Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Once upon a time, I made all our bread from scratch. Everything from sandwich bread to dinner rolls to cinnamon rolls and hamburger buns. As much as I enjoyed it, over time, I just kind of got out of the habit. Working with yeast dough is still one of my most favorite kitchen activities. Yes, it takes a little time, but it’s oh so worth the effort.

There’s just nothing quite like the feel of a yeast dough coming to life as you knead, watching it grow as it rises, and the smell as it bakes…nothing like it! Fresh, warm yeast bread straight from the oven slathered with butter. Name something better.

I recently got an urge to start making bread again. Sourdough bread specifically.

Of course, for sourdough you need a starter, right? There are lots of ways to acquire a starter. You can purchase a commercial starter from sources such as King Arthur Flour and Williams-Sonoma. You can get some starter from a friend who is willing to share. Or you can make your own. It’s easy. Honestly. It’s also cheap. As in pennies.

If you want to make your own sourdough starter, there are two general methods – with purchased yeast or wild yeast. What’s wild yeast? Why, it’s the yeast that’s all around us all the time. It’s in the air, on our skin, on fruit, in flour, and probably on your kitchen countertops. It’s just naturally occurring everywhere all the time. And it’s the way people made bread for thousands of years until yeast became commercially available. It’s not difficult, but it does take a little time and patience.

I want you to understand that this is my method for making sourdough starter. It’s a wild yeast method. Other people have different methods. Mine’s not better or more correct. It’s just my method. And I’m not certainly not claiming to be an expert. There are lots of folks that know a lot more than I do about sourdough and bread making in general. If you’re looking for more in-depth information as I often say “Google knows.”

Also, understand that your sourdough starter is going to taste different from everybody else’s. Some are a bit sweeter, some are more sour. That’s because there are different strains of yeast all over the world and the yeast in your environment may be totally different from yeast elsewhere. The famous San Francisco sourdough bread? It gets its taste from the yeast that naturally lives in that environment. If you got a sourdough starter from someone in San Francisco and took it to New York, it would very soon become a different starter because new strains of yeast would be introduced making it unique to the area where it lives. Make sense?

To create your very own sourdough starter, all you need are a clean glass jar, some flour, some water, and a pinch of sugar. In your glass jar, add a cup of warm water, a cup of flour, and a pinch of sugar. Stir it together really well. That’s it. That’s the recipe. However, you’re not quite finished. You now have to “grow” your starter. So here’s what you do. Cover the jar with either cheesecloth or waxed paper and secure it with a rubber band. Sit it in a warm place. It likes to be between 70 and 80 degrees. Just like me :-) Every 24 hours, stir the starter, take out about half of it and discard that. “Feed” the remaining starter in the jar with 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water. After three or four days, maybe sooner, your starter should look frothy and have a pleasant yeasty smell. Yay! You have succeeded in making sourdough starter.

Make your own sourdough starter

If your starter looks like it has separated and has a brownish-yellowish layer of liquid in it, that’s fine! That stuff is called “hooch” and it’s a natural by-product of the fermentation process. Just stir it back into the starter.

Use what you need to make your bread, feed the starter and place it back into the refrigerator. The next time you want to make a sourdough recipe, take the starter out the night before and allow it to come to room temperature.  If you don’t use the starter for a week, you’ll still need to feed it. Discard half, feed it and put it back in the fridge.

People keep starter for years using this method. If you want to try a really old starter, you can get the 1847 Oregon Trail sourdough starter for just the cost of an envelope and postage. I have a jar of it in my fridge right now. It’s a nice, mellow starter. Not too sour, not too sweet.

Whatever method you use to get your starter going, I hope you’ll use some of it to make a couple of loaves of this Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread. It’s our favorite.

Mixing ingredients for Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Kneading Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Knead on slow speed (#2) until a smooth dough forms (about 4-6 minutes). (Alternately, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough forms (about 10 minutes).)

Form a ball of kneaded Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Remove the dough from the mixer and knead 4 or 5 times on a floured surface to create a nicely rounded ball.

Place the dough in a large bowl and let it rise for about 90 minutes, lightly covered, in a warm place until doubled in size.

Form loaves of Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Divide the dough in half. Shape into two oval loaves and place on a parchment lined or lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover and let rise again for about 1 hour. Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Make two deep, diagonal slashes in each loaf.

Finished Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until deeply golden brown. Place on a baking rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Whole wheat bread with the pleasant tang of sourdough.
Serves: 2 loaves
Ingredients
  • 1 cup room temperature sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 pkg. dry active yeast
  • 1 tblsp. granulated sugar or honey
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead on slow speed (#2) until a smooth dough forms (about 4-6 minutes). Alternately, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a smooth dough forms (about 10 minutes).
  2. Place the dough in a large bowl and let it rise for about 90 minutes, lightly covered, in a warm place until doubled in size.
  3. Divide the dough in half. Shape into two oval loaves and place on a parchment lined or lightly oiled baking sheet.
  4. Cover and let rise again for about 1 hour.
  5. Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  6. Make two deep, diagonal slashes in each loaf.
  7. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until deeply golden brown.
  8. Place on a rack to cool.
Notes
Note: an additional two hours is needed for the bread to rise.

All text and photographs on Never Enough Thyme are copyright protected. Please do not use any material from this site without obtaining prior permission. If you'd like to post this recipe on your site, please create your own original photographs and either re-write the recipe in your own words or link to this post.

Other recipes using sourdough starter you might enjoy from around the internet:

What I was up to…

Never miss a recipe!
Subscribe now to receive new posts by email.

Enter your email address below to get each new post via email. We promise we'll never send spam or give your email address to anyone else. Really.

Comments

  1. Neena says

    I am definitely going to try this. I have never had any luck making bread, but maybe this will work. Thank you for this post.

    • says

      Bread, or really any yeast dough, is just about my favorite thing to bake. I think it’s because it’s a sturdy dough. Cakes and pies are hard for me because you have to be delicate with them.

  2. says

    Wow, that looks amazing! I tried making sourdough starter once (in the winter, when it was cold). It did not go very well. :D But your boules look delicious, wish I had a warm slice right now! :)

  3. Joycelyn says

    Your sourdough looks great Lana as well as looking pretty darn tasty! I love making sourdough and have been doing so for quite a few years now. My starter or favorite starter is a mixture of buttermilk and flour as I like the extra tang the buttermilk adds. I don’t use yeast in my sourdough so the rising time can be unpredictable depending on the time of the year, weather, and how active my starter might be leaving the rising time sometimes within a couple of hours to sometimes a full day, but even so, it’s always worth the wait!
    Thanks for the recipe Lana, will give it a go for sure!

    PS.. Not positive if this has worked (or if it is permitted) as my computer skills in transferring photos are pathetically limited but here’s a peek at a couple of sourdough boules I’ve made.
    Cheers!

    • says

      Don’t let the starter intimidate you, Courtney! It’s just a little flour and water with a pinch of sugar. And if it doesn’t work the first time, try, try again!

  4. Miss P says

    Ok, technical question. Can I substitute regular all purpose flour for the bread flour? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Miss P

    • says

      Yep, sure can. It’ll have a little different texture but will still work. You can also make this recipe with all bread flour or all all-purpose flour and no whole wheat. Works either way. I just like to have the whole grain stuff in mine.

  5. says

    Thanks for all the good information about yeast. Baking yeast breads is my favorite thing to do in the kitchen and I especially love using sourdough starter. Thanks for sharing your method, Lana!

  6. says

    A couple of times in my life I had sour dough starter just like my Mom. I had good luck with it, even though I was a newbie. You wait long enough between doing something you are a newbie again. Actually I had forgotten about sour dough starter. Thanx for the reminder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>