40% Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Usually, when beginners start to make sourdough bread, they venture into using organic whole wheat flour and they easily get disappointed. But working with whole wheat (US) / wholemeal (UK) flour has its secrets that beginners need to learn first.

For this recipe, I hydrated the whole wheat flour the evening before. Hydrating flours before adding the sourdough starter begins the gluten network development, meaning that the windowpane test will pass. Those big bran particles partially block the gluten development resulting in a dough that breaks easily. This means that the CO2 bubbles created later in the fermentation process might escape.

This is a wet dough of 81.3% hydration. But bran has a high water absorption and makes the dough easy to handle. Bran also gives a darker colour to the dough and later to the crumb. But bran contains fibres, proteins, B vitamins and trace minerals that give a higher nutritious value to the bread.

I made a detailed video about the characteristics of wheat flour, please find it here.

During bulk fermentation, all steps performed are to improve the dough structure. Whole wheat flour has a weaker gluten network (because of bran presence), so the structure should be in focus for a more open crumb.

When adding more than 20% whole wheat flour to a recipe, you need to take into account the specificities of this flour.

  • It needs a longer time to hydrate.
  • More coil folds will help with the structure.
  • Bult ferment at 50-60% volume increase for a more open crumb.
  • Expect a slightly denser and darker crumb compared to regular white flour loaves.
  • Expect also a smaller and heavier loaf.

It is in your hands to apply the right techniques and steps to make it perfect.

Whole wheat flour provides a richer nutty flavour to the bread, even when it is combined with regular wheat flour. Whole wheat bread is also healthier, as it includes all the fibres, vitamins and minerals of the bran and germ. It also has a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) than white wheat bread.

What do you think? Will you give it a try?

Ingredients: (81.3% hydration)

  • 180g sourdough starter (100% hydration)
    The starter was refreshed with:
    •  12g starter 
    •  84g water 
    •  34g whole wheat flour 
    •  50g strong wheat flour
  • 540g strong wheat flour (14% proteins) 
  • 360g organic whole wheat flour
  • 715g water
  • 18g salt 


  1. [Day 1, Friday, 23:00] Scaling. Start by scaling the ingredients using a balance and put them on the table to ensure that nothing is forgotten.
  2. Mix water + flours + salt. Mix the flours, water and salt until well combined. Do not knead at this stage, just ensure there is no unincorporated dry flour resting in the bowl and that's it. 
  3. [Day 2, Saturday, 8:00] Sourdough starter. Add the preferment over the dough and mix with a standing mixer for 10 minutes.  After mixing, let the dough relax for 1 hour in the bread proofer at 26ºC.
  4. [Day 2 Saturday, 9:00] Divide and Stretch and Fold. Take the dough out of the bowl put it on the slightly wet table board and divide it into 2. Stretch and fold each piece on the board and place them in squared glass bowls. Let them sit covered for 1 hour.
  5. [Day 2, Saturday, 10:00] Lamination. Take each piece out of the bowl and do the lamination. Let the dough rests covered for 1 hour. 
  6. [Day 2, Saturday, 11:00] Coil fold 1. Start now a set of 5 coil folds performed straight in the bowls. Do the first coil fold set in each glass bowl and let them sit for 45 minutes.
  7. [Day 2, Saturday, 11:45] Coil fold 2.  Do a second set of coil folds in the glass bowls and let them sit for 45 minutes.
  8. [Day 2, Saturday, 12:30] Coil fold 3. Do a third set of coil folds for each dough and let them sit for 45 minutes. Volume rise at 20% in the aliquot jar.
  9. [Day 2, Saturday, 13:15] Coil fold 4. Do the fourth set of coil folds for each dough and let them sit for 45 minutes. Volume rise at 30% in the aliquot jar.
  10. [Day 2, Saturday, 14:00] Coil fold 5. Do the fifth set of coil folds for each dough and let them sit for 1 hour. Volume rise at 40% in the aliquot jar.
  11. [Day 2, Saturday, 15:00] Shape the loaves on the lightly floured board. By this time, the dough in the aliquot jar indicated a 50% volume increase. Place the dough face down into well-floured bannetons. Repeat the process for the second piece of dough. Let the bannetons still rest at 26ºC for 30 minutes before placing them in the fridge overnight. 
  12. [Day 3, Sunday, 9:30] Score. Before scoring, you need to preheat the oven at 250ºC. I baked these loaves in a wood-fired oven but in a classical oven, you should follow basically the same temperature. Inside the oven, I also heat 2 Dutch ovens.
    Take the dough out from the fridge and reverse the banneton on parchment paper. Score and decorate the bread as you like.  Immediately after, slide the loaves in the hot Dutch ovens. I also place a small ice cube inside to create more steam.
  13. Bake at 250ºC for 20 minutes with the lid on. After these 20 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake at a reduced temperature (~220ºC) for 25 minutes. In the wood-fired oven, the exact temperature is difficult to control, so during the bake, it went gradually down from 250ºC to 200ºC at the end of the bake.
  14. [Day 3 Sunday, 10:15] Cool. The bread needs to cool for at least 2 hours until it reaches room temperature. The cooking process continues slowly even after taking the bread out of the oven, so this is why it is important to not skip this step and to resist cutting it too early. If you can, of course...
  15. [Day 3, Sunday, 12:15] Cut. Now is the big moment to enjoy a slice of bread... 


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