All-Whole-Wheat Sourdough Bread

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

My sourdough starter has been bubbling and maturing for a few weeks now, just begging me to bake some bread. And because it is so darn special and smells so damn good, I’ve been working hard to come up with ideas that’ll do it justice and more.

I first made this all-whole-wheat sourdough bread recipe a couple of weeks back by riffing off my whole-wheat sandwich bread recipe, but after the bread had baked up I realized I had made a mistake: I didn’t score the bread. While there is no need to score my regular whole-wheat sandwich bread, sourdough is different because the bacteria in the starter produce tons of gases and alcohol. When the bread bakes in the oven the gases need an escape hatch. Ideally that should be a cut or score you make on the top of the loaf

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

My unscored bread, baked in loaf pans, did rise quite nicely and had great texture, but it formed this huge, domed skin on top where all those gases got trapped with nowhere to go. Poor things.

The bread still tasted great, though, so I decided to try again, and this time I did score the bread. And because I was feeling particularly kitchen-goddess-like, what with baking with sourdough and all, I thought I’d go a step ahead and bake it up in a cast-iron skillet. Just like those superwomen of the past did.

The loaf was brilliant: it was easily the best sandwich bread I’ve ever made or had, with a light, perfectly airy texture– nothing like those dense, oversweet whole-wheat sandwich breads sold at supermarkets. The cup of sourdough starter I used in the recipe was just enough to give the bread extraordinary flavor without making it too sour, which is how both Desi and I like it.

This is a very versatile bread to bake, shape-wise. You can divide it into two and bake it up in loaf pans for a more conventional look. Or you can form it into a round boule and bake it on a baking sheet and it would look cute as a button. Or do as I did and bake it up in a cast-iron pan.

The recipe follows. Enjoy, all!

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

All-Whole-Wheat Sourdough Bread

(Makes one large boule or two regular-sized loaves)


Mix in a large bowl and set aside for five minutes until it begins to froth:

2 tsp active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

Then add to the bowl:

1 cup sourdough starter (Read this for instructions on how to get a starter going)

1 cup warm soymilk

1 cup warm water

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp maple syrup (use sugar if you’d rather)

1 tbsp salt

2 cups white whole-wheat flour (use regular whole-wheat flour if you can’t find this)

1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour

Mix together by hand or at low speed in a stand mixer until everything is well-mixed. Then, add a little at a time until the dough is no longer sticky:

1 to 2 cups of white whole-wheat flour (add more flour if the dough’s still sticky).

Continue kneading for another 10 minutes. You should have a pliable dough that looks slightly sticky but doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl or your hand.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turning once so the top of the dough is coated with oil.

Cover with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise in a warm place (like a cold oven with the pilot light on) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in volume.

Now punch down the dough, and put it back in the bowl to rise for another hour.

Lightly grease a cookie sheet or a 10-inch cast iron skillet or two standard (6-cup) loaf pans. Sprinkle with some cornmeal or coarse semolina (rava or sooji).

Now punch the dough down again. If you are going to bake in a cast-iron pan or on a baking sheet, shape the dough into a round boule, tucking the seams underneath, and place it in the pan or the sheet. If you are using a baking sheet, you can also divide the dough into two and shape it into two smaller boules.

If you are baking in loaf pans, divide the dough into half. Shape each half into an oval, tucking the seams underneath. Place each oval into a loaf pan.

Sift some flour on top of the bread and cover loosely with a kitchen towel. Set aside to rise for 90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a sharp knife or blade, score the top of the loaf or loaves. If you are baking a boule, you can cut in a cross-hatch pattern, as I did. If you are baking a loaf, make two long, parallel, slightly diagonal cuts in the top of each loaf.

Bake the bread for 60 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and continue cooling on the rack. If you are using cast iron, be extremely careful and use mitts when removing the loaf because the iron gets very hot and doesn’t cool down as fast as regular bakeware does.

Fall is the perfect time to bake some bread — the kitchen is at just the right temperature to get the oven going, and it’s not so cold that the yeast plays hard to rise. Besides, the smell of bread baking makes you feel all cozy and comfy and warm inside.

If you are someone who’s never baked bread before, I hope this will be the weekend you will try your hand at it. Sure, it’s easy to buy great artisan breads now at bakeries and even supermarkets, but trust me there is nothing quite so delicious as the bread you bake yourself. It’s also a great way to show those you cook for how much you care. Don’t be daunted by all those stories about how hard bread-making can be. You might not get perfect results the first time, but you will get better with practice.

I’ve posted tons of bread recipes over the last four years on Holy Cow!, including some with detailed guides on basic bread-making: feel free to browse through them. But the best piece of advice I can give you it is to follow recipes to the letter and not try to substitute a little bit here and there, especially if you are new at this. In bread-making — or almost any kind of baking– small changes can lead to big disasters. Once you get more experienced at making breads, you will be able to come up with your own recipes because you’ll have a better understanding of how the ingredients work together.

Now go, bake some bread!

This recipe goes to YeastSpotting, hosted this week by Hefe und mehr.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    Your bread looks just beautiful! I’ve always wanted to make my own sourdough, but I’ve never taken the time to make a starter! I just may have to start one now, though!

  2. says

    Happy Cook, Anu, Thanks!

    JP, It’s definitely worth it.

    Vic, Gayatri, Thanks!

    Poornima, yes, I have been on a bit of a bread-making bender lately. :)

    Priya, thanks!

  3. says

    I just made this with my starter from your sourdough pretzels a couple weeks ago. It’s cooling now and I can’t wait to try it! It looks JUST like yours 😀 Overjoyed!

    PS My pretzels were delicious too. They didn’t taste like pretzels but they were still tasty.

  4. Anonymous says

    Hi vaishali,
    The bread looks awesome and yummy. Since m a novice to this sour dough thing; is it not that there’s too much of sourness in the bread? and also how long can this sour dough be kept if not used in one go?

    God Bless

  5. says

    Richa, You likely will. :) I’m a sourdough fan now–the taste gets really special after the starter has been maturing for a while.

    SkinnyMinnie, that’s wonderful. Hope it turns out great.

    Nisha, no, the bread is not too sour at all with one cup of the starter. Desi and I don’t like it too sour either. The amount of starter in this recipe is just enough to give the bread great flavor and color without making it sour.
    You can keep the sourdough starter forever in your refrigerator– literally. The longer you keep it, the more flavor it will develop. Just remember to feed it each time you use some. To feed it, if you take out 1 cup of starter for your recipe, add 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast to the remaining starter and mix it all up well. Leave it out on the counter for a day or two to develop, covered with a kitchen towel. After the starter gets all bubbly, put it in the refrigerator. Every couple of days or so take a spoon and mix it up because the alcohol that develops in the starter tends to rise and separate. It will look brown, but don’t worry– it doesn’t mean the starter is spoiled. Just mix it back in. If you want a milder sourdough, pour off some of the brown liquid and then stir the remaining starter.
    Hope that helps. :)

  6. says


    Making sourdough bread seems like a great effort which is worth it, but I have thought of making it at home, as I always thought to leave to professional but I may try it.

    You and zenguy have won me over “eggplant” so this could be new thing.

    How is life with you? I have slow down a bit more than usual but trying to get back on groove slowly. Have a great thanksgiving.


  7. Anonymous says

    Vaishali thank you so much for replying me in such details. Actually it is not possible for me to get APF in the place where m currently residing, so m forced to use “maida” for baking purpose, which i personally not approve of much. And so I do not do much of baking; coz getting wheat gluten is another next to impossible thing. Since I bake with maida, do I still need to add cornstarch in some of your cookies and cakes which calls for it?

    God Bless.

  8. says

    Nisha, that’s a good question– maida has a lower gluten content than all-purpose flour, so you might be able to get away from adding cornstarch in recipes for cakes. I haven’t baked with maida, however, so I cannot positively say what the results would be like. Do let me know if you try it because I’d be interested to hear.

  9. says

    This blog is great!!! Totally got me in the mood to bake up a delicious loaf of bread! Has anybody heard anything good about the starters from Sourdough’s International? A friend suggested one of their starters, I haven’t got the chance to try them out.

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