What I Loved
Sourdough bread is delicious. It has a tangy tartness that wakes up the palate, and seemingly goes with everything. It is incredibly difficult to find whole wheat sourdough bread. No bakery in my town sells it. So what does one do when they can’t find whole wheat sourdough bread? You learn to make your own. Fortunately for you, I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error with this whole wheat sourdough bread recipe and have begun to get a fairly consistent result.
The whole wheat gives the bread a nutty and earthy flavor. However, the tang from the fermentation cuts through an otherwise dense flavor. The result is a bread that is incredibly healthy and tasty. You have to make this recipe. You deserve to have your house filled with the smell of fresh baked bread. Treat yourself!
How to Develop A Whole Wheat Sourdough Starter
Developing a starter is an incredibly simple thing. I am a complete sourdough novice and I did it. I followed the King Arthur method, which can be found here. When many people develop a sourdough starter, they go through unnecessary steps. I’ve heard some recipes call for adding fruit or vegetables to jump start the fermentation process. This is entirely not necessary. You need two ingredients, whole wheat flour and water.
Summary of King Arthur Method
This is a great method for developing a whole wheat sourdough starter. Fair warning.. It will seem like you are discarding an awful lot of flour when you make it. Just consider it the price for having a great starter. The King Arthur method works really well. However, they transition the starter to white flour near the end of the process. I ignore that and continue adding whole wheat flour. It didn’t impact my results in any way and it allowed me to keep my bread completely 100% whole wheat.
Combine 1 cup whole wheat flour with 1/2 cup lukewarm water in a non-reactive container. Mix thoroughly and ensure there is no dry flour in the container. I use a glass jar that has a 1 quart capacity for this. Loosely cover the container and let it sit at warm room temperature for 24 hours.
You may be noticing some activity with your starter in the form of air pockets or bubbles forming. If you don’t see any activity, don’t worry.
Remove half the starter, roughly 4 ounces or 1/2 cup, and add 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Mix well and store at warm room temperature for 24 hours.
Your starter should now have some activity and have a fruity, tangy, aroma. Now you are going to do 2 feedings a day. Space them about 12 hours apart. When I did this I did it in the morning and at night. You’re going to follow the same process as step 2 for each feeding. Remove 4 ounces, or 1/2 cup of starter, and add a scant cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water.
Repeat the instructions for the third day. Discard 4 ounces of the starter and add 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Do this twice per day as evenly spaced as possible.
By this point your starter should be good to go. It should double in volume, have many bubbles throughout, and emit a tangy aroma. Give it one last feeding by removing 4 ounces of starter and adding 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup water. If you aren’t seeing any bubbles, or signs of activity, then keep repeating the fourth day instructions until you have that activity.
Important Tips and Points
I try and build my starter up over time. You can add a little more flour and water each time if you are trying to get enough over time for multiple loaves, or if you want to share your starter with friends or family.
When you have a fed and active starter, it is important to cover and store in the refrigerator. You need to feed the starter once per week. Every week I make my whole wheat sourdough bread recipe. I remove 8 ounces of starter and add 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup water, sometimes a tablespoon more water, to my remaining starter in my container. This keeps my starter fed and active every week.
Three Ingredient Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup water
8 ounces starter
Combine salt and flour. Mix well. Add the water and starter. Mix with your hands until a smooth dough starts to form. Knead for 30 minutes. The dough will be sticky until you have been kneading it for several minutes.
Once you have kneaded the dough, and it is elastic, set it in a warm place to rise. I will set the oven on warm, let it come to temperature, then turn it off. I’ll put the bowl with the dough in the oven after the oven has had about 10 minutes to cool.
Because there is no yeast, the dough will take some time to rise. Typically it takes around 2 hours. It is important that you don’t over proof the dough. It will not be forgiving and you’ll have a flat loaf. The key is to let the dough double in size, then punch it down and place in a bread pan. Let rise until it is about a half inch to an inch above the bread pan.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Enjoy!
I can’t stress this enough, it is critical to feed your remaining starter after this process. Add a cup of flour and a half cup of water to your remaining starter in your container. Mix thoroughly and put in the fridge. If you make bread once a week, your starter will remain fed. If you go long periods without baking bread, it is critical that you feed your starter roughly once a week. It is a living thing and if you don’t feed it, it will die. Trust me, you don’t want to go through the whole process of developing a new starter every time you want fresh sour dough. Just maintain your existing starter properly, and it will always be there when you want it.
What I Learned
This is not a perfect process. This recipe is not for beginners. If you are familiar with baking bread, you will likely do just fine. The struggle is getting a feel for the consistency of the dough and starter. You get those two things correct and you won’t have any problem making the bread successfully. I am not a professional baker, and I’ve never made a lot of bread. However, I enjoy trial and error and have had a blast making this recipe. It feels good to get it right.
The other difficulty I faced was getting the dough to rise. I was adamant that I would not use yeast in the recipe. Sure you can cheat and use some yeast and your rise will be quick and effortless. However, the tang in sourdough comes from letting the dough ferment. As the dough ferments, air pockets will form and the dough will rise. This isn’t an instant process. It takes a lot of love and patience. This is part of the feel you have to get. Every starter will be different and will act different from week to week.
I also live in Utah at a higher altitude. So if you are on sea level, your rise times and even flour to ratios will vary slightly. The big thing is to experiment and get good at it. Let me know in the comments below what you experienced. If you live in Utah and want some starter, I can try and hook you up!