Recipe – 75% Whole Wheat Sourdough Boule

Sourdough bread made with primarily whole white wheat flour and levain tastes next to the divine. I mean, next to a dark roast coffee in the morning or next to a cold pale ale in the evening. But healthy, nutritious sourdough bread is just on top of my A-list.

However, real whole-wheat sourdough bread is hard to find here in Sacramento, California. I am baking my own. Here is my recipe.

75% Whole White Wheat Sourdough Bread (2 Loaves)

Recipe by Editor

The recipe is artful, and I may enhance it over time. However, it makes two fabulous ~900g loaves. BP stands for Baker’s Percentage. Instead of whole white wheat flour, a common whole red wheat flour can be used. To plan ingredients, see


  • Flour
  • Whole White Wheat Flour – 650g (75% BP)

  • Bread Flour – 280g (25% BP)

  • Spring Water
  • 700g (79% BP)

  • Fine Sea Salt
  • 21g (2% BP)

  • SAF Red Instant Yeast (optional, I do not use yeast anymore)
  • 1.75g

  • Ripe Whole Wheat Levain at 100% Hydration
  • 360g (17% BP)


  • About 360g of ripe levain must be available before getting on with this recipe.
  • Day 1
  • Mix 650g whole white wheat flour in a large tub or bowl with 600g of water until barely incorporated.

    Whole wheat flour, white or red, needs time to absorb water as that is also helpful in softening the wheat’s sharp bran. Do not try to stretch and fold or otherwise develop the gluten structure of the dough yet.
  • Let this batch of flour/water mixture soak for 15 minutes, or even longer.
  • In a separate container, dissolve the 360g of levain into the 100g of remaining water, then add the 280g of bread flour and mix until just incorporated.
  • Add this second batch to the earlier batch of flour/water (after it has soaked), add the 21g of salt, and the optional 1.75g of yeast, and keep incorporating all.
  • Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. The dough will still feel shaggy during and after resting. The dough’s optimal temperature should be around 78° to 82° F.

    If trying to reduce salt intake, cut the amount of salt only by a few grams. Salt is needed for the chemistry of the dough to work. The few grams of optional yeast are a bit of insurance against a weak levain, that is, a levain not ripe enough.

    On hot days, therefore, use a slightly lower water temperature. On cold days, use a slightly higher water temperature. If the dough ends up on the much warmer side, it is okay to place the container in the fridge for 15 minutes or whatever it takes to reduce the temps.
  • Stretch and fold for a few minutes or until the dough feels smoother and suppler, though still somewhat soft and tacky.

    Even slap and fold a wet and sticky dough (>75% hydration) to let it become supple enough for subsequent stretch and folds. The dough will begin to develop a gluten network and a windowpane test will tell some.

    Watch Richard Bertinet’s demos at, or, or, if using a stand mixer.
  • Snip off about 30g of dough and squash it into an aliquot jar. Mark the top level of the dough with a rubber band wrapped around the jar. This helps to assess later that the dough has risen to a desired level.
  • Cover and let the dough relax for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • This wet or high-hydration dough can take another 3 to 4 sets of stretches and folds, preferably during the first 2 hours after mixing. Be gentle and keep the hands wet to not tear sticky dough or disrupt any developing gluten structure.

    Each set takes about a minute and comprises 4 stretches and folds. With a moistened hand, fold the dough by gently scraping the edges of the bowl and pulling the edge of the dough that’s farthest away from you and towards yourself (stretching) to fold the dough over into the middle. Make quarter turns with the bowl and repeat, that is, stretching and folding all four sides until the dough has tightened.

    Let the dough relax for 10 to 20 minutes between each set of stretches and folds to allow for it to relax or naturally degas a bit, that is, flatten out by dispelling some carbon dioxide. The rest will dissipate during baking. The dough will get firmer each time. Again, be gentle so as not to tear the gluten structure and damage air pockets. In the end, grab the ball and invert it so that the seam side faces down.

    Elasticity is the dough’s stiffness and resistance to stretching, while extensibility is the dough’s ability to stretch without tearing. Seek the middle ground and stretch and fold the dough so that it has moderate elasticity and extensibility.
  • Cover and let the dough relax (bench rest) and again rise for a few hours until it has risen in its original volume to a desired level − let’s say 35% to 50% which is less than double, has a slightly domed top with larger bubbles emerging.

    Some recipes call for a rise in dough volume of 100% − which is double its original volume or even call for a 150% rise. Bulk fermentation depends on starter strength, ambient temps, and hydration. I prefer to be out of the gate much sooner than later, wishing to avoid the case of irreversible over-fermentation.

    Bulk fermentation starts when mixing in the levain with the main dough and might take as little as two to three hours in warmer or as much as five hours in cooler climates. Bulk fermentation completes faster with whole wheat flour.
  • Several hours or so later
  • To test if the dough is fermented enough and ready to be divided, let the aliquot jar tell that the dough has risen 100% or doubled. Alternately, snip off a small piece of dough and see that it will float in water.
  • Lightly flour a flat surface like a cleared kitchen counter or tabletop or large cutting board.
  • Ease the dough out onto the lightly floured flat countertop. Try not to touch the sticky upper surface of the dough. Doing so will make the dough stick to the fingers and that will lead to unnecessary tearing and deflating of the dough.

    When releasing the dough onto the lightly floured surface and stretching it out, the dough becomes a bit nonstick on the bottom but will remain sticky on top. Be mindful that there are now two sides of different characteristics to the dough, the slightly nonstick underside and the probable sticky upper side.
  • Gently fold a few sides or corners into the middle. Pat the dough a little, without trying to flatten or degassing it, to let the sticky layers come together. Turn the dough over, which will leave the non-stick underside of the dough on the top.
  • Shape the glob into a round with a dough scraper.
  • Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • If the dough has flattened or spread out too much, repeat Step 4 to continue to build strength.
  • Divide the dough into approximately two equal dough batches suitable to fit into bannetons, cover, and let the two batches bench rest for 20 minutes.
  • 45 minutes or so later
  • Dust two bannetons with a little rice flour.
  • On the still lightly floured surface, stretch out each dough carefully into a rectangle and fold two far corners, or one side, over into the center and make the fold stick. Repeat with the other side in the other direction over the remaining dough. Then roll up the dough across its long dimension much like a burrito with the seam-side down. Tuck or pinch in the seams on the two ragged sides to seal the dough to be a bit more airtight.
  • Finally, shape each piece of dough with a scraper into a shape to suit the shape of your proofing basket and baking vessel, seam-side down, This should help seal off the bottom of the dough and strengthen the tension of the surface on top.

    IMPORTANT: The top or skin of the dough needs to end up being smooth and tense, or airtight. That will assist the dough in keeping shape and rising during the baking as it prevents gases from escaping too early, that is, too easily.
  • Gently flip the lightly floured dough balls over into bannetons seam-side up.
  • Stitch up any gaps left between seams to create a smooth, airtight top surface.
  • Cover each proofing basket loosely with a produce bag or shower cap to prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Refrigerate overnight or for 12 or more hours. The ideal environment for a cold fermentation is less than 50° F or 10° C, but perhaps not below 4° F.

    During this cold fermentation, the dough will continue to rise (unless food for yeast is already exhausted due to too lengthy bulk fermentation) and build flavors. Artisan bread bakers often stress the importance of a long, cold fermentation period to allow lactobacillus to develop flavors.
  • On the following day, bake the dough.

    Poke a dough with a finger to test its readiness. If the indentation fills fast, the dough may need more time to ferment. If the indentation stays deep, the dough is perhaps over-fermented and needs baking ASAP.
  • Day 2
  • Preheat the kitchen oven, with the lid-covered Dutch ovens inside, to around 500° F, or even 520° F if the oven gets that high. This may take an hour or more for two Dutch ovens. Use an external oven thermometer to check the oven’s temperature as an older kitchen oven’s built-in thermometer may not be that accurate.
  • 60 minutes or so later
  • Take out the proofing baskets from the fridge and tip them over to let the proofed loaves drop onto pre-cut parchment paper.
  • Dust off the tops of loaves with a little white flour and only then score the top across with a lame at a 30° angle and a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch depth. Hopefully, the loaves’ skin will open just a bit without letting the dough deflate.

    Scoring or slashing a risen loaf just before putting it into the oven gives it a pre-designated spot — the long slash — to expand while in the oven. Without scoring, bread may bulge, or “blow out” on its side or at weak spots, creating a misshapen loaf.
  • Remove the Dutch ovens from the kitchen oven using long mittens.
  • Carefully place each parchment paper holding a loave into an uncovered Dutch oven.
  • Cover each Dutch oven with its lid and place them back into the hot kitchen oven for around 25 minutes.
  • After about 10 minutes, reduce oven heat to 475° F for the remainder of baking.
  • After 25 minutes of baking with lids on, remove lids and bake for another 15 minutes at 475° F or until a desired browning of the loaves is reached.

    Baking the loaves to 190° F internal temperature will make for a moist but fully baked bread, while a more traditional 210° F will make for a little drier and a bit chewier bread.
  • Remove each Dutch oven from the kitchen oven, remove the lids, gently turn the Dutch ovens over a cooling rack, and drop the baked loaves to rest. Let the loaves rest on a cooling rack for a couple of hours to reach ambient temperatures before slicing. They are still hot on the inside and backing.
  • Enjoy…



Always curious...

This Post Has One Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.