The Fresh Loaf

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Tried and tested 100% whole-wheat sourdough recipe?

Tripleshot's picture

Tried and tested 100% whole-wheat sourdough recipe?



I'm sure you will tell me I am mad or stupid but I am new to sourdough and want to bake a 100% whole-wheat sourdough from day one (rather than ease myself into it using white). I know it's harder, I know the final product will be denser but my priority at least for now is to maximise nutritional value. So I think I need a tried and tested recipe to get my feet wet. Plenty of recipes out there but all are a mix of white and whole. I'm looking for 100% whole-wheat. Any recommendations? (Books, blogs and personal recipes welcome)


Many thanks

idaveindy's picture

Updated edition, 2003 or later.

Every recipe is 100% whole grain.


Good luck, and bon appétit.


idaveindy's picture

You said you are new to _sourdough_.

But the bigger question is: are you new to baking any bread?

What have you baked so far, if anything?

Any commercial yeast white bread?

Any commercial yeast whole wheat bread?

The answers to these questions will help guide responses. 

Tripleshot's picture

I have never baked any bread, no. But I do consider myself a confident foodie/cook with good intuition and good attention to detail. But yeah, very green at bread!

idaveindy's picture

Here's a set of Kindle books for the raw beginner:

Part I, (book 1) has how to create your sourdough starter.  But no 100% ww recipes.

If you don't understand the sourdough starter creation instructions in Part I, then get her separate book on how to create a starter.

Part II (book 2) has some intermediate bread things, procedures, techniques, and what to look for in your dough,  that you need to understand before you eventually go on to make advanced bread. But still has no 100% ww recipes,  afaik.

Part III-A (book 3) has a few 100% ww recipes. BUT... as far as I know, you have to understand the procedures and techniques explained in books 1 _AND_ 2 in order to do the recipes.

 If you were an experienced bread baker, you might have been able to skip book 2. But since you are a raw beginner, please get and read book 2, even if you do not do the recipes in it, because you still need to know what's in book 2 as a base for book 3.

And you cannot skip book 1 if you are new to sourdough.

Part III-B (book 4) has no 100% WW recipes that I could tell from a quick skim. I could be wrong on this one.

 Good luck, amigo!  And welcome to the sourdough club!

HeiHei29er's picture

I’ve made this a few times and it’s a nice recipe.  For my flours, I’m closer to 80% hydration.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Sorry for the segue, but how do you know what hydration works best with your flours?  Mariana hit home with me about the specificity of flours and ideal hydrations, but I'd sure love to know how to evaluate one's flours.  What's involved?

HeiHei29er's picture

The first time I baked it I only went to 80% (was afraid of 90%), and the dough was on the sticky side.  Don’t know that the flour (or my technique) could handle more than that.

I haven’t tried this, but here’s a test you can do.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Fantastic!  Thanks much.



mariana's picture


pour 25g of water in a small glass bowl (1/4 cup volume) and start adding flour little by little, while mixing it with a teaspoon, rubbing it with the back of the spoon against the side of the bowl to break clumps and hydrate flour particles well.

Once you achieved tacky but not sticky dough, weigh the whole shebang.

That is your ideal flour (or flour blend) hydration level:

grams of water divided by grams of flour that thickened it. 

That is the procedure that lab technicians use to determine flour absorption capacity when they test new batches of flour that arrive to the bread factory. 

Bread flours that I use usually give me normal (medium soft) consistency at 70% hydration and soft consistency at 75% hydration level. I.e. to bind 25g of water I would need to add either 35.8g or 33.3g of white flour to make medium soft of soft ball of dough.

Make sure your scale is able to detect 0.1g difference. 

best wishes


Gadjowheaty's picture

Fantastic, thank you Mariana, will do.  

This is really timely information as I ran the tests per the youtube video heihei referred to - the Rubaud blend of flour with hydrations 60-80% in 5% hydration increments, and a 30 minute autolyse.  What I found was the flour held well just to 75%, so was thinking the sweet spot was 73-74% (70% was positive, 75% was just barely a "fail" by my estimation).

What I didn't (and don't still know) is if this only shows potential at 30 min. autolyse - i,e., would those numbers change with a 3 hour autolyse (or whether absorption is absorption, irrelevant to more autolyse).

Really appreciate the protocol (and driving home the importance of knowing one's own flours).  Looking forward to running the test you indicated, now.


mariana's picture

Paul, absorption could be determined in seconds or it could take hours. It is different from gluten formation, which this man was really testing.

He wasn't testing absorption, but how well gluten was forming at different hydrations after 30min rest. At some hydrations there was more gluten, and he had rubbery dough, at others, after thirty min rest, not as much or so little gluten was able to form in 30min that there was no cohesiveness. 

Absorption is how much flour it takes to fully absorb those 25g water and obtain certain dough consistency.

This water is absorbed quickly, if you rub flour thoroughly, so that water penetrates inside each flour particle. You see instant results. Or it can be absorbed very slowly, if you make a shaggy mass and let it sit for three or more hours for water to seep in slowly, passively, into large and small clumps and larger and smaller flour particles of flour as is done in no-knead bread dough..

Have you seen how flour looks under microscope? Some flour parcicles are minute while others are like boulders next to them.

All purpose flour

Whole grain flour

You need to rub thoroughly in order to moisten them all throughout, to massage water into flour particles. The larger particles will soften and be thoroughly moistened by rubbing. That is why you don't use fingers, but hard spoon against hard side of the bowl to rub, to do fraissage as you do your lab work :)



Gadjowheaty's picture

Oh, right, gotcha.  Thanks mariana.  Thank you as always for taking the time.  Those images are awesome.

Gadjowheaty's picture

Caveats as usual due to measurement error or my lack of accuracy distinguishing "tacky" from "sticky," I came up with 34.75 grams, giving me 71.9%.  I know it's hard to say and OP, I'm mindful I'm hijacking your thread - I apologize and will close my posts here), but does that seem at least ballpark reasonable? (70% KA AP, 18% KA WW, 9% local spelt, 3% local rye)?

A fundamental piece of learning I'd not had.  Many thanks, mariana.




btw:  forgot to ask, is that electron microscopy?  Those are really beautiful images.

mariana's picture

Yes, Paul, that's SEM, scanning electron microscopy from Science Photo website. 

Sure, it could be anything from 40% hydration to 100% hydration to obtain a soft piece of dough, tacky but not sticky, depending on the amount of fiber, flour moisture, amount of protein, starch damage and million of other things. 71.9% is right in the middle : ))) An average flour absorption level, classic. 

It also depends on water with which you regularly bake. Soft water makes sticky soft dough, hard water makes a very manageable dough. Try the same experiment with distilled water and see for yourself, Paul. 

I hope that the topicstarter would also learn from it, so don't worry. It is something that every newbie should discover for themselves - their flour quality. 


Gadjowheaty's picture

Really rewarding, thanks again.  FWIW I re-did it with what I think was a better means (I tared the water, ramekin, and spoon I used to mix), and came up with what seemed like a very obvious "break" right around 33.75g, so 74%.

Our water here is soft but the previous sample I sent off to Ward Labs (that's who I use) for analysis was several years ago, and besides drew from a different city-well.  It would be good to know what my (10-stage filter) water is composed of at this location so I'll send it off.


Yippee's picture


Making great whole-wheat bread requires both reliable techniques and good recipes. I've had excellent results using Concentrated Lactic Acid Sourdough (CLAS) to make whole wheat/grain bread. CLAS is simple. So, it is easy to use, especially for beginners. I encourage you to check it out.

Here's one of my favorite whole wheat breads that I made with CLAS. 


P.S. Here's how I develop gluten for whole wheat dough

alcophile's picture

I was a bread baker when I was younger, but not exclusively whole grain. I decided to return to bread baking late last year and wanted to make whole grain breads. I was surprised that it was a LOT harder than I thought it would be and a lot harder than using all-purpose or bread flour. I had several bricks instead of loaves. Even Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book did not give me consistent success and required a lot of kneading, but it is a good book for learning bread baking techniques.

Then I discovered Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads. He has a method of overnight soaker and yeasted biga that is now my go to for recipes. I don’t mind the commercial yeast that he uses in most recipes, but he also has instructions for using sourdough starter in place of the biga. The instructions are thorough and easy to follow. I highly recommend this book (I have the e-book and it is easy to use).


justkeepswimming's picture

One of the earliest videos I watched that had a simple, no stress approach is Elly's Everyday. She mills her own flour, but says to use any whole wheat. She simplified the whole process for me.

See what you think.


justkeepswimming's picture

Elly has several videos, including one she did for the approachable loaf project. Something about her communication style made making a good basic sourdough whole wheat bread more simple for me. 

Her "approachable loaf":

And her you tube channel (she has been working to consolidate her past videos into one playlist):

JeremyCherfas's picture

You said you wouldn't mind personal recipes, so here is mine.

Do you already have a good starter? Don't be afraid to get someone else's starter and change it over a couple of feeds to be what you need.

Good luck.


barryvabeach's picture

While I regularly recommend trying to substitute a little whole wheat into a recipe, and over time increase the amount,  I did it the way you are doing it, just switched to 100% whole wheat and kept at it. 

The best advice I can give it take one recipe, and just keep repeating it till you feel comfortable with it.  And remember that while we say 100% whole wheat -  my whole wheat and yours are likely different.  I use 100% white wheat - either spring or winter depending on which I bought, and I home mill, so that will be another difference.

Also, our starters will behave very differently, even if the original came from the same source, depending on how they were maintained.  So you may have to make many adjustments to hydration, timing, mixing, etc, to get it to come out looking good.  In general, it is extremely difficult to get a 100% whole wheat to have the same appearance as an AP or BF loaf, the taste.  On the other hand, the "failures", at least using home milled, taste far better, and that should be the point anyway, to make something that tastes great.

mariana's picture


If you have no experience with baking at all, whole wheat won't be difficult. You would have nothing to compare with anyways. Well, you could compare with the store baked whole wheat breads of course. 

The best recipe for you would be from someone from your region who uses the same brand of whole wheat flour that you would be using. This is a world wide forum, we don't know where you are from. Whole wheat varies greatly in quality and that affects bread enormously.

Here's one example. The same great recipe baked with different brands of whole wheat bread flour from Brasil. 



These pictures illustrate two things.

A great recipe reveals the quality of flour. You can use the same recipe to test new bags of flour to see what gives.

Also, some flours require different recipes to make them shine in bread, a special approach that won't necessarily work with different flours. If you have access to only one kind of flour, find a recipe for that flour. Maybe from the website of its manufacturer or from someone else who bakes with it and has a blog or post it on the forums. 

So, don't expect it to be difficult and don't be too quick to judge yourself as a green baker should the bread not look or taste as expected. If you find a good recipe for the flour that you use from someone from your region you would do just fine from the beginning. 

I don't find whole wheat baking to be harder or whole wheat breads denser than white breads, because I bake with Canadian flours and they are awesome. If anything, they give me whole wheat breads that are too light and  fluffy to my taste and I buy European whole wheat flours to make heavier, more substantial loaves. 

Whole wheat sourdough is both beautiful and indescribably flavorful. You will love it.

One thing that I would recommend a total sourdough newbie though is to get your sourdough culture from some store. Treat it as another ingredient that you can buy, so that you can focus on bread itself to get yourself going.

Later you can start creating your own starters, mill your own flour, mine your own salt and collect your own water from well or streams, whatever. Initially, just focus on bread baking starting with reliable ingredients. 

This starter, for example, is excellent, if you are baking in North America:

Good luck! 


clazar123's picture

If you want to bake 100% WW,sourdough bread as your initiation to breadmaking, don't think of it as "harder" than baking with AP flour-it just has a different learning curve. No matter what you start with, a lot of the principles are the same and can translate between flour. Each flour type, each flour source,each bake are different and have a bit of a learning curve.

As I see it, you have 2 big learning curves-making/maintaining a sourdough starter and making bread (sub-specialty-making bread with WW flour.) Someone ahead of me in the comments suggested you get a recipe and make it over and over until you master it. I DEFINITELY concur. Keep a notebook, change 1 thing and try again,re-assess and keep going.

You can do 2 learning curves at the same time. Get the starter going but also start baking 100%WW bread using commercial yeast. It will allow you to get to know the million things you need to learn about dough,hydration,crumb, baking,etc,etc, while you are learning about starters. When you become more adept at dough and bread-baking, the switchover to sourdough will be easier. Look up some of my posts on working with whole wheat. It has different characteristics than AP flour or even a mix of AP?WW. I have written about it often.

You will find TONS of seemingly conflicting advice on most subjects but esp. about starters. You can look up my posts-again, I've written many times about the "concept" learning involved in making a starter. Decide on a method, document, see how it goes. If you change something, document and track in your notebook. Great learnning too.

Good luck and have fun. Bake some deliciousness!


Tripleshot's picture

Thank you everyone for the suggestions. I wanted to let you know how I got on. I made my first ever bread! 100% whole wheat too. Could I get some help improving for next time (see photos and details on my process below)? Sorry for the long post and many questions. I am new to this! 

I followed this recipe (mostly, I just allowed the mixed ingredients to rest 30 mins before starting to build strength but followed it pretty much to the letter aside from that!)


500g whole wheat (Bacheldre Organic Stoneground, 14% protein)

425g water (85% hydration)

100g starter (20%)

Kitchen temp 23.5 C



Starter was past peak when I started but I don't think by much (will adjust feeding next time)

I mixed water, starter, flour and salt. Mixed well. Let it rest for 30 mins then started to build dough strength.

I did 4 rounds of dough strength (some stretch and fold some coil ones) -- I expect this wasn't done properly seeing I'd never done it before!

I split mixture into 2 smaller loaves (want to bake the 2nd later to see what effect longer time in the fridge makes)

I extracted a small sample  after first stretch and fold which stayed close to main dough (so same room temp). I started pre-shaping when this showed 100% rise and was still showing a dome (photo is what the dough sample looked like when I finally put my dough in the fridge, the dome had collapsed and had started to come down).

I did the finger poke test and I think the spring back was a bit quick but the dough felt soft and airy and it had already been about an hour since my sample showed the 100% increase so didn't want to leave longer.

At my last coil fold the dough still felt like it had a lot of resistance, not fully relaxed like I've seen in other videos.

I shaped the loaves, put them in the basket and left them at room temp for 30 mins before moving to the fridge (2.9 temp, covered with dry towel). First loaf was in fridge for 12 hours before being baked straight from fridge.

I baked in cast iron pan. Oven heated to 240 C until dutch oven temp inside was 230 C (measured with oven probe). Dutch oven is quite small so dough fit in perfectly with no room to flatten out. I spritzed a little water on top before putting the lid on. Baked for 25 mins with lid on then another 20 with lid off. Internal temp 99 C. Allowed to cool 2 hours before cutting.


Taste is beautiful and tangy but not enough oven spring. My partner says it's a touch too sour but I quite like it like that. I'd like a more open crumb. It also feels a bit gummy at the bottom even though internal temp was 99 C. It was a bit hard to cut into bottom half with a well serrated knife .



Is my dough under proved or over proved? How can I diagnose?

Gummy texture at the bottom -- is this because it didn't rest long enough or should I have cooked for longer?

It feels like I should have baked it hotter, at maybe 240 C and sprayed more water in order to open up more. Maybe an ice cube or two?

Does the size of the cast iron pan matter? I figured a nice snug fit would stop it from flattening out but maybe it needs more room to steam.

Should I have adjusted baking timings to adjust for the fact that it's a 250g loaf?

Does the noticeable tang/sourness suggest the starter was way past peak?


Any other feedback/suggestions I should try next time? Many thanks!


Many thanks!