Say goodbye to store-bought loaves and hello to the joy of crafting your very own easy, whole grain red wheat sourdough bread from scratch. Let’s roll up our sleeves, dust our hands with flour, and create the most nutritious bread you’ve ever had.
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There’s something incredibly satisfying about baking your own bread, and when it’s a wholesome, whole grain sourdough bread, the satisfaction level soars. Here we will dive deep into the art and science of sourdough bread-baking, embracing the rich, nutty flavors of whole grains.
Harnessing the power of wild yeast, we can create a beautifully textured, sourdough masterpiece.
For this easy whole grain red wheat sourdough recipe, you simply need:
- 500 grams of whole grain red wheat flour. I used a mix of Yecora Rojo Wheat and Sprouted Red Wheat. You could simply use a regular hard red wheat flour.
- 425 grams of water
- 100 grams of sourdough starter
- 12 grams of salt
Step 1: Using a food scale, weigh out 500 grams of red wheat. Add 100 grams of healthy sourdough starter (bubbly or unfed starter both work, as long as it’s well-maintained & healthy), 425 grams of water, and 12 grams of salt.
Step 2: Stir all the ingredients together thoroughly. Mix well, using hands if necessary, to form a shaggy dough. All you’re aiming for right now is that it’s mixed well and there are no dry bits of flour. It doesn’t need to be smooth or a ball.
Step 3: Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Stretches & Folds
Step 4: After your 30 minute rest, you will perform the first set of stretches and folds. This is where you grab the dough from the edge and pull up as high as the dough allows without ripping, then fold the dough down over the middle. I like to do this several time in each set. Some people just do it 4 times (like a north, south, east, west if you think of it like a compass), but I like to get anywhere from 8-12 stretches in. So using the compass example, I like to stretch at North, Northwest, West, Southwest, South, South East, East, North East. And maybe even some in between. In my experience, this number of stretches really benefits high hydration whole grain doughs such as this one.
Step 5: Next, let the dough rest 30 minutes, then do another set of stretches and folds.
Step 6: Rest dough 30 minutes, complete your third set of stretches & folds.
Step 7: Then, give your dough another 30 minute rest, and then complete your final set of stretches and folds.
Planning Your Bulk Fermentation
Step 8: After that final set of stretches and folds is complete, transfer your dough to a clear, straight-sided container. Wet the back of your hand and press down on the dough to flatten it so you can mark the starting point for the rise on the side of the container. Mark that starting point, then measure the volume of your dough. If your container has measurement marks, use those. If not, just use a ruler. Take the temperature of your dough with a thermometer. For a dough temp close to 75 degrees, aim for a 50% rise and mark the goal line for your rise to help you track.
Example: If your ruler measures the dough at 6 inches, you want to let it rise until it reaches 9 inches (6 + 50% of 6 = 9). If your dough temp is closer to 70 degrees, let it rise 75%. If you have a warm dough close to 80, you may want to only let it go 30%. These percentages are chosen based on how long it will take the dough to come down to a temp low enough in the fridge during the cold proof to stop fermentation. Until the dough temp gets low enough, it will continue to ferment, which is why the warmer the dough is, the less you let it rise during your bulk fermentation. All of these percentages are an estimate–your flour/starter/kitchen may vary. I will say, though, that those who monitor the temp of their dough and watch the rise accordingly get consistently good results.
Allow your dough to ferment until it reaches your goal. This can take several hours. For me, my dough is usually around 73. If I’m using freshly milled flour, it takes about 6 hours (using unfed starter). For store bought whole wheat flour at the same temperature, it takes about 8.
Step 9: Pour out your dough onto a work surface and do a pre-shape. This is where you lightly form it in a ball to help build structure. Let it rest for about 20 minutes.
Step 10. Turn your dough ball back over so the smooth part is down on the counter. Press the dough into a rectangle with your hands. Shape it into a boule or batard, however you prefer. You can watch my video to see how I shape mine.
Step 11: Then transfer it smooth side down to the banneton and pinch the bottom seam together to help make surface tension.
Step 12: Cover and place in the fridge for 8 hours (up to 48 hours).
Step 13: After the cold proof, take your lidded baking vessel (I use a stone baker from Pampered Chef) and place it in the cold oven. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 14: Once the oven is pre-heated, remove the dough from the fridge. Turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper or a dough sling and score it down the middle.
Step 15: Carefully remove the baker from the oven and remove the lid. Transfer your loaf to the baker. Spray it 10 times with a spray bottle of water. Quickly place the lid on the baker and then transfer to the oven. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
Step 16: After 30 minutes, remove the lid on your baker. Lower the heat to 425 and bake for another 13-15 minutes.
Step 17: Remove bread from the oven when the crust is done to your liking. Allow to cool until it reaches room temperature before slicing (if you can…I know it’s hard! Nothing’s better than warm bread fresh from the oven. But allowing it to fully cool gives the best crumb).
Step 18: Slice and enjoy!
I mean… just look at this bread. It’s so soft, so airy… not at all the heavy and dense bricks that so many people end up with when they try baking with whole grains. It all comes down to having enough liquid in the recipe, putting the work in to develop good gluten structure (the stretches & folds) without overdoing it–it’s finding a sweet spot. And then using a covered baker, especially one that can “hug” the loaf a bit as you see in my pictures above, helps it keep good structure in the oven while it’s baking.
Tips & Variations
- Feel free to try different combinations of whole grain flours. While this is written for red wheat, you can substitute some of the red wheat for other whole grain flours if you wish. Results may vary.
- If red wheat flavor is too strong for you, check out my other basic 100% whole grain sourdough recipe that uses some hard white wheat!
Per one 75 gram slice of bread:
- Calories: 154
- Protein: 5.9 grams
- Fat: .9 gram (.2 saturated)
- Carbs: 33.3 grams
- Fiber: 5.2 grams
This bread is best eaten within a few days for optimal freshness. However, keep it in an airtight container and it can last up to a week!
You may also wish to freeze half the loaf if you don’t think you can eat it quick enough. This bread thaws well.
Here are some of my favorite items for making great loaves of sourdough bread.
Easy Whole Grain Red Wheat Sourdough
- 1 Mixing Bowl
- 1 Wooden Spoon or Silicone Spatula
- 1 Food Scale
- 1 Clear, straight-sided Container for bulk ferment–optional, highly recommended
- 1 Bench Scraper for shaping–optional, but helpful
- 1 Banneton
- 1 Dough Lame or sharp knife for scoring
- 1 Lidded Baker Such as a clay baker or dutch oven
- 1 Spray Bottle filled with water
- 500 grams Whole Wheat Flour Red Wheat, such as Bob's Red Mill
- 425 grams Water
- 100 grams Sourdough Starter Active or unfed okay
- 12 grams Salt
- Using a food scale, measure out 500 grams of flour, 100 grams of sourdough starter, 425 grams of water, and 12 grams of salt into a mixing bowl. Stir together thoroughly until it makes a shaggy dough. Let rest 30 minutes.
- Complete your first set of stretches and folds. Grab the edge of the dough and pull up until you get resistance, but be careful not to rip it. Fold the dough back down to the other side of the bowl. Work your way around the whole ball of dough doing 8-12 stretches and folds. Let dough rest 30 minutes.
- Do three more sets of stretches and folds (four total) with 30 minutes of rest in between each set.
- Right after the fourth set, transfer your dough to a clear, straight-sided container to monitor the bulk ferment. Wet the back of your hand to press down & flatten the top of a dough. Make a mark on the outside of your container to mark the dough's starting point. Assuming a dough temperature of 75 degrees, aim for a 50% rise. Add 50% of your dough's current height to it's total height, and then make a mark at that new height to help you monitor. See notes.
- When the bulk ferment is over, pour dough out onto the counter and complete a pre-shape with light stretches & folds to make the dough into a ball. Using a bench scraper, turn the ball over so the smooth side is facing up. Let dough rest 20 minutes.
- Use your bench scraper to turn the dough ball back over, smooth side down. Flatten the dough gently into a rectangle with your hands and shape your loaf into a batard or boule. Using your bench scraper if needed, pick your shaped dough up and place it into the banneton, smooth side down. Pinch the seam together tightly to create more surface tension.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours (or up to 2 days).
- When ready to bake, put a baking vessel with a lid into the cold oven. Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.
- When the oven is ready, pull your dough out of the fridge. Turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper. Using a dough lame or sharp knife, score the dough down the middle.
- Pull the baking vessel out of the oven. Remove the lid and carefully place your dough inside. Spray the top of your loaf 10 times with a water bottle, then quickly replace the lid. Put the bread in the oven and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes with the lid on.
- Remove the lid after 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for an additional 13-15 minutes to brown the crust.
- Remove from the oven when brown to your liking. Place bread on a wire rack to cool.