in advance and prepare a massive amount of loaves the next day with the previously fed starter. Since they make so many loaves, they bake the same day they make the loaves. However, keep in mind they use commercial ovens that can inject water and produce steam and bake at very high temperatures.
Since I already soak my wheat flour overnight, I find it can be too sour if I go the extra day. So I like to bake whole wheat sourdough bread the same day I make the dough.
To bake the same day- shape the dough into loaves at least 30 minutes before baking to allow the bread to rise. Bake at 500°F covered for 25 minutes, then uncovered for 15-20 minutes.
Proofing the loaves- overnight can make a better crust texture. Form dough into loaves and then allow them to rise for at least 30 minutes. Place into a Banneton proofing basket and refrigerate covered. Proceed with the recipe from step 4.
How To Make Russian Black Bread (Brown Bread)?
Russian black bread is a type of bread made from whole wheat sourdough. It’s great for sandwich bread or as a mild rye bread to a bowl of hot Russian Borscht.
To make a whole wheat sourdough bread recipe like Candian black bread (aka Russian black bread) follow these steps:
- Mix the wheat flour and water to form a dough. Set aside.
- Take out your sourdough starter and feed it. Leave the flour mixture and sourdough starter, overnight, at room temperature.
- The next morning, make the dough. Combine the starter, wheat flour mixture, and salt. Mix the dough together with your hands and allow the dough to sit and ferment all day.
- Slap and fold the dough a few times throughout the Proofing time (2-3 times in total.) The dough rises best in warm places.
- In the evening, shape and form the dough into loaves.
- Bake same-day or refrigerate the loaves overnight.
Baker’s Tip: bake your bread at a high oven setting of 450°F-500°F, covered. This will steam and create a beautiful bakery-style crust.
I Don’t Have Sourdough Starter how can I quickly start one for the recipe?
Need a quick sponge to use as a sourdough starter? Mix 1/2 cup unbleached bread flour and 1/2 cup of warm water. Stir in 1/2 tsp of yeast and allow the sponge to ferment anywhere from 2 hours to overnight at room temperature.
How To Shape Whole Wheat Sourdough Loaves:
- To shape the sourdough loaves sprinkle a generous amount of (unbleached white flour) onto a work surface.
- Divide the dough into two pieces.
- Gently shape the dough into a rectangle.
- Fold in the sides of the dough to form a ball, then pat down and repeat. Then, using a bench scraper, tuck in uneven edges, and keep spinning the dough until you have formed the desired ball shape.
- Dust a Banneton basket with flour or line a small mixing bowl with parchment paper that is dusted with flour.
- Place the dough into the baskets or lined bowls.
- Refrigerate overnight. If baking the same-day line your cast iron pot with parchment paper and place the loaves directly into the pot. Allow the dough to rise an hour before baking.
- Score the tops of the loaves before baking in either method.
How Long Does Sourdough Bread Take To Make?
Like naturally leavened bread it will take longer than yeast. This Sourdough bread recipe takes about 24 hours to make and proof before refrigerating overnight.
Keep in mind most of the process is hands-off and just requires proofing. This is what I love about this recipe!
Ingredients To Make Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread?
To add the most flavor to your bread, use a good sourdough starter instead of dry yeast. Sourdough bread requires more proofing time but is so worth all the effort!
- Hard White Wheat Berries- freshly milled in a flour mill or kitchen-aid attachment.
- Sourdough Starter- is a leaven culture similar to yeast. To make a quick sourdough starter mix 1/2 cup warm water and 1/2 cup of flour. Add 1/2 tsp yeast and allow the mixture to sit a day in a warm place.
- Water- I use warm well water to speed up the proofing time.
- Salt- much needed
Making sourdough bread at home is simple with this recipe! It requires the most basic ingredients!
Tasty Ideas to use up your Sourdough Bread:
My Baking Schedule for Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread:
- The Night Before: take out the sourdough starter from the refrigerator and feed it with 1 heaping cup of flour and 3/4 cup of warm water. In a separate bowl combine the wheat flour and water. Leave both covered on the countertop, overnight.
- 9 AM: Feed the starter again and allow it to sit at least 20 minutes before using it.
- 7 PM: Shape into loaves and score the tops. Allow the dough to proof for at least 30 minutes while to oven pre-heats. Bake.
*If baking the next morning score then.
What Size Baking Pot?
I use a small 2-quart cast iron pot with a lid to make my sourdough loaves. This recipe makes 2 small round loaves. You want to use an oven-safe small saucepan or cast-iron pot and an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil. I do not recommend a bigger pot as a well-hydrated dough can spread out and flatten. If you want to combine the recipe into one large loaf, you can then use a bigger pot but the baking time may vary.
How To Store Sourdough?
Some commercial bakeries par-bake the bread loaves to finish baking later at home or a business. Sourdough bread keeps best for up to 2 days at room temperature. To help bread from getting stale freeze any bread you think will not be used within the next day.
Sourdough bread is best frozen immediately after being cooled down to retain its freshness. Don’t wait until the bread gets stale. Use how many you think will be eaten and freeze the rest!
Storing: Store bread at room temperature for up to 2 days. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers to retain the bread from getting stale. I specifically bake a lot and as soon as they cool I will place them in gallon freezer bags and freeze them to retain freshness.
Can You Freeze Sourdough Bread?
Yes! To freeze sourdough bread, cool completely. Slice or freeze whole in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Keep frozen for up to 3 months.
Reheating- Thaw completely before using.
Trouble-Shooting Sourdough Bread:
Are you experiencing under or over-proofed issues? Is your sourdough not rising? Are the measurements not reading up? I’m here to troubleshoot any questions you have on sourdough in general! First and foremost:
- This recipe has been tested with freshly milled whole wheat berries. Store-bought flour will differ and will need a different water ratio. You do not need to soak the flour if using whole wheat from the store.
- Make sure your sourdough starter is active and alive. Many people do a float test where they drop a dollop of starter into a cup of cold water, if the starter floats–it’s good.
- If your dough is not rising your starter may be bad. Use it instead, in sourdough discard recipes and start over or ask for a really good sourdough starter from a friend.
- Don’t forget to zero out the kitchen scale, we don’t want you to measure the flour with the bowl weight too!
- Flat loaves can be a result of improper equipment. These loaves are small (they bake in a 2-quart cast iron pot) and high hydration sourdough bread is a very loose and wet dough. It needs the help of a pot to hold its shape. If you place it into a large pan it can spread and get flattened out for the lack of proper equipment. Another reason can be a bad starter.
- Soak your wheat flour overnight to have workable dough suitable for a sourdough loaf.
Best Sourdough Bread Tips:
- Don’t begin with a hungry starter! Feed your starter the night before baking and at least 20 minutes before preparing the dough.
- For bigger air pockets make the hydration of the water to flour about equal (100 % hydration.) The stickier the dough the more air pockets. You can calculate the hydration level with a calculator but I’m so old school.
- For the chewiest crust, pre-heat the oven at 500°F with the cast iron pot and lid. Remove the pot with oven mittens and transfer the dough with parchment paper right into the hot cast iron. Cover and bake in the oven for 25 minutes then uncovered for another 15 minutes. The steam traps inside the pot and can create a nice chewy crust with air bubbles (similar to a steam oven.)
- Soak the wheat flour before beginning! It is very important for making 100% whole wheat bread! Otherwise, it won’t be as elastic and harder to work with.
- Cooking Scale– highly recommend a kitchen scale to get accurate measurements. Altitudes can vary and scales help!
- Banneton Proofing Basket– if retardation is taking place overnight in the fridge.
- Kitchen Aid Attachment Grain Mill– we use the same exact attachment to grind our own wheat berries.
- 2-Quart Cast Iron Pot With Lid– highly recommend a cast-iron pot with a lid to steam the bread, it creates a chewier crust.
- Parchment Paper– convenient for removing and placing bread into cast iron.
- Large Mixing Bowl– to prepare sourdough in.
- Bench Scraper– used to shape sourdough bread.
- Scoring Knife– used to cut and make designs on sourdough bread.
- Rice Flour– can use unbleached bread flour or any flour to prevent dough from sticking when working with and shaping.
More Sourdough Recipes:
More Bread Recipes:
- Subway Bread Recipe (Italian Herb and Cheese Copycat)
- Unleavened Bread
- French Bread Recipe
- Naan Bread (Stonefire Copycat)
- Pita Bread Recipe
- Moist Wheat Bread Recipe
Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
- mixing bowl
- 2-quart cast iron pot with a lid
- Bench scraper
- Parchment paper
- 900 grams freshly milled whole wheat flour (hard white wheat berries)
- 800 grams warm water
- 260 grams active sourdough starter* (1 cup)
- 18 grams salt (1 Tbsp)
- Combine the wheat flour and water. Cover and leave overnight on the countertop.
- In the morning, mix in the salt and starter. Cover and ferment the dough for 10-12 hours on the countertop (slap and fold the dough an hour before shaping it into loaves.)
- On a well-floured surface, divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Bring the edges to the center to form a ball of dough. Repeat until loaf is structured-well.
- Place each loaf onto lightly floured parchment paper, seam down. Transfer into 2-quart pots. Score and rest the loaves while the oven pre-heats.
- Bake loaves at 500°F covered for 25 minutes. Then bake for 15-20 minutes more, uncovered.
- Feed the starter the night before and 20 minutes before adding it to the dough. (Sourdough starter should always be at room temperature before using.)
- I like to freeze bags of freshly ground wheat berries for bread recipes like these.
- TO BAKE THE NEXT DAY: (optional) place dough balls onto two well-floured banneton baskets, seam up and refrigerate covered overnight. The next morning, transfer onto floured parchment paper and score. Then place into 2 pre-heated cast iron pots and cover with lids. Bake as directed.
- You do not need to soak the flour if using store-bought whole wheat flour. The water ratio may vary.