The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

100% whole wheat sourdough

Rosalie's picture

I'd tried the sourdough route before and had to quit.  The main reason, I think, is because I keep my thermostat at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and I had a hard time creating a proper environment for the starter and the bread dough.  Brod and Taylor to the rescue!  I didn't have to rig up a styrofoam ice chest with an electric light bulb.  I just had to order the box that you can set at any temperature between 70 and 120 (1 degree increments).

It was no problem creating a starter.  It had been no problem the last time, either.  I think I used rye to get started last time.  But this time it was 100% whole wheat, start to finish.  I used Mike Avery's instructions in his book and on his web site as my main source of information.  He recommends getting started with whole wheat.  But when it comes to maintenance, that's a different story.  He indicates that refined flour works better for that.  But I don't buy refined flour any more, not with my NutriMill and my little granary downstairs.

So the problem became finding a source of whole wheat sourdough info.  The theory is that whole wheat was the main flour used in the 19th century by the sourdoughs.  I don't know if that's true, but still refined flours are a recent invention, compared to sourdough-type starters, which are centuries old.

My first try at baking bread with the starter was an adaptation of Mike Avery's basic (white flour) sourdough recipe.  Edible.  It's always edible.  But otherwise not very good.  Then I looked through my own books and found Breadtime by Susan Jane Cheney.  You can't tell except by examining the recipes, but it's all whole grain.  I don't think there's a refined grain in the book.  And there's a section on sourdoughs.  So that was the recipe I used.

It took some persistence, including some fancy timing-manipulation (I had to refrigerate the dough at one point).  But in the end I had a loaf that actually rose in the oven, the big test, in my opinion, of success.  It's not holey, like some of the other loaves I was eyeballing on this site today, but they're not whole wheat either.  Sticking close to the recipe this first time, I came out with two large loaves, each of which I cut in half; I held one half out and froze the other three.  I'm currently working on the second of the four pieces, and I swear it gets better with each slice.

Still, the loaf was rather dense.  Breadtime has a variation on the basic sourdough that includes 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast.  Unless I'm under the gun, I'm going to avoid this form of cheating (which I call sourdough-flavored bread).  (I also have lots of gluten flour, which I may try just to use it up.)  The starter is very young, and presumably the it will become stronger with practice.


varda's picture

Yesterday I tried my hand at a miche after reading so much about these loaves on this site.   I must admit that I had to restrain myself from dividing it into three loaves as I was wondering what a three person household was going to do with an almost four pound loaf.  I tried Hamelman's Pointe-a-Calliere (page 164 of Bread.)   I had to make a few modifications.   I was planning to do 85% whole wheat flour, 15% AP, but ended up with around 60-40 because I was lower on whole wheat flour than I had thought.    Since I was baking in my clay oven which has a fairly narrow door, I found that the dough had grown so large that I had to make an oval rather than round loaf, and again because of the oven, I took it out after 45 minutes instead of the full hour since it was already quite cooked and would have turned into a cinder after any longer.  But I did follow the instructions to wait a full 12 hours before slicing despite my usual impatience in these matters.   And after all that?   Wow.   That is a delicious bread.   It is very hearty.   A slice with a bit of peanut butter makes a substantial meal.  But will we eat the whole thing?   I guess it depends how long it remains fresh, which I've yet to see. 



Igwiz's picture

My First 100% whole wheat sourdough

October 15, 2009 - 11:20am -- Igwiz

Hi all.  I finally got my starter going and this is the first sourdough loaf I baked (last week).  Very happy with how it turned out.  Looks quite a bit like the Desem that was posted a few months ago.  Thanks all for your advice on getting my starter going.


This was a basic lean recipe.


33 ounces WW (King Aurthur)  (100%)

24 ounces water  (73%)

1 tablespoon salt

8 ounces happy, well fed white starter (50% hydration) (25%)


Total = 198%


summerbaker's picture

Whole Wheat Sourdough - Finally!

September 7, 2009 - 8:57am -- summerbaker

These loaves may not look like much but they are my first successful whole wheat sourdough loaves.  Apart from the starter they are 100% whole wheat.  I knew that something was going right when I noticed that they were rising vertically rather than spreading horizontally in a sticky mess during proofing.  I want to thank everyone at TFL for all of the great tips: rice flour in the brotforms (lots of posts about this), use of vital wheat gluten with whole wheat (Thanks mainly to xaipete), and use of parchment paper under the loaves on the baking stone (Thanks mainly to SylviaH).

davidjm's picture

Sourdough help needed for Pain-Poilane

July 11, 2009 - 7:51am -- davidjm

I am trying to make the Pain Poilane from BBA.  About 50% of the time, I am successful.  When it does not turn out, here's what happens:

1. The dough does not rise during firmentation.  If it does, it is very little.  The problem is, when I'm in the started stage, the starters behave beautifully.  They rise, they smell good.

2. When I bake it, it may rise a little.  But it does this weird thing where the bottom of the loaf will rise in the center rather than rise uniformly from the top. 

Mini Oven's picture

Starter Terminology

June 30, 2009 - 6:49pm -- Mini Oven

I know this seems a little late but I think we could all benefit if we define these terms in order to remove any confusion surrounding them.

What is a:

  • new starter
  • young starter
  • active starter
  • fresh starter
  • old starter
  • mature starter
  • ripe starter


Thanks for participating. 

Oct 31, 2009  Changed title of thread so it is more easily located using the site search machine.  I may turn this into a FAQ or anyone wanting to make a FAQ should feel free to use the information.

director517's picture

help, advice? whole wheat sourdough bread

December 9, 2008 - 2:01pm -- director517

Hi everyone,


I'm new here, so I don't know if there may be some protocol I'm supposed to follow, so forgive me if I jump right in.


I have been trying for weeks now (every day or every other day), to get a loaf of 100% whole wheat sourdough out of my oven. No success. I've had a starter for about a year. I keep it refrigerated. Sometimes I neglect it, but it always bounces back, and at the moment, with 2xd feedings, it's bubbly and aliive.


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