A Whole Wheat Loaf

This is my favorite loaf to make and to eat. With such a high percentage of whole grain flour, it possess an incredible depth of flavor and chewiness that lasts for days after baking. I love to experiment with different whole grain varietals when making this loaf. I am particularly fond of Reedemer, a variety of winter wheat grown in Pennsylvania. Before attempting to bake this loaf, make sure you have an active sourdough starter. 
Yields 1 Loaf

Formula Percentages

75% whole wheat flour
6.25% whole rye flour
18.75% white bread flour

80% hydration
20% levain
2.5% salt


Final Levain Build
20 grams active sourdough starter
40 grams whole rye flour
40 grams water

Final Dough
300 grams whole wheat bread flour
25 grams whole rye flour (or whole spelt, both work) 
75 grams white bread flour
320 grams water
80 grams fresh, whole rye levain, from Final Levain Build
10 grams salt

0:00 – Mix levain
8:00 – Mix autolyse
10:00 – Add levain
9:10 – Add salt
9:30 – Slap and fold
10:00 – Fold 1
10:30 – Fold 2
11:00 – Fold 3
11:30 – Fold 4
12:00 – Coil fold
12:30 – Shape and refrigerate
Cold proof about 12 hours
24:30 – Bake


1.    To build the levain, combine the ingredients in a clean container with plenty of headspace for the levain to rise. Cover the container and mark the height of the levain with a piece of tape, a rubber-band, or marker. You want to be able to tell when the levain has ripened—that is, almost tripled in size. Place the container with the levain in a warm spot to rise overnight.

2.    Two hours before the levain is ripe, use a spatula or bowl scraper to combine the flours and water in a large bowl. At this stage, you only need to mix until the flour is completely saturated; the dough will look shaggy and underhydrated. This is okay; the autolyze is only intended to jumpstart gluten development. Cover the container with a clean, damp towel or a piece of plastic, and let rest for at least thirty minutes, and up to two hours, depending on what your schedule permits. The autolyze for this loaf is particularly drawn out as the primarily whole wheat dough benefits from a longer autolyze.

3.    When the autolyze is complete, add the levain to the autolyze. Incorporate them by folding the dough onto itself and pinching the relatively wet levain through the autolyze. Be gentle and careful not to tear the dough. Once the levain and autolyze are homogenous, sprinkle the salt over the dough. Continue the same folding and pinching technique from before until the salt is incorporated—you will know the dough is fully mixed when you can no longer feel the grains of salt between your fingers.

4.    As soon as the salt is fully incorporated, begin to perform the Rubaud method—a gentle movement suited for high-hydration and delicate whole grain doughs—for four minutes. To Rubaud, scoop your hand under the dough on the side furthest from you and pull it towards you. Once the dough is gathered on the side of the container nearest to you, pull the dough to the opposite end of the container and drop it down gently. Repeat this motion rapidly for three minutes. After three minutes, gather the dough in the center of the bowl and cover it, leaving it to rest for 30 minutes.

5.    After 30 minutes, Rubaud for four additional minutes. You are now done with kneading, and the dough will enter its bulk fermentation phase. To this end, cover and let rest, 30 minutes.

6.    After 30 minutes, you will perform the first stretch and fold. To accomplish this, slide your wet hand under the dough. Stretch the dough up and away from the bowl, as high as possible without tearing the dough. Fold the dough toward the center, over onto itself. Rotate the bowl ninety degrees and repeat three more times, for a total of four folds. Cover and let rest, 30 minutes.

7.    Perform another fold. At this point, you should feel strength developing in the dough—the dough should be noticeably more elastic. Cover and lest for 30 minutes.

8.    Perform a third fold. Cover and lest for 30 minutes.

9.    At this point, the dough should feel both strong and aerated. The high proportion of whole wheat leads to a fast fermentation. At this point—the dough is approaching the end of its bulk fermentation—I like to perform a coil fold to create tension along the surface of the dough and to move the seam of the dough to the bottom. To perform a coil fold, wet your hands and scoop them under the dough at a point opposite yourself. Lift this portion of the dough and quickly tuck it into the space you just created when lifting the dough. Repeat this, moving from the opposite side of the bowl towards yourself until the dough has been completely turned over and you’re a left with a tight, bubble of dough. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

10.  At this point, the bulk fermentation is complete. If after this period of two hours the dough has not almost doubled in size and feels flat, perform another coil fold, and let it rest for another 30 minutes.

11.  Now that the bulk fermentation is complete, you will pre-shape the dough. First, turn the dough out onto the work surface. Use a bench scraper to push and pull the dough around the work surface to build tension around the exterior as the surface is pulled underneath. Repeat this movement until the dough is gathered in a tight bubble. Leave the dough on the worksurface, covered with a damp towel, for twenty minutes.

12.  While the dough rests, prepare the banneton. Lightly flour the interior and set aside.

13.  After twenty minutes, you will final shape the dough. Final shaping is personal. Here, I will provide my method, but you should do what feels right. Begin by flouring the top of the dough. Swiftly slide your bench scraper underneath the dough and lift it from the surface. Overturn the dough so that the unfloured, tacky side is exposed. Gently grab the left side of the dough and fold it over the dough toward the right. Repeat on the right side. Next, grip the top flap of the dough furthest from you and bring it toward you, attaching it to the middle of the loaf. Now, stich the dough tightly, beginning on the side away from yourself and moving downward. Once the dough is stitched, pull the bottom flap out and roll the dough tightly away from you, creating a spiral shape as looked at from the side. Once the dough is rolled into a taught batard, pinch the ends shut. Use your bench scraper to gently lift the dough and set it in the banneton, seam side up. Lightly flour the seam side and banneton with plastic and place in the refrigerator to retard the fermentation overnight.

14.  In the morning, preheat your oven to 500 degrees for an entire hour with a Dutch oven or bread pan inside. When the oven is to temperature, remove the loaf from the refrigerator. Turn out the dough onto a piece of parchment just bigger than the loaf itself. Use a lame to decisively score the dough with one long slash just off center. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven and place the dough inside. Return the lid and place the Dutch oven and bread in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes covered

15.  After 20 minutes, remove the cover and turn the oven down to 450 degrees. Bake for another 20-30 minutes, or until the loaf is deeply toasted.

16. Cure the crust: remove the loaf from the dutch oven using large kitchen tongs and return just the loaf to the oven. Turn the oven off and leave the door ajar. Let the loaf sit in the open oven for 5 to 10 minutes. This method is adapted from Sourdough by Science by Karyn Lynn Newman, PhD. 

17.  Remove the loaf from the oven. Cool on a wire rack, for at least two hours, before slicing into it. Cooling the loaf will help to preserve the crumb’s delicate structure.