100% Whole-Wheat Walnut Sourdough Bread – BBB


all-whole-wheat bâtard and pan loaf that you want to eat

This bread pushes the limit. I have never baked 100% whole-wheat bread. The fear of producing a dense and brick-like bread that no one wants to eat is hard to ignore. I don’t like eating all whole wheat bread either; it tastes bland, uninviting and coarse. But the host of this month’s project, Notitie van Lien, at Bread Baking Babes (BBB) is putting us to the task. She pushes further, in making a healthy bread, by doubling down on the unfavorable characteristic of 100% whole wheat bread, the coarseness of it, by adding more bran. Seriously? Thank You, Lien, for the challenge.

Then I talked myself into baking the all whole-wheat bread, despite the doubts and preconceptions. I don’t have to eat the bread; I only have to try baking it. At least once — the first and the last time. No objection to that.

relatively airy and open crumb
walnut is a winner


The truth comes out of the oven. Flour selection, the use of preferment, the choice of mixing techniques, fermentation schedule, the baking setup, and the adaptive skill and intuition of the baker are all put to the test in making the 100% whole wheat bread. I have to lean on what I know best. I am sticking with the methodology that has worked consistently well for me in the past. These are the techniques I’ve learned from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread and Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. It does not matter how many times I’ve read the books and how many of their breads I’ve baked, there are still treasures to be discovered between the covers.

golden dark brown crust

The one thing I did that has made the biggest impact on this bread was the use of freshly milled whole wheat flour. The flour was ground whole from a bag of frozen Bob’s Red Mill hard red spring wheat berries I usually cook with. Here is my rationale. If my goal is to make a healthful loaf of bread using one kind of flour, it better be the finest quality available. I’ve learned that most so-called whole wheat flour is actually fractionated, reconstituted during milling. In some cases, this could make whole wheat flour as unhealthy as white flour. To get around that and to give the dough the best chance to succeed, I chose to mill the flour. I don’t have a grain mill; I turned to my high-power Vitamix blender. I sifted and compared that with the look and feel of the King Arthur’s whole wheat flour I have on hand. I was happy with the granularity of the resulting fresh milled whole-grain flour.

Here is a brief summary of how I tackled the 100% whole wheat sourdough bread. The cheat sheet below shows the formula, process and time requirements in details.

  • Use fresh-milled red spring whole wheat flour, ground and sifted to the highest degree of fineness.
  • Use whole wheat mature sourdough liquid starter to build the final levain (15% of flour weight). I used both the fresh-milled whole wheat flour and some aged King Arthur white whole wheat flour, which brought stability to the green flour.
  • Keep hydration at above 90%. (I kept my hands wet at all times as I performed series of stretch-and-fold.)
  • Hand mix the final dough until all the ingredients are incorporated. (I added 1/4 teaspoon of yeast since it was close to midnight, and I wanted to go to bed. This recipe would work without the yeast; it’d just take longer. My trusty starter was lively and active enough to adequately leaven the dough.) Hold salt and reserve small amount of water until later. Autolyse for about half an hour.
  • Bulk ferment for approximately three hours until the dough doubles in volume. To add strength to the dough, perform three sets of stretch-and-fold in 30-minute intervals during the first two hours of bulk rise.
bran sifted from whole-grain cornmeal
  • Add-ins go in at the second set of stretch-and-fold. I added the roasted walnuts (20% of flour weight), wheat germ (7%) and 50 grams of corn bran that turned into porridge. Since I follow primarily a plant-based diet, protein is a more important nutrient to me than fiber. I have been adding wheat germ to most of my homemade breads, but never bran. I don’t have wheat bran around and I wouldn’t want to buy something I don’t normally use. Instead, I reached into the freezer and found some 100% whole-grain medium grind corn meal. Sifted out the bran from the corn meal. Cracked it in the Vitamix. Soaked the corn bran. It was not very palatable. I was concerned it’d wreck havoc on the texture of the finished bread. Last minute, I cooked the corn bran further and made it into something more like a porridge.
  • Divide and shape the dough into two loaves, using a bench knife given the very wet and sticky nature of the dough. I shaped and placed one in a rectangular loaf pan, three quarter of the way up. The second and smaller one went into an oval banneton, seam side up. It was less than half way full; that all the dough I had left.
  • Retard the shaped loaves in the fridge for 12 hours. The first loaf has risen to the rim of the loaf pan.
  • Bake in the preheated Dutch ovens placed in a 500°F oven, 20 minutes with the covers on and 15 minutes uncovered.


yellow corn specks are visible

Holy moly! This sourdough bread has fundamentally changed the way I look at 100% whole wheat bread. First, the whiff of lovely scent from freshly ground flour while mixing the dough was unbelievable. There is nothing not to like about the finished loaf. It has all the desirable taste and mouth feel of white bread. None of the unfavorable characteristics typically associated with all whole-wheat bread. No issues with dense crumb at all. The taste of this bread is very pleasing. Earthy without being one-note. Nuanced with a slight tang from the sourdough. It even has that random open and holey crumb structure of white artisan bread, which I did not expect. You can see specks of the yellow corn that is tender and smooth to the bite. The nuttiness of roasted walnuts comes through brilliantly. Walnuts add crunch and flavor, making it a winner. This bread is as open and light as my 50% whole-wheat bread and with good eating quality. A true revelation!

Surely, this won’t be the last time I bake all whole-wheat bread. There is another convert: my husband, much to my surprise. He did not need much convincing and I did not have to sell him the health benefits of this 100% whole-grain and nutrients enriched bread, after he took one bite in it.

made half of the recipe



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  • Reply
    June 22, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Shirley you just made a super whole wheat loaf, it looks perfect, airy and moist. So good to learn how you baked this one with sourdough. I just want to set my teeth in that slice. I don't think I've ever seen corn bran overhere, I'm curious how that looks. Very well done and thanks do much for baking with us!

  • Reply
    June 22, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    I just updated the post to include a picture of the bran sifted from 100% whole-grain corn meal. I don't think you can find corn bran in the supermarket. They are usually sold as livestock feed.

  • Reply
    hobby baker
    June 23, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Your loaf looks gorgeous! So glad you were pleasantly surprised, your pictures show off the fruits of your labor beautifully. 🙂

  • Reply
    July 2, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Wow, your bread turned out brilliantly! I think I'm almost ready to try again. Sifting sounds like an excellent idea! Did you add the lumps that came out when sifting in the second add-in section?

  • Reply
    July 2, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    The whole-grain spring wheat was finely ground and then sifted. Nothing sifted out to put back. The corn bran was cooked further and added back to the dough. I hope this helps.

  • Reply
    Mayuri Patel
    July 3, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    To get such an airy and open crumb with wholewheat is truly remarkable. A wonderful bake.

  • Reply
    Baking Soda
    July 15, 2016 at 5:47 am

    Amazing crumb with all that whole wheat you were using, the free standing loaf looks picture perfect, well done!

  • Reply
    July 21, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I hope I'll be able to get the same result when I bake this bread next time, a real test.

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