The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough 100% Whole Wheat Oatmeal Sandwich Bread - whole grain breads can be soft too

txfarmer's picture

Sourdough 100% Whole Wheat Oatmeal Sandwich Bread - whole grain breads can be soft too

A while ago, I posted about how to make "shreddably soft" sourdough sandwich bread (see here). I got some questions regarding whether the same thing can be achieved with whole grain breads. Well, yes and no. The more whole grain flour there is in the dough, the lower the gluten is, so 100% whole grain breads won't be exactly AS SOFT AS the white flour one. However, with the right formula, and proper handling, 100% whole grain breads like this one CAN be very moist and soft - even shreddably so.This one is made using just sourdough starter, extra delicious when the rich flavor of ww is combined with the slight tang of sourdough.

First of all, there needs to be enough ingredients in the formula to enrich and moist the crumb. This bread is adapted from my all time favorite whole grain bread book "Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book" , in addition to oil, honey, and sourdough levain, oatmeal is soaked in boiling water the night before to add moisture to the final dough, which contributes to the soft crumb. My adaption to the formula is to chagne the dry yeast to sourdough, and increased hydration a tiny bit.

Secondly, ww doughs have lower gluten level, which means while you still have to knead it really well (to full developement), the windowpane you achieve won't be as strong as the white flour one. This also leads to a denser bread, which means for the same tin, you will need to add more dough to get the same volume. Since ww flour absorb more water, but absorb it slower, so it really helps to autolyse, and autolyse longer (40-60min) than for white doughs. It's easier to overknead a ww dough (in a mixer) too, so be very careful - for that reason, I usually finish kneading by hand.

Thirdly, it's also easy to over fermentate ww doughs. I kept the levain ratio in this dough pretty low, and made sure when it's taken out of fridge for proofing, the temperature is relatively warm(~72F). I found if it takes too long for the dough to finish proofing (once I left it by the window, where it's only 68F, it took 10hours instead of 6 hours to finish proofing), the crumb gets rough, and the taste gets unpleansantly sour.

Finally, the ww flour I used here is King Arthure WW, I have used other ww flour before, but KAF gives me the most consistent result.


Sourdough 100% Whole Wheat Oatmeal Sandwich Bread (Adapted from "Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book")

Note: 15% of the flour is in levain

Note: total hydration is 89%, higher than usual because of the oatmeal soaker

Note: total flour is 375g, fit a 8X4 loaf pan. For my Chinese small-ish pullman pan, I used 330g total flour. For KAF 13X4X4 pullman pan, I have not tried it myself, but I would suggest using about 600g of total flour. Obviously for pullman pans, you can bake with or without lid.

- levain

ww starter (100%), 16g

water, 26g

ww bread flour, 48g

1. Mix and let fermentation at room temp (73F) for 12 hours.

- soaker

rolled oats (I used old fashioned), 53g

boiling water, 240g

salt, 8g

2. Mix and cover for 12 hours.

- final dough

ww flour, 319g (I used KAF)

water, 60g

oil, 30g

honey, 38g

all soaker

all levain

3. Mix together everything, autolyse for 40-60min.Knead until the gluten is very developed. This intensive kneading s the key to a soft crumb, and proper volume. The windowpane will be thin, but NOT as strong as one would get form a white flour dough. For more info on intensive kneading, see here.


4. Bulk rise at room temp (73F) for 2 hours, the dough would have expanded noticably, but not too much. Fold, and put in fridge overnight.

5. Divid and Rest for one hour.

6. Shape into sandwich loaves, the goal here is to get rid of all air bubles in the dough, and shape them very tightly and uniformly, this way the crumb of final breads would be even and velvety, with no unsightly holes. For different ways to shape (rolling once or twice, i.e. 3 piecing etc) see here.

7. Proof until the dough reaches one inch higher than the tin (for 8X4 inch tin), or 80% full (for pullman pan). About 6 hours at 72F.

8. Bake at 375F for 40-45min. Brush with butter when it's warm.

Nice and soft crumb from both the 8X4inch tin (rolling once) ...

Baked another one in a small pullman tin (rolling twice, 3 piecing, baked without lid)


Excellent ww flavor enhanced by sourdough, without any hint of bitterness. Stays soft and moist for days.


So, yes, 100% whole wheat breads can be soft, like THIS

Sending this to Yeastspotting.


PClark's picture

Ever! I have had this starter going for quite awhile and have been using it to make the English muffins very often. We love them. I tried a loaf of bread early on with it, but it was hard as a brick and tasteless. So I lost my courage and never tried again. Then I saw this post and I just had to try it. I love it! Although I don't think mine is as light as the original in the post it's pretty good for a first time whole wheat loaf. The taste is great. I've eaten three pieces today and that's controlling myself. Also I am working with a new oven, and didn't have my glasses on so I started out too hot. Thankfully I realized it before too much damage was done. I am excited about a success. I've had so many failures. 



Janetcook's picture


Wow, I am impressed with that being your first ever ww and sd loaf!   Looks scrumptious to me.

If you are interested in trying more 100% ww loaves a great book is 'Whole Grain Breads' by Peter Reinhart.  His 'epoxy' technique creates very soft sandwich loaves and many more  - all with whole grains.

Take Care and congratulations on your success :-)


PClark's picture

I hope to get  into trying more breads. I bought the Bread Baker's Apprentice several months ago and had hardly opened it and our house sold, after just 3 1/2 months on the market. So everything was put aside to get out of the house and find another one. We moved 350 miles away, lived in a camper for 2 months with our cat and finally are settled in a house. It's been a journey and now I am finally getting back to cooking( my first love) and trying some more breads. This bread was a challenge for sure. I've never been able to keep a starter alive. I am retired now so more time for puttering in the garden and the kitchen. 

ranchelmarie's picture

I know this thread is rather old, but I had to comment. Made this bread today and it is delicious! I made a few mistakes, but it still came out less dense and better tasting than any whole wheat bread I've ever made, and it was my first real sourdough loaf!

One of the problems I had was that I couldn't find any 8x4 pans at the store, so I had to get a 9x5 pan, and then I forgot to compensate with extra dough, so my loaf was a little shorter than I hoped. Anybody know how much I should increase the recipe to compensate for the slightly larger pan?

ranchelmarie's picture

Also wondering, can you just double the recipe from start to finish to make two loaves or are there some adjustments that need to be made or is it better not to double a sourdough recipe? (sorry if this is a silly question, pretty new to sourdough)

reedlaw's picture

For some reason this dough is runnier than a 100% hydration whole wheat dough I made recently. I was able to achieve a nice windowpane during kneading but now on the 2nd day I'm not able to shape it like in the pictures. It's more like the consistency of a thick pancake batter. I tried to shape it using a dough scraper but it fell apart when transferring to the baking pan. I'm after a soft bread but I'm concerned this is a bit over hydrated and difficult to deal with.

ithilas's picture

So, if I decided to use 600 grams of whole wheat flour for the Pullman loaf. Do I just use 48 grams in the levian, and the rest of the 552 grams in the final loaf and dusting the counter? Do I need to make adjustments in water or anything else? if anyone knows, please let me know. Thanks.