The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole Wheat Boule

varda's picture

Whole Wheat Boule

One thing that happens when you bake for other people is they tell you what they want, and if you don't have it, sometimes they just walk away.   So it has gone for the past few months at farmer's markets, where a small but determined group must have their whole wheat bread, and won't even look at other offerings if it is not there.    I have been keeping a close eye on TFL for whole wheat baking.   True I have baked 100% whole wheat breads -- particularly Reinhardt's and also Pain de Mie following Janetcook's lead.   Neither of these satisfied me as a bread for sale - I was looking for an approach more in tune with my regular processes.  

Recently Last year Abel posted a bread (thanks to Bröterich for the link) made with rye sour and all whole wheat in the final dough.   (For some reason I can't find it - the post seems to have vanished.)   This inspired me, but my attempts to copy it resulted in a very bricklike substance.  So I played around a bit trying to find my own way.   Finally I stumbled on something that looked beautiful which used both my white and rye starters. The rush of the market being what it is, I sold a few loaves without having ever tasted it.   Last Saturday I brought even more to the market, and the loaves flew off the table, all the while with me wondering what in the heck I had just sold.   Fortunately though, I had a few repeat buyers, so I knew it couldn't be too bad.   This week with a bit of a slowdown since I'm not baking for the market this Saturday, I was finally able to taste my whole wheat bread.   I am really not much of a whole wheat fan - a little too healthy for my tastes, but this was really nice - particularly with the very dark crust whose sweetness contrasts nicely with the hearty crumb.   In fact I love this bread and it fits nicely into my routine, as it doesn't require any new preferments - just the ones I have on hand.

Some would call this 100% whole wheat, but of course it has some white flour and some rye flour from the starters, so I'll just call it whole wheat - seems ok.

Formula and Method:

Whole Wheat Boule   
Autolyze flour and water plus honey and oil 1:0010:30 AM
Mix all  0:1011:30 AM
Bulk Ferment  3:0011:40 AM
Shape in boule  0:302:40 PM
Proof  2:303:10 PM
Preheat 500, Load, Steam 1 min, off 6 min0:355:40 PM
Bake 25 minutes 425  6:15 PM
 FinalStartersTotalBakers %
Whole Wheat445 44584%
Whole Rye024245%
Oil74 7414%
Honey30 306%
Salt10.4 102.0%
Starter104 104 
Rye Sour44 44 
Total Flour532   
Starter is all white, 67% hydration  
Rye sour is all whole rye, 80% hydration - using Great 
River Whole Rye   


CAphyl's picture

Varda: This is a fantastic looking bread.  Love the simple scoring and crumb.  I haven't made such an intense ww loaf in some time.  I may have to try your recipe, as it turned out so tasty and light (not brick-like!) Glad it was a best-seller.  There's no question that dabrownman will love this bread.  Best,  Phyllis

varda's picture

to include honey  and oil in the autolyse - otherwise it is pretty hard going.   If you have the starter and sour this is a very simple bread.   The whole wheat is very intense, but balanced by the honey and the caramelized crust.   Thanks for commenting!  -Varda

dabrownman's picture

over this one.  We like high % whole grain breads and this one is no exception.  The only thing you have to know about business is to know what your customers want and then being able to give it to them at a price thy can afford.  The rest is just busy work.  Love this bread inside and out ....especially the crust and scoring.  Well done and

Happy baking Varda

varda's picture

Hi DA.   My customers didn't know they wanted Borodinsky until I stuck it in front of them.   Now I get people walking away without buying anything if God forbid I should run out of it before they get there.   But yes listening is good.   I started making olive loaf because people kept asking for it.   And now I'm making whole wheat.   I draw the line at gluten free.   Someone else can do that.   Thanks so much for commenting.  -Varda

isand66's picture

Nice to hear from you Varda.  This looks like a keeper with a beautiful crust and crumb.  I will definitely give this one a go soon. 

Glad to hear your business is going well.  I hope I can get over to see you in one of the markets before the season ends.


varda's picture

I  try to keep too many breads from creeping into the mix but can't keep this one out.   Very basic but really delicious and some people must have their whole wheat.  It would be great to see you at the market. Thanks for commenting.  -Varda's picture

...are stubborn buggers, eh?  I know: I'm married to one.  I've yet to present her with a 100% WW SD, but this one -- who knows.  It's exquisite, Varda -- a real triumph and tribute to your baker's chops.  But 57% hydration...really?  My current 100%WW sandwich loaf is something like 72%.  Amazing you get a crumb like that at 57.  Percent that is, not age :-)

Do you think your particular combination of starters here is key?  I have to wonder how critical that combo is for the outcome you show.  Thoughts?

Glad to hear the markets are going well.  Hope the good season continues for you.


varda's picture

Hey Tom,  

I can't remember why hydration on this is so low - I was just fiddling around while baking (a lot of) other bread and this is the one that stuck.   Maybe Abel's loaf (the disappeared one) was low hydration which is how I started in that direction. I believe the low hydration contributes to the loft of the loaf.   If hydration were higher than the loaf would flatten out, and I believe the character would change.  Also, it's not all that dry because of the addition of oil and honey, but it is pretty dry.   One reason for the relatively long bulk ferment and proof is because it takes awhile for the yeasty beasties to make their way through this dough.   You have to wait until the dough achieves a certain lightness of being before moving on to the next step.

I made earlier versions of this with only white starter, and another with only rye sour and they weren't nearly as good.   I only added both starters because I came up short on white on one round.   Somehow that made a big difference even though the rye sour is only 5%.  Ordinarily I would try to shrink this down to one starter, but I won't do that here.

Do you have a rye sour and a white starter?   If so, I would definitely give this a try, as you will get lots of husband points.  

Thanks Tom. 


dabrownman's picture

was 67% hydration.  At 57% it would be in WW bagel territory - which is not  bad idea:-)'s picture

I checked Peter Reinhart's 100%WW hearth bread:  70.5% hydration, in line with Abel's, whose didn't appear to be all red wheat (too light) and wow what an airy crumb for 100%WW.  And yep, just rye sour.  Now I'm inspired. 

Thanks for taking the time to post that one, Varda!  I need all the husband points I can get.


Janetcook's picture

Hi Varda,

I have been wondering how you summer has been going so it was great to see your above post and read that some people are wanting whole grains and that they are returning for more.  Yeah!

I am not sure what your routine is like with all of the breads you bake for the restaurant and the farmer's market but I thought I would mention the timing I use with my whole grains which I picked up from txfarmer.  Makes things very easy as time does most of the work.  Figure it may help with your addition of ww loaves to your line up.

I generally only use 15% pre-fermented flour in all of my loaves.  HL between 70 −80% depending on time of year.

I do my leaven builds during the day - 2 builds but you can just use the leaven you have for your other loaves.  ( I do 2 to keep my leaven from getting too sour since it is made with whole grains too.)

I mix the final dough in the evening and let it sit out at room temp. for an hour or so depending on the temp. so that the leaven can begin to work a bit.  I look for about a 25% rise in the doughs.  Dough is then refrig. for the night.  Following morning I let it warm up for a couple of hours prior to shaping and final proof which are generally 2 hours long.  (I do use IY in some of my doughs in the amount of 0.1% to keep to the 2 hour proof time just because that is what fits in with my daily schedule.)

Phil has some great 100% ww loaves which I am sure you have probably already seen.  His method is different though and would probably work better for you since I am sure your refrigerator space is limited for an overnight bulk fermenting time.  Your loaf looks very much like his desem loaf with Ian's scoring pattern :) I can see you are using red whole wheat - nice hearty color to the crumb.

How are you liking your mixer?  

Thanks for the update on your baking.  I love reading about what you are up to and where your baking has taken you.

Take Care,


varda's picture

I switch back and forth between overnight bulk retard and counter bulk ferment depending on baking schedule, refrigerator space, etc.  

This is definitely not a desem loaf (starter is not whole wheat, and of course the honey and oil.)   I have made several horrible desem loaves - one of them I'm sure trying to follow Phil.   I just don't like the taste of unadulterated whole wheat I guess, and have no desire to maintain a whole wheat starter.   Kudos to you for doing it.  

Mixer is a life saver.   I have mixed as much as 25 lb of dough in it - its capacity limit - and it handles it just fine.   Of course I didn't expect to reach the limit so soon, so that's a little disturbing.  

Hope you are having a lovely end of summer and thanks for commenting.


Bröterich's picture

Hi Varda:

very nice looking bread!

Is this the post that you are referring to?




varda's picture

I see why I didn't find it - it's from 2013.   Thanks so much for the link - I'll edit my post.   And for your comments.  -Varda

Mebake's picture

The crumb look sort of compact. I have always struggled with rye leavened 100% whole wheat. So I salute you for being bold at it. Rye starter organisms don't like whole wheat organisms, I've come to believe, and that is why such method of leavening isn't optimal. I like your white starter addition, I'm sure it must have helped.

Congrats on your market efforts. Waiting to see more from you soon, Varda/

All the best wishes,


varda's picture

Hi Khalid,  

Well this is certainly not an open crumb bread.  I first tried all rye sour as leaven a la Abel.   I have no idea how he got his result but I certainly couldn't duplicate it - thick as a brick and around as tasty.   Of course flours vary.   Then I went to all white starter.   Texturewise this was better but taste was kind of dull.   The addition of a small amount of rye sour made the flavor pop.   This is a really delicious bread and despite appearances not particularly dense - but you are right, it is compact.   I could add more water, I suppose, but it is really nice the way it is, so I'll leave be.

I'm in heavy duty business planning mode right now.   Hope it will lead to something.

Thanks for commenting and hope you are doing well.