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Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe

sourdough bread

Patience.

Patience is key when baking sourdough bread.

You have to wait for your starter to mature. You have to wait for the dough to rise. Sometimes you have to wait longer than the recipe says and beg a little. Sometimes you even have to wait to make loaf number one into croutons and then try again!

I will give you some sloppy tips today, but if you really want to tend a sourdough, you must check out my friend Sarah’s Definitive Guide to Sourdough. (no longer available)

If you are a “need to see it” kind of person and would like to see a video of this recipe, check out the Traditional Cooking School’s Learn to Cook Sourdough Online eCourse. I’d love for you to join so you can see me demonstrate all the wrong ways to get sourdough to rise, and still end up with tasty bread at the end. 🙂 Check out all the lessons on traditional food preparations! There are over 20 different sourdough recipes in a multimedia format at Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS’ eCourses plus hundreds of other lessons in different categories.

On Keeping Your Starter Happy

I think sourdough starters are kind of like…toddlers. I never really know what they’re going to do, but I keep feeding them and watching them.

Basic Sourdough Feeding Tips

  • Feed your starter every day if it’s at room temperature or higher, with any grain and sometimes water.
  • Stir well, scraping all the way down to the bottom of the jar/pot/bowl.
  • Keep your starter warm by leaving it on the stovetop when you cook. I generally get great bubble action when I do this, which sometimes results in this.
  • Store your starter in the fridge if you don’t bake often. You still need to feed it once a week if it’s in there long term. I usually let it sit out to ferment at room temp when I feed it, then refrigerate again.
  • Be sure to feed your starter every time you take some out for baking. How much? Most recipes say to replace what you took out – like if you use a cup of starter, mix in a cup of flour and a cup of water. Depending on your plans for your starter, you can add more or less and be just fine. As long as you have some starter left to continue your culture, nearly anything goes. Katz of Wild Fermentation claims that the starter clinging to the sides of the jar is enough to keep it going.
  • Some recipes say to “discard” half your starter every time you feed it, so that’s where the lingo in this week’s recipes comes from. I don’t. I just feed and feed and feed – so if I’m getting too close to the top of my jar, I better use some! You can just use any starter for this week’s recipes. Once you take some out and give it a bigger feeding, it will be even more ready for bread baking, in my experience.

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe

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Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

  • Author: Katie Kimball
  • Prep Time: 18 hours
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 18 hours 35 mins
  • Yield: 2 loaves 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat sourdough starter
  • 2 c. whole milk (or even water)
  • 1/4 c. mild honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 c. (divided) whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 2 tsp. sea salt (Use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off of your first purchase)
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature (or coconut oil)


ship kroger


Instructions

  1. The night before you are going to bake bread, make a sponge by mixing the starter with the milk and 3 cups of flour.
  2. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight, or better yet, in the oven with the light on. I always turn the oven on to 350 degrees for one minute exactly when I’m trying to get my sourdough yeast to be most active.
  3. (I use a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook to knead my bread – I could NOT do it without that tool!)
  4. The next morning, stir the sponge before beginning.
  5. Then, add in the honey and eggs, stirring until incorporated.
  6. Add the remaining flour, salt and butter and use your dough hook to fully mix, then knead for 5-7 minutes, adding more flour as necessary. Here’s where we radically depart from conventional yeast bread. Don’t add too much flour. That’s how you get a doorstop loaf, aka “straight to crouton,” (see below) or worse yet, a brick, aka “straight to breadcrumbs.” I add just barely enough to get the dough pulling away from the sides ever so slightly. (see photos below)
  7. Look for “developed gluten” which is sticky and stringy and holds together quite well.
  8. Cover the dough with a towel and put it back in the oven with the light on, 350 degrees for exactly one minute and then off. Sourdough takes longer to rise than commercial yeast, so expect anywhere from two to four hours, depending on the strength of the starter and the heat in your kitchen. I almost always leave it for four to six, or longer if necessary! Have patience.
  9. Butter two 9×5-inch loaf pans.
  10. Once the dough has doubled in size, pour it into the loaf pans. I’m serious. Pour it.
  11. Cover the pans again and put them in the oven – you know the drill by now – with the light on, 350 for a minute and off. This is a great time to baby your starter, too, so keep it in that nice warm oven.
  12. When the dough has risen at least to the top of the pans or a half-inch above, which takes an hour and a half to three hours, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. (Take the loaves out first.)
  13. Slash loaves down the middle, then immediately bake until they are honey brown and sound hollow when tapped on the top, 35-40 minutes. Be careful not to overbake this bread or it will be dry.
  14. Carefully remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before slicing.

Notes

* I use half and half traditional (red) whole wheat and white whole wheat, red for the gluten content and white for the lighter flavor. Sometimes I also use part spelt or rye flour (remember that rye is highest in phytase, so a great flour to use with sourdough). The recipe is very versatile!

* Feel free to use 100% water instead of the milk for a more frugal, dairy-free version. The loaf may be slightly softer with milk, but it’s good either way!

* I also forget to set the butter on the counter sometimes and have replaced it with coconut oil in a pinch with fine results (dairy-free version).

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adapted from Sarah at Heartland Renaissance (no longer available), who adapted it from Essentials of Baking cookbook.

Photos So You Know What to Look For

sourdough sponge

In the morning, the sponge should look bubbly like this: Lots of rising action here already, even in the sponge. If I don’t see this, I might need to offer extra time on the rising for the loaves.

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
this is NOT developed gluten

Remember that I add just barely enough flour to get the dough pulling away from the sides ever so slightly. It looks like this: Does that look like any self-respecting bread dough? No way. That is why I couldn’t do this with my hands! When trying to figure out if you’ve kneaded enough or added enough flour, keep in mind that developing gluten, the substance in grains that enables a rise, is your goal. “Developed” gluten is sticky and allows you to stretch the bread dough. Elasticity would be a word to keep in mind. This bread dough below, for example, does not have developed gluten. I didn’t get that part. We’re still eating the croutons from November!

sourdough bread overrose

This is an “oops I let the dough rise too long in the pans” moment: When my starter was less mature or is less active, I could leave my loaves forever (it seemed) without consequence. Some days the rising action is just working so well that I actually have to keep an eye on things or risk over-rising the dough! If this happens to you, just bake with a cookie sheet underneath to catch the dough that will fall down. The bread is still good, if odd-shaped! (My mom has just trimmed off the overhanging dough just before baking with good results.)

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

What is slashing loaves? This took me a while to figure out, but it’s basically the chef’s way of telling the bread where to expand, like here:
instead of here:

Oops. You can use a sharp serrated knife and make a quick sawing motion or a small sharp knife to cut about 1/2 inch in. This sticky dough is a bit difficult to slash –you have to convince it to stay.

Cook’s notes:

  • I changed the original recipe by adding a half cup starter because I was worried I wouldn’t get it to rise. Now that I’ve had success, I’m afraid to take it back out, and I’ve even read since then that more starter decreases the overall sourness of the finished product, which is the opposite of what I expected! I also added a cup of flour to the sponge, taking it from the next day’s dough. My intent was simply to get more flour soaking overnight for more total phytate reduction.
  • I use half and half traditional (red) whole wheat and white whole wheat, red for the gluten content and white for the lighter flavor. Sometimes I also use part spelt or rye flour (remember that rye is highest in phytase, so a great flour to use with sourdough). The recipe is very versatile!
  • In my research on the health benefits of sourdough bread, I came across a source that said that any sponge that includes milk would inhibit the fermentation process. I tried this recipe with 100% water instead of the milk, and it was equally as good! The milk and eggs both will serve to make the final loaf softer, so if you’re nervous about good results, go ahead and use the milk. Once you’re confident with the bread, give water a try. It’s more frugal, too! (I have not tried it without the eggs.)
  • I also forget to set the butter on the counter sometimes and have replaced it with coconut oil in a pinch with fine results.
  • It does take a long time to do proper sourdough bread. I generally knead the dough at breakfast and shoot to get it in the loaf pans around 3:00 to bake for dinner.

Storage:

To keep the fresh-baked crusty and crunchy crust, just store the entire loaf out in the air. Once cut, you can put the heel back on the end to keep it fresh or stand it on end on a cutting board. If you’re willing to give up on crunchy crusts, put it all in a bag or other airtight storage. I always at least let the loaves sit out overnight on the rack.

sourdough bread

Many say that homemade bread doesn’t last very long, but in my experience, you can’t hardly convince this stuff to mold. I’ve read elsewhere that because sourdough is a fermented food, it does have the added longevity you would expect from a ferment.

Don’t refrigerate bread (it will get stale but not moldy), but you could freeze it for the future if you like. If you freeze it, give it a day after baking before storing to increase the nutrient density even further, believe it or not. Slice it first if you like so that you can remove and toast individual slices any time.

How Does It Taste?

sourdough bread

We love this bread! It’s not a perfect sandwich bread, but I think it makes good grilled cheese, and my kids will eat it as sandwiches. It slices so evenly that my mother-in-law couldn’t believe it wasn’t storebought. We love it best toasted with butter and honey – I think my kids could eat a slice at every meal and snack and be thrilled.

We like it so much I’m almost afraid to branch out, although my husband does think this multigrain sourdough bread (no longer available) is even better. If I have a cup of leftover oatmeal, I’ll make that one, but it’s a compromise because it has a few cups of white flour.

Other Sourdough Posts elsewhere:

Disclosure: I am a teacher and affiliate of Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS and will earn a commission if you purchase a membership but it doesn’t change your price. Links to Amazon are also affiliate links.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

23 thoughts on “Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Recipe”

  1. So good! I’ve tried a lot of whole wheat sourdough recipes, and this is by far the softest and tastiest. Thank you thank you thank you!

  2. This bread is really good! I’m still learning the fine art of bread baking. For this recipe I used 3 cups of whole wheat flour mixed with milk for the sponge and left it in the oven over night with the light on. By 6 a.m. the sponge was perfect. I added the remaining ingredients but substituted the 3 additional cups of whole wheat flour with white bread flour. The dough was very sticky and the author of this recipe was correct about pouring it. Kneading the sticky dough was challenging. I did not use my mixer as I prefer to do it all by hand. I have a proofing feature on my oven so the rise was 1 hour each time. I was a little worried about the proofing because we needed to meet friends to go wine tasting so I didn’t have all day to wait. It all worked out very timely. My husband could hardly wait for the bread to cool. He jumped the gun a little and had a slice in his hand before I could stop him. He then gave me a nice buttered bite and it was wonderful! I just ordered a silicone nonstick mat that grips the counter top for the next time I knead bread dough.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe Patty! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Hi there –

    Do you know if soaking the flour the night before in a cultured milk product, like kefir or yogurt would inhibit the fermenting process? Seeing as that milk is fermented itself? Have you ever tried that, or do you have any educated guesses on whether or not that would work? I soak all my other flour in kefir and/or yogurt, depending on what I have around. I have just started working with sourdough, so I’m curious!

    Thanks –
    Jess Brown

  4. Adriane Suhayda

    I’m way late to the post here but going to comment anyways! I’ve been struggling to produce a good loaf of whole grain sourdough for a few months now and nearly ready to give up! My loaves always end up as heavy, dense bricks. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong! I have not tried this particular recipe and I’m afraid at this point of wasting anymore ingredients. I have never tried a recipe with eggs in it though so maybe that will help with the softness. Can you tell me why you don’t add all the flour to the sponge at one time? Also, if you have any troubleshooting tips for dense bricks please do share!

    1. Hi Adriane,
      Sourdough can be a struggle for sure! The egg will soften things up a bit, but not magically make it rise. Dense bricks are usually because the gluten is not developed (not kneading long enough) or because the starter is weak. Is your starter very bubbly and rising before you start? If not, it needs to be fed more often most likely. You might find that my friend Wardee’s free starter resource here may give you some important troubleshooting advice too: https://rl102.isrefer.com/go/sourdoughstarter/ks/

      Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  5. This is definitely my “everyday bread”. I usually make half this recipe on saturday and it lasts very well until thursday. I’ve already made it with water only and without the egg. The water only was maybe a little less soft, but just as good. The one without egg was a little drier, I guess I should have added the weight of the egg to the milk. The taste was similar on all variants by now. I often forget to make the sponge and I usually add 1/4 cup of linseed.

  6. Christy Mullins

    I just made this bread, first time for sour dough, I made it exactly like the recipe and it is very good with the exception of being Very twangy, even with honey or jam. Any suggestions? Or is it suppose to be that way? I love sour dough bread but this has a bite.

    1. Christy,
      The bite is going to be in your starter and also in the amount of starter used – you can increase the starter by 1/2 cup or so (and flour accordingly) and also adding a pinch of baking soda to the dough will “sweeten” it a bit. Be sure to feed your starter very regularly, sometimes more than 2x/day the day or two before making bread. That can help too! It’s a little twangy, but shouldn’t be too much. Hopefully you can work it out! 🙂 katie

  7. I made this bread, rather I should say I attempted to make this bread!! The sponge was great and so was the dough until I went to “pour” it into the loaf pans and it was in the firmer side so I had to use my hands and then I kinda formed it into the pans and they didn’t rise, so I’m soooooo sad because it was a waste of my day/starter/precious time. I won’t be making again

    1. Oh no, Sheree, what a disappointment! Strange that the sponge and dough would rise and then the bread, not. How long did you wait? I’ve baked bread before when it didn’t look like it rose one bit in the pans, though, and it will still get some lift in the oven and turn out good for toast. Did you bake it? Sorry you had a bust with this recipe; it was always our favorite when I was keeping a starter! 🙂 Katie

  8. Pingback: No Knead Artisian Sourdough Bread |

  9. I found this recipe last week and made your sourdough bread this weekend. The only difference I had was that I used eikorn flour. Your recipe is amazing – LOVED it! I have never made a sourdough this light and fluffy. I will be making this again and again!

  10. Love your site and all the awesome recipes! I look forward to my newest cooking adventure of adding wheat back in through fermentation and soaking. I found a Bread for life starter and dvd at Azure Standard and am currently growing my starter. It is done a little differently than a sour dough starter and suppose to be sweeter more like regular bread. I am really excited to try cooking with regular flour again. I plan on starting a rye starter for sourdough soon as well! Love baking!! And with blogs like yours I can actually look like I know what I am doing. 🙂 Thanks!!
    https://www.azurestandard.com/shop/product/13784//

  11. Hi there,

    I am thinking to try out this recipe to make gluten free sourdough:
    (http://www.homegrown-kitchen.co.nz/2013/04/23/nicolas-no-knead-sourdough-bread/)

    The recipe calls for rice and buckwheat flour – do and can these flours be soaked overnight and prepared like how you do it with your whole wheat flour?

    Thanks

    1. Alice,
      I can’t say I’ve done a gluten-free starter yet, so I really don’t know if you need to find special GF recipes or can just sub it right in here. Sorry! There is a GF thread on the GNOWFGLINS eCourse that you might enjoy, even if you just get a membership for one month and just learn all you can: https://rl102.infusionsoft.com/go/ecourse/ks/

      Also Amy has a GF starter here that I do hope to try someday: http://simplysugarandglutenfree.com/

      Good luck! 🙂 Katie

  12. OMG… Beautiful loaf, crumb and slices like a dream, but WAY too sour… What the heck did I do wrong? If I could juice it, it would be straight lemon juice. I had to drowned it in butter and honey just to eat it… HELP!

    1. Uh oh! That’s a bummer, Jennifer – how old is your starter? Often very young starters take some time to get going. Did you ferment it for longer than stated here? Feed your starter really heartily for about 24 hours before baking, too – a more active starter will be less sour. And also, you can add a bit of baking soda to the recipe next time: soda sweetens. The last thing is that if you had any other ferments going, like yogurt or kefir, you could have cross-contaminated if your dough was less than 4-5 feet away. I hope it works out better on the next attempt! 🙂 Katie

  13. Jennifer Love

    Oh, I forgot to mention in my first post… My first attempt at sourdough was a 100% rye sd. I ended up with a gooey brick. I would REALLY like to be successful with 100% rye so that’s my goal. Has you or anyone here tried and succeeded?

  14. Jennifer Love

    This is my 3rd attempt using sourdough and I’m trying your recipe. It’s on it’s second rise in the oven, (using your tip). I’m SO excited my starters are all doing well and I’m so happy to have found your blog. Pray for my bread! And I’ll tell you how I did!

  15. I love your blog!!!
    Am definitely going to try this with my new San Francisco sourdough starter : ) Just ordered it from Sourdough’s International! Love their products.

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