Bread baking and other homemaking activities have been taking social media by storm as people hunker down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only is baking a fun hobby, but there’s nothing like a fresh homemade slice of bread to warm the heart and nourish the soul.
Much like a loaf in the oven, sourdough has risen in popularity. A fan favorite, sourdough bread is more nutritious than regular bread thanks to the fermentation process it undergoes.
You’ll feel like an expert baker when you try our easy whole wheat sourdough bread recipe.
Overview: What Makes Sourdough Bread So Delicious?
No matter what kind of flour you use, the base of your bread relies on a sourdough starter. Made using precise measurements of flour and water, and following a specific process, starters pull wild yeast that floats in the air and use it to naturally ferment. When lactic acid bacteria and yeast in the air reach your growing starter, it starts to grow and divide, sending you on your way towards becoming a regular sourdough pro.
When it comes time to bake, your starter ferments the sugar in your dough, helping the bread rise, and lending to its tangy flavor. The fermentation process also allows the body to more readily absorb minerals like zinc, potassium, phosphate, and magnesium that are present in whole-grain bread (and whole wheat in general). Sourdough bread may be easier on people with gluten sensitivities, as the fermentation process makes it easier to digest.
Choosing The Right Flour
Unlike white and refined flours, whole wheat flours are made with the wheat that has its fiber dense bran and nutrient-rich germ still intact, hence the term whole wheat. This leaves whole wheat bread packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
That being said, not all whole wheat flour is created equally. If possible, opt for organic whole wheat as it tends to have a higher mineral content and make a more flavorful bread.
You’ll notice in the recipe that I chose to use bread flour in addition to whole wheat flour.
Bread flour is not necessary and you can play around with proportions of different flours, but its high protein content makes it ideal for a light and chewy bread. The gluten in bread flour allows it to absorb more moisture creating an elastic dough and sturdy rise and making it easier to work with.
What You’ll Need to Bake Sourdough Bread
From one beginner to another, I don’t have the fancy equipment many seasoned bread bakers swear by. As you move through more advanced levels of sourdough bread creations, it can be helpful to purchase a scale, thermometer, and dutch oven to bake your bread in.
Luckily, this is a very stripped down sourdough recipe. The only tools you’ll need are measuring cups, a large mixing bowl, plastic or cloth wrap, and a 9”x5” loaf pan.
Most importantly, you’ll need a healthy sourdough starter. King Arthur Baking Company has a helpful recipe for making your own. You can also order a kit online or get one from a friend. My trusty starter, affectionately named Beasty Yeasty, is the offspring of a twenty-year-old starter from a family friend who loves sourdough.
When timing out your baking, keep in mind that your sourdough starter will need to be fed 4-8 hours before using it. It’s usually best to feed it at night before you go to sleep so it’s ready to use in the morning.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 40-45 minutes
Total: 5 hours
- 1 cup of your fed sourdough starter (wait 4-8 hours after feeding)
- 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut oil
- 2 tbs honey or molasses
- 1 cup and 2 tbs of lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast*
*Choosing to use instant yeast depends on how robust your starter is. I didn’t wait long enough after feeding so I decided to up the ante with a bit of instant yeast. However, when done correctly, the starter acts as the leavening agent, and added yeast is not necessary. Instant yeast is a good helper for beginners, but may not give much indication of how lively your starter is.
How to Make Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Alright, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: making your bread! We’ve laid out an easy to follow, step by step process for making whole wheat sourdough bread.
1. Feed Your Starter
Feed your sourdough starter 4-8 hours before mixing your ingredients. It’s helpful to do this before you go to sleep.
2. Combine Ingredients
With your freshly fed starter, combine all your ingredients into a large bowl, and mix into a shaggy dough. You can use a dough hook on a mixer if you have one.
While this recipe is pretty straightforward, as your sourdough baking becomes more complex, you will start to track hydration levels. Whole wheat sourdough typically requires 70% or more hydration, giving it an open crumb and thin crust. Doughs with higher hydration are harder to work with but offer a richer flavor and softer texture.
3. Let Sit
Cover your dough with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes if using instant yeast. If not using yeast this will take 1½ to 2½ hours.
This first rise is called bulk fermentation, and it is when the yeast does all the hard work to consume sugars and produce ethanol, giving it that tangy flavor, and allowing the gluten to structures to organize, creating a beautiful rise. The warmer the environment, the faster your dough will rise. If you can regulate the temperature in your kitchen to be about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, that is ideal, if not, just keep an eye on your dough, to ensure it stays pillow and springy, and not too dense. If you’re not using instant yeast, and just relying on your starter, be sure to fold your dough every 30 to 45 minutes by using a dough spatula to scrape any excess from the sides of the bowl, and wet hands to gently fold the dough over on itself.
4. Flour Your Counter
Lightly dust your countertop with flour (any kind), and knead your dough by folding it over again and again, forming a smooth and sticky mixture.
5. Let Rise
Shape your dough into a log and place it in a lightly greased loaf pan or a dutch oven, cover it and let it rise once again for the final proof, or rise. This will take 60 to 90 minutes, or until it is about 1” over your loaf pan. As your sourdough technique improves, you can try with different shapes and more elaborate baking techniques. But a simple log works for your first few tries.
6. Score It
Score your bread using a wet knife or razor blade, or bakers’ lames. These pretty designs you often see on loaves are also functional – they help your bread to cook evenly.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Bake It
Bake your bread for 40 to 45 minutes, you are looking for a golden brown loaf.
9. Let It Cool
After removing your bread from the oven, let it sit for 5 minutes, then put it on a cooling rack.
The Finished Product
As tempting as it is, wait at least 30 minutes to a couple of hours before slicing into your fresh loaf. The heat inside the bread continues to cook it and slicing it too early disrupts this process. When it comes to sourdough, the longer you let it sit, the more the flavor will develop.
How to Store Your Whole Wheat Sourdough
Congratulations! You’ve just made your first loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread, while we don’t blame you if you choose to devour it in one sitting, here are some helpful storage tips.
- Store in a pantry or bread box, in a plastic, cotton, or linen bag. Consume within 2-5 days.
- If you want to freeze your bread, slice it ahead of time. Freeze it whole if you know you will want to eat the whole loaf in one sitting.
- Avoid putting it in the fridge as this will cause it to lose its flavor and texture.
A Bread Pro in The Making
Again, this recipe is relatively simple compared to other sourdough recipes you see floating around. Now that you’ve passed your first test in the world of sourdough baking, here are some of our favorite ways to eat whole wheat sourdough.
- Smeared with brie cheese, and topped with Public Goods Organic Pesto Spread
- A classic peanut butter or almond butter and jam.
- Plain with a generous serving of Public Goods Ghee.
- Make this strawberry goat cheese crostini.
- If your loaf is starting to get stale, try these easy homemade croutons.
Looking for more adventures in baking? Try this no-knead bread recipe.
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