The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Wholemeal sourdough

-'_-''s picture

Wholemeal sourdough

Beginner reporting in. I've been baking for a month now and I work with whole grains. Ideally, I'd like to see a sourdough whole wheat bread with a killer rise -- this (what you see above) is as close as I've gotten.

I feel like I'm getting a sense for techniques which work and those that don't. What is clear to me is that bread handling and timing are crucial, and that (for example) what kind of flour or baking device one uses is less important. For one bread I'll do most of the work in two stainless steel bowls. A banneton and dutch oven are not essential but do appear to improve the appearance of the bread.

Ingredients: weight (baker's %)

  • Wholemeal (white whole wheat) flour: 500g (100%)
  • Water: 410g (80%)
  • Starter (100% hydration): 75g (15%)
  • Salt: 12g (2%)


  1. 4 hour autolyse (salt, water, flour)
  2. Bulk ferment 7-8 hours, with occasional, gentle stretches and folds every 1-2 hours
  3. Proof in fridge in rice-floured banneton, wrapped in plastic bag
  4. Slashed and baked at 450F in dutch oven for 20 minutes with lid on, then 45 minutes with lid off


  • Shaping the dough extra tightly helped the dough maintain its shape in the banneton. I think this contributed to the good overall shape of the baked bread
  • Oven and dutch oven were both preheated, though it is not clear whether this is necessary in general
  • Bread was "flipped" from banneton into dutch oven, with success
  • The fact that the dough was cold may have made it easier to make clean slashes
  • I realize it is controversial to autolyse with salt. I would like to repeat this recipe with and without salt in the autolyse and compare


Lechem's picture

Your recipe is sound and results very good!

I only have one point to make and that autolyse is done without the salt. "Killer Rise" and Wholegrain probably will never go together. I think you've gotten the best rise, or close to, possible for an all wholegrain sourdough.

-'_-''s picture

Thanks. I'm aware this was a good rise, but I have a hunch that one can push it further with small refinements here and there.

As an example, it looks as if slightly deeper slashes would have allowed the surface to expand more. As you can see from the photos above the slashes were stretched to the point that they lie flush with the crust. Hopefully on the next loaf they'll be concave, indicating that the gas expanded to its maximum volume unrestricted by the tension in the crust.

Floydm's picture

Looks great!

dabrownman's picture

can get inside and out.  Really a great one for such a hew baker too!.  It took me 40 years ti be able to do that!

Well done and happy baking 

Filomatic's picture

You have no right to bake that well after only a month.  I, too, am curious about your use of salt in the autolyse.  I've been contemplating a 100% WW since I got my mill, and you've inspired me.

-'_-''s picture

I'm flattered, thanks. I'd like to make a comparison between the two cases (with/without salt in flour/water mixture), but for that I'll need some objective metrics, and I'm not yet sure what those metrics might be. 

I prepared a dough today with a proper autolyse. Curiously, I did indeed notice that it felt much more elastic than before. Though other variables might have changed besides just the salt. I hope to have a better feel for how salt affects the dough in the near future.

IceDemeter's picture

and it looks like you've set yourself up with an elegantly simple and successful recipe and procedure - well done!

I've seen the "flour soak with salt" (since technically an "autolyse" doesn't have salt ;) ) done by Trevor J Wilson for a couple of his recipes on his Breadwerx site (he actually soaks the flour and water overnight at room temperature, so uses the salt to prevent unwanted enzyme activity), but not for shorter soaks like this one.  I do hope that you post your results if you try a true autolyse without the salt to see if it makes any difference!

Kudos on getting such great result with whole meal --- it's not an easy thing to do, and speaks volumes to your skills!

-'_-''s picture

You caught me -- that's where I got the idea.

I once had trouble mixing the salt into the dough, so when I saw Trevor mix the salt and water, I copied him. I did not appreciate that the salt may slow down the chemistry, and that that may be why he rests the dough for longer. That's something interesting to look into.