The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole Wheat - Rye sour bread

Mebake's picture

Whole Wheat - Rye sour bread

Yesterday, i was meaning to bake Hansjoakim's (a TFL member) Pain au levain with Rye sour, but changed my plans at the last moment. I stared at the Ripe Rye sour sitting in the bowl and thought of possible alternatives to my intitial recipe. I wanted a 100% wholegrain bread so I browsed through the bread books i have and found that most recipes needed a soaker of some kind, which i had none. I decided to improvise and bake some bread with my whole wheat and whole rye flours. I weighed the sour and calculated the required flour and water to arrive at a medium loose consistency dough at 75% hydration. It is 22% fermented flour, all of which is whole Rye flour.



412 grams Rye sour (200g water, 200g Whole Rye flour, 12g rye starter)


700 grams Whole Wheat flour (finely ground)

480 grams water

Starter above

1.5 Table spoon salt

Total Dough weight: 1605 grams 

I mixed all the ingredients incuding salt using my mixer, made a dough of medium softness, rested it for 5 minutes, and finished mixing it at speed 2. The dough was rounded and left to ferment for 2 hours. The dough fermented very slowly, if at all, and on hour 3 i lost all hope and knew that it would be an unpleasently sour bread had i left it to ferment more. I have learned yesterday that a rye sour will not do quite well with wholewheat flour, as opposed to white wheat flour (as is the case with Hans' recipe - which contains some rye flour in the final dough too).

I decided to add instant yeast, and i'm glad that i did. I spread the dough to a rectangle and dissolved 3 tsp of IDY in water and poured it on top of the dough, i then kneaded the yeast in until it diappeared.  The bread rose in 1.5 hours, shaped and fermented for 1.5 hours in my bread pan.

The bread's crumb is medium soft, and the crumb is soft and slightly moist. the flavor is very good, with a nice sour tang with each bite. The Rye sour really came through

A really good save, and a lovely wholesome result.





dmsnyder's picture

It sounds like you have developed a formula that is a keeper.

Nice job!


Mebake's picture

Thanks, David.

I think you may have missed the part were i regretted having the Rye sour to ferment the whole wheat. The recipe needs some tweaking. :)  

hansjoakim's picture

The crumb looks terrific on this loaf, Khalid, and that's really impressive considering your issues with slow initial fermentation! I'm happy it worked out in the end!

I am really surprised though that you hardly saw any development using the rye sour... I've been using my own rye sour in combination with many different flours (admittedly never a 100% whole wheat final formula), but not seen a drastic slowing down of fermentation due to "flour shock". Hopefully some of the sourdough chemists around can weigh and provide us with some clarity on the problem. If you'd like to have another go at it, you could perhaps feed a portion of your rye sour with whole wheat a few days ahead, and use this "bastardised WW starter" instead?

Again, wonderful bread, Khalid!!

Mebake's picture

Thanks, Hans!

I was happy to be equipped with the knowledge that the dough is bound to be very sour , and so decided to add commercial yeast to speed things up, and save the dough from soupy stickyness.

I believe that the solution lies in either feeding my rye with wheat like you said, or add 10% whole rye flour to the final dough to avoid flour shock.

Thanks for your encouragement Hans, your Rye pain au levain is one of our houshold favorites.


nicodvb's picture


I don't know how you, Hans Joakim and all the others can use such a massive amount of prefermented rye flour and still have the dough intact. Whenever I tried to do the same I had almost immediately a wheat soup, impossible to recover howver strong the wheat flour was. With mixed breads Iì'm forced to use rye only as an additive (up to 40%), the starter must be firm and all wheaty.

Nice bread and welcome back!

Mebake's picture

Um.. This really shouldn't be the case, Nico, i wonder why. I feed my rye only starter for 2-3 successive times, and use it when very ripe. The consistency of my Rye starter is that of a toothpaste (80-90% hydration), and is only fed whole rye flour. Rye sour will raise wheat breads, i think, if rye flour is part of the final ingredients, or else the fermentation will be slugish. How do you maintain your Rye starter?


nicodvb's picture

My starter is at 133% hydratation to maintain teh toothpaste consistency. At 80% it's a dough, at 90% a wet dough but far from being tooth-paste. I use wholemeal rye flour. Maybe my rye flour absorbs a lot of water because the bran is very finely milled (and probably added back in, who knows).

At 80 and 90% I can't even stir it with a spoon.

Mebake's picture

Hydration is more like it, Nico. Still, it should do just fine with wheat breads. 

isand66's picture

Wonderful looking bake Khalid.  Looks like your experiment paid off and as you said above once you tweak it a little more you will have a perfect bake.  I will put this on my bake list and wait for your update.


Mebake's picture

Thanks Ian! I'll add Rye flour to the final dough next, and compare the results.

varda's picture

a good rise for whole grains.   I'm sure the yeast helped.   Good on the fly formula development, and I'm sure you will improve on it.    I have found that I can get just as good rise for a rye sour as for a wheat starter but haven't tried it with whole wheat.   -Varda

Mebake's picture

Thanks, Varda! Whole wheat isn't the same as White flour, it causes flour shock to Rye sour.

SylviaH's picture

certainly looks very tasty and worked up very nicely.  

Sometimes, I just wonder what to do with all that starter...we had ww/rye sourdough pancakes just yesterday and I also improvised on a formula too...I hope mine turn out as nicely and the wind blows here today :) 

I enjoy a pan loaf for a house bread with it's softer texture and whole grains, this looks like a really nice keeper.  Very nicely done!


Mebake's picture

Thanks, Sylvia. It is also very lean: no enrichments.. what's not to like?


bakingbadly's picture

I haven't visited TFL for quite some time, so let me just say:

Welcome back, Khalid!

As expected, you're baking delicious loaves of bread after your recovery. And I imagine, it must feel exhilerating to touch dough again. Or at least that's how I'd feel after three or so months without baking!

Anyway, I hope all is well with you and your family.



Mebake's picture

Thanks, Zita.. I appreciate your kind words.

Janetcook's picture

Hi Khalid,

I love how this loaf rose so tall in it's pan.  Really nice shape.

I also love reading how you were able to adjust the dough based on your observations.....demonstrated perfectly  what I read so often here 'Watch the dough, not the clock.'  

I was just commenting on Zita's recent blog how wonderful it is to know how to 'fix' things so you get the results you want even if the dough isn't 'behaving'.  I have found that with some I my sd recipes I have to add a bit of IY too or else the proofing times take forever.  I feel lucky to have that luxury and to know that I can do it!  Learned here and from Peter Reinhart :-)

Take Care,



Mebake's picture

Thank you Janet! Isn't it cool... after all the suffering and trials and errors, you get to fix things?!


dabrownman's picture

a wholegrain bread rise so tall and majestic in the pan and it must be a big one to hold that much dough.  Very nive baking!  Now you have to bake it without the yeast and see if there is any difference  besides the time to get it to rise?

It is so nice to see you back to  baking again - your whole grain breads are inspirational for us Khalid.

Happy Baking

Mebake's picture

Oh, thanks DA! I'm glad i inspired others. 

I Guess it won't rise as much without the yeast, especially with this recipe. 


ananda's picture

Hi Khalid,

I love the look of the crumb of your bread, whatever difficulties you encountered along the way

All good wishes


Mebake's picture

Thank you, Andy :) i liked it too!