Fifty-Fifty Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

I’ve been thinking about this recipe for some time and I’ve been tinkering with it for just about as long. I wanted to create a whole wheat sourdough bread that wasn’t all the way 100% whole grain, but still enough to bring out that assertive wheat flavor, gentle yet complex sourness, and also one that packs a nutritious punch. I wanted it to be light in the hand, soft of texture and for it to be a good starting place for those who might not have had much experience with breads boasting a majority of whole grains. Sort of a beginner’s sourdough recipe but with more whole grains than not — a fifty-fifty whole wheat sourdough bread to get you and your family on the whole-grain-train without them missing the characteristics of white flour1.

As you might know, I always like to experiment. To tinker. To change. Even when things are already working well I seem to dig in and just have to adjust. My previous work with whole wheat almost always utilized a stiff levain (around 65% hydration) but here I opted for 100% hydration liquid levain. I made this change mostly to see if the result would be all that different, but also because I wanted to add flexibility to this bread — knowing that I, or you out there, could make it with a stiff or liquid levain just the same. I find theres advantages and disadvantages to both but when it comes down to it as long as you adjust the total water in your recipe you’ll get a great result no matter which type of starter you maintain or levain you use.fifty-fifty whole wheat crustInstead of a long levain build period this formula calls for a shorter time from levain mix to using it in the dough. This is a handy thing to be comfortable with, it means you can get a strong, reliable levain ready to go in a shorter time period (about 3-4 hours instead of 6-7). Nothing groundbreaking here, but I like to highlight it upfront as something to add to your baking toolbox. The ability to adjust your levain to suit your schedule is handy and it means baking can revolve around our busy schedules and hectic weekends.

And finally, I played with baking this bread at a much higher temperature for a shorter period of time overall — I baked these fast and hot (and you can see that in the image above, a little more color all around and especially on top). Instead of baking on thick baking stones I opted for a Baking Steel as my “deck,” — and this thing gets incredibly hot. More on this later and before we delve into these things any further, let’s talk about flour.

Flour Selection

My whole wheat selection here is pretty straightforward, just a good quality stoneground whole wheat (and it’s actually the whole wheat flour I use most often here in my kitchen). In experimenting between stoneground and roller milled whole wheat flour I’ve found the flavor of stoneground whole wheat to be more assertive, deep and much more tasty overall. Due to the method of milling, stoneground whole wheat preserves more of the bran and germ and these particles are clearly evident when passing the raw flour through your fingers. If you don’t have stoneground whole wheat a roller milled whole wheat (this is typically what you’ll find at the market) will work just as well, perhaps with a slightly different flavor profile and less assertive whole wheat taste overall.

For the 50% white portion of this recipe I split between a lower protein white flour (Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour – 11.5% protein) and a higher protein “bread” flour (Central Milling High Mountain – 13.5% protein).flouring benchGenerally I prefer the taste of lower protein white flour (as you’ll hear me say time and time again here) like Giusto’s. To me flour like this has less of a gummy taste and it performs very well for extended fermentation times while also able to take on quite a bit of water. If you don’t have access to this flour any “all purpose” flour would work well here, including King Arthur all purpose.

For the other portion of white flour in this recipe I used Central Milling’s High Mountain flour. This is essentially a “bread” flour having a higher protein percentage and is significantly stronger than all purpose. I felt this flour would help with the higher water percentage in the formula and that it would help open the crumb up a little more. You might comment that the whole wheat will already absorb most of the high hydration but in testing this formula several times I’ve found that the bread flour does aid in supporting the structure of this bread, allowing it to open up a little more. King Arthur Bread Flour (the blue bag in the US) is a good choice for this portion of the recipe, or any bread flour you might already have.

Additionally, I added a small percentage of diastatic malt (dry malted barley flour) to this recipe because the majority of the flour I used is not malted. While malt is not mandatory for this bake I find a little added to the mix aids in achieving a wonderfully colored crust and will also increase fermentation and enzymatic activity. Its use is optional.

Fifty-Fifty Whole Wheat Formula

Vitals

Total dough weight: 1900g
Pre-fermented flour: 5.5%
Hydration: 87%
Yield: 2 x 950g loaves

Levain Build

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
50g Mature liquid starter (100% hydration) 100%
25g Giusto’s Stoneground Whole Wheat 50%
25g Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour 50%
50g H2O @ 90ºF 100%

Note that the mature liquid starter used to inoculate this build is at 100% (whereas typically I’d use 50% or so). This was mentioned at the beginning of this post and will be discussed again in the “Levain” section below.Levain Ready Mixing Levain

Dough Formula

Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 79ºF.

When I list a recipe as “beginner” I usually like to reduce the hydration (the amount of water) in a recipe. As you increase water the dough becomes stickier, more slack and generally acts more like a rebel instead of following orders. The hydration amount listed below (86.39%) is definitely high, but we are also using quite a bit of whole wheat which typically takes on quite bit of water. With that said, feel free to reduce hydration, to say 78-80%, especially if this is your first attempt at a bread with this level of hydration. Once you get a feel for it, slowly increase the water as you become comfortable handling that rebel.

Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.

Weight Ingredient Baker’s Percentage
466g Giusto’s Stoneground Whole Wheat 50.00%
244g Central Milling High Mountain Bread Flour 26.18%
222g Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour 23.82%
805g H2O @ 90ºF 86.39%
10g Diastatic Malt (see note below) 1.05%
21g Fine sea salt 2.30%
132g Mature, liquid levain 14.14%

Method

1. Levain – 12:30 p.m.

As mentioned earlier, I worked with a shorter levain build for this bread. To adjust for the reduced build time we’ll increase not only our inoculation of mature starter but also the water temperature. This gets the whole process moving faster, and by the time you’re ready to use this levain you’ll notice some significant activity.

Build the liquid levain (everything listed in the Levain Build section above) in the morning or afternoon and store somewhere around 80ºF ambient.

Usually with high percentages of whole wheat and/or bread flour I lengthen the autolyse time, sometimes up to 5-6 hours. The longer two-hour autolyse in this recipe increases the elasticity of the whole wheat and bread flour, slackening things just a bit more to allow maximal expansion later when baking.

2. Autolyse – 2:30 p.m.

Mix flour and water (reserve 100g water for mix, later) in a bowl until all dry bits are hydrated. Cover bowl and store somewhere nice and warm (around 80ºF) for 2 hours. Somewhere near your levain is convenient.

3. Mix – 4:30 p.m.

Add the called for ripe levain to your autolysed dough and using about half of the reserved 100g of water mix thoroughly with your hands. You want the levain to be pretty well mixed through the dough and the added water absorbed.

Let’s mix/knead. I chose to do slap and fold for about 4 minutes, just until the dough started to show signs of a smooth surface and it was catching some air. If you aren’t comfortable with slap/fold method, or don’t like it, you can do stretch and folds in the bowl until your dough tightens up and becomes slightly hard to stretch out and fold over. Medium development.

When finished mixing sprinkle the salt on top of the dough and the remaining water to help dissolve. Pinch through the dough thoroughly and fold the dough over itself to help incorporate and absorb the remaining water. When finished transfer the dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for our first rise, or bulk fermentation.

4. Bulk Fermentation – 4:40 p.m. to 8:10 p.m.

At 78-80ºF ambient temperature bulk fermentation should go for about 3 hours and 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough and adjust your bulk time because with this much whole grain the dough can quickly go over. See my sequence of images below to get a feel for how the dough should look and feel during the 3.5 hour rise.

Perform 5 sets of stretch and folds during bulk, spaced out by 30 minutes. After the fifth set of stretch and folds let the dough rest for the remainder of bulk. Keep an eye on the dough as it approaches the three to three and a half hour mark during bulk, it will rise quite a bit and could spill out of your bowl.

Below is my dough after mixing and right at the beginning of bulk. You can see how shaggy the dough is, how wet and lifeless — it’s just sitting there in a single flat layer. There’s no rounding between the edges of the dough and the bowl, no bubbles anywhere, and if you jiggled the bowl you wouldn’t see much movement.Beginning of bulk fermentationBelow is my dough after the fifth, and last, set of stretch and folds. Look how strong the dough has become compared to the picture above. It’s holding its shape in the bowl extremely well — this is a sign for me that the dough is now strong enough and no further strengthening is needed. I will now let the dough rest, relax and rise the remainder of the time specified for bulk fermentation.After last stretch and foldI called bulk fermentation quits when I saw the dough reach the point below. You can see it’s risen significantly, there are plenty of bubbles on top and just below the surface, and most importantly: the edge where the dough meets the bowl is domed & convex. If I were to wet my hand and tug on the dough a little I’d feel much more resistance and elasticity2. It’s gained strength and can hold its shape much more than at the beginning of bulk. These are all good signs your dough is strong enough and ready to be divided.Bulk Fermentation Complete

5. Divide & Pre-shape – 8:10 p.m.

Gently dump out the dough from your bulk container onto an un-floured work surface. Divide in half and pre-shape the dough into two round boules, let the rounds rest 20 minutes uncovered.

6. Shape – 8:30 p.m.

Prepare two baskets that will hold your dough during its long cold proof overnight. If you decide to shape the dough as two boules (rounds) find two round kitchen bowls and if you decide to shape as batards (ovals) use two bread baskets. Line the baskets with cotton or canvas liners if you have them, or clean kitchen towels if not, and dust them lightly with white rice flour to prevent the dough from sticking during proof.

Moderately flour the top of the dough and flour the work surface. Flip one resting round over so the floured side is down on the work surface. Fold the top of the dough up and over to the middle and repeat for the bottom (you’ll now have a long slender rectangle in front of you). Pickup the rectangle and rotate it 90º so it’s now lengthwise facing you. Grab the dough at the very top and fold over a little ways, press to seal with the main mass of the dough. Now grab this rolled over top and gently continue to roll it down towards the bottom, tucking in the dough as you go (imagine rolling down a beach towel). At the end of this you’ll have a tube that has essentially been rolled downward. Once shaped, transfer each to their floured shaping basket with the seam side facing up.

Repeat with the other round.Fifty fifty sourdough shaped

7. Rest & Proof – 8:35 p.m.

Cover your baskets with plastic and then place in the refrigerator at 38ºF for about 10-11 hours.shaped sourdough ready for proofEven at such cool temperatures this dough can quickly overproof so keep an eye on it in the fridge in the morning.

8. Bake – Next Morning: Preheat oven at 6:45 a.m., Bake at 7:45 a.m.

Place your Baking Steel in your oven and preheat for one hour at 500ºF (or 525ºF if your oven can go that high). Once preheated, take out both of the baskets from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap.Whole Wheat Sourdough end of ProofYou’ll notice my dough has risen somewhat but not a significant amount. Instead the dough has relaxed to fill my proofing baskets and is perhaps a little more puffy (the loaf on the right was a slightly higher final dough weight and will result in a larger loaf).

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over the top and place over the basket, then place a pizza peel or small cutting board over the top. Quickly invert each basket onto the parchment and peel/board. Using a sharp razor blade fastened to a stick, scissors, or a very sharp knife carefully score the top of each loaf at a shallow angle to the dough, just deep enough to cut below the top skin we created at shape time.Dough scoreI like to score whole wheat loaves at a very shallow angle, this helps the loaf attain maximal rise when in the oven. If you score at a straight 90º angle with the dough then as the dough rises it sort of splits open instead of “peeling” back. You want the dough to have some resistance at the top as it starts rising from the heat in the oven.

I steamed my oven in my usual way, described here in my post on how to steam your home oven for baking with the only modification being I do not have the baking stone on top. I baked these loaves hot and fast. The goal was to bake the exterior to a nice dark color, and also bake the interior, but take the loaves out before they completely dried out inside. With whole wheat I like my loaves to be much more tender and moist and I found this baking schedule achieves that.

Bake at 500ºF for 20 minutes, then remove the steaming pans from inside the oven. Bake the loaves for an additional 10 minutes at 500ºF, then turn the oven down to 450ºF and bake for an additional 18-22 minutes until done to your liking. Keep an eye on these from the middle of the bake all the way to the end as the prolonged high temperature can quickly scorch the outside of the loaves.

Note that these times and temperatures are what work well here for my oven, my altitude (about 5280 ft. above sea level) and my environment. The first time you try this recipe keep a a close watch over the dough in the oven to adjust as necessary.

For the past few months (maybe even longer) I’ve been baking in my oven on a Baking Steel instead of my usual baking stones. I’ve found several benefits to using this: it gets incredibly hot, it’s able to transfer its stored heat much more effectively to the food, and the physical height of the steel is much less than my previous baking stones (a minor thing but important when trying to pack so many things in the oven). Oh and I can’t fail to mention the fact that baking sourdough pizza on it is a dream, I finally am able to get a pretty killer crust (checkout  my sourdough pizza recipe!).

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 1-2 hours.

Conclusion

blank canvas and crustWith this much whole wheat it’s always a challenge to get a tall and airy loaf but the addition of the bread flour, high hydration, and relatively tight shaping have helped achieve that. Along with the nice rise the soft and tender interior and dark, crunchy crust play off each other to create a balanced bread that is both flavorful and light in the hand.

One modification I’d love to try is to use white wheat instead of red wheat for the 50% whole wheat portion. White wheat is one of my favorites to use, mostly because of its mild, laid back flavor but also I conveniently have a new 25 pound bag of raw white wheat berries sitting in my pantry ready to go (and nowadays it’s almost always used in my weekly sourdough sandwich bread). This change might reduce the overall assertiveness of this bread, but it would be exciting to see the change in flavor profile.

Crust

whole wheat sourdough crustI love this dark crust, and because of the hot bake the interior did not dry out in the slightest. Sometimes it can be hard to achieve this but a little tweak to the baking schedule really did the trick. I plan to try this in the future with my other recipes, the crust results speak for themselves!

I almost always prefer the batard shape over a boule, mostly because of how the bread slices up (not too wide, and a little taller), and this bread is no exception. I enjoy how the crust peels back as the bread opens in the oven, it contributes to that tall loaf with a really pleasing aesthetic.

Crumb

fifty-fifty whole wheat sourdough crumbFor 50% whole wheat I couldn’t be happier with the crumb. As you know the higher you go in whole grains usually the more dense your bread will be, but I think the relatively high hydration and mix of flours has helped achieve a really light loaf that has uniform openness throughout.

Taste

This bread has an assertive wheat flavor but not so much that it’s overpowering; it really showcases the stoneground wheat and doesn’t let it play second role here. There’s a tad more sourness peaking through but it’s actually a very complementary flavor to the wheat, adding a touch more complexity and depth. I’m not big on overly sour bread and for me this was just right.

If you’d like more sourness try to proof a bit longer or add even more whole grains, and if you’d like less do the opposite. Just be weary of the timetable I’ve laid out here when modifying the whole grain percentage, as you know more whole grains means increased fermentation.


I like the idea that this recipe is a starting point for those who might not have a lot of experience in working with whole grains (or even if you do!). With this gateway bread you can adjust the percentage of whole wheat up or down to suit you and your family’s tastes. It’s a good jumping off point with a majority of whole grains and a base formula for our endless tweaking and testing in search of that perfect loaf.

Buon appetito!

 

A version of this post also appeared on the Baking Steel blog as a guest post.





  1. Usually breads with a significant amount of white flour are lighter, more open and loftier

  2. The ability of an object or material to resume its normal shape after being stretched or compressed

  • Rodney Ferris

    I’ve just got to try this one, I am working on your best today.. Find the measurements so odd.. I ended up among for 800g in all of flour, but now I realize that I didn’t measure the WW flour correctly! so I’ might have created something new! LOL! But I know that it is going to be a lot better than the last batch I made because it will have better structure!

    I noticed that you have adjusted your autolyse times and your levain building times because of the water temp. I used warmer water in the Best Recipe today and I should think that I could bring it all together tonight for a sleep in the fridge. I got a couple of bannetons and I’m excited to try them!

    • Paul Tudor

      Levin build fermentation I allow to work for 6/7 hours. Bulk fermentation I allow to take 3 hours and Proving up to 1.5 hours just when I push my finger 1/2 inch into the dough it springs back. Again depends on temperature.

    • Awesome! Sounds good to me. Yes, with warmer water (or ambient) temperatures fermentation will move along faster. When you adjust the temp just look for the signs (sight and smell) for when it’s ready to be used knowing that with warmer temps things will move along faster.

      Good luck and have fun!

  • Wendy Shefte

    This will be my next loaf of bread! One question, do you still use the baking stone on top when you are using the steel?

    • With the baking steel I don’t usually use the top stone. I’ve been baking without it lately and haven’t noticed any detriment to my outcome. I feel like it might add to a little more color on top of the loaf but not enough to use it every time.

      Let me know what you think of this bread, I really enjoy it — whole wheat has such amazing flavor (as I’ve said before :))!

  • Paul Tudor

    There must be something different to European flour and US flour. I have to restrict hydration to 65% in the UK else my dough becomes a pouring dough. My son a Sous Pastry Chef in France agrees. European flour is different to American flour in water absorption. Having attended Patisserie College structure of the bread come from the Gluten content hence Strong flour (Bread flour High in Gluten) is used for bread making and Soft flour is used for Pastries. I make croissants/Danish Pastry which require structure with Bread flour high in gluten as they require structure. Flan Pastry/sweet Pastry etc requires no structure hence I use soft flour. I will be making this recipe but restricting the hydration to 65% which will produce the same result.

    • Absolutely. I’ve heard many times now from readers who cringe at my hydration numbers — it’s all relative to your flour! It sounds like you have a good sense for what the dough should feel like, adjust as necessary.

      I try to warn readers about the differences in flour and how they should hold back hydration, adding water slowly as they go until it feels right. Our flour in the US is definitely very strong, and when I use this much whole wheat in the mix I can really crank up the water — very thirsty.

      Happy baking, let me know how you like this recipe!

  • hai tsabar

    I’ve found an explanation of the different types of flour in this address. https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/understanding-flour-types/
    I wonder if I can ask yuo to relate to this table as opposed of using USA based barnd names. It might be helpful for those of us whoe enjoy your blog from overseas. Myself, I’m from Israel where obviousely have our own brands, that are dificult to replace with the USA barnds.
    Last but not least, many thanks for your blog. It is wounderful!
    Hai Tsabar

    • Thanks for that link, really great information there! I’ve been thinking about keeping a page like this here at my site relating to the flours I use most often — probably about time I do that.

      At that page, what they have in the “US” column is correct. I will almost always refer to flour here at “bread flour” if it has high protein (13-14%), and “all purpose” if it has moderate (11-12%).

      My Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour (somewhat confusingly) is actually lower protein, around 11.5% or so, this is my current favorite flour to use. You’ll see that here and many other recipes here at my site.

      I don’t use “high gluten” flour much, but when I do it’s usually Central Milling High Mountain (~13% protein) or King Arthur Bread Flour.

      I hope that helps — thanks for the comments, I appreciate that!

  • Pam Martin Towers

    Love the weekend recipe. The 50/50 loaf, while for a beginner was a great learning tool. Besides that the flavor is great. Working with the hydration is a challenge add to that 90′ weather in Eugene, Ore and sticky was the optimum word. Even though I gave away the “pretty” loaf and kept the flatter one, the crust and crumb are super. I’d never worked “warmed” flour. Neat trick. Keep the recipes coming. thanks.

    • Awesome, glad you enjoyed it! Sounds like despite the challenging environment you adjusted and things turned out very well. Temperatures in the 90’s would definitely make things difficult, I usually shoot for a bulk fermentation at around 80ºF.

      Thanks for the comments and yes, definitely more coming!

  • Eddie R

    Baked this earlier this morning… Great flavor! I’m hoping to build up my skills (and patience) with this recipe.

    My dough after the bulk fermentation never really stiffened up. I even tried running it through my stand mixer a couple times. It did rise and my levain was plenty active. But even after proofing overnight, my dough never held its shape. I was surprised to see decent crumb, but it easily fell limp on the counter this morning as I attempted to score the top.

    Any suggestions?

    • Excellent!

      It sounds like perhaps the hydration of this recipe is too high for the flour you’re using. I’d recommend reducing hydration by 10% or so and see if that helps stiffen up the dough next time. The more water in the recipe the more strength you need to impart on the dough (through mixing/kneading or strech & folds during bulk), there’s a limit though to what your flour can handle.

      Let me know how that goes! I love this recipe 🙂

      • Eddie R

        Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been using the KA Stone Ground Whole Wheat and their AP Bread Flour. Like Pam below, I think a had too warm of temps in my kitchen. I hadn’t really considered how much that would have made a difference, but it’s easily the warmest room in the house here in TX (even tho AC is 76-78). Definitely going to try this again.

        • Ok great sounds good. Let me know how it goes!

  • maccompatible

    What proofing baskets do you use in this recipe?

    • Since I made these in my typical batard shape I used the ones you’ll most commonly see here. They are 12″ long cane bannetons with linen liners, dusted lightly with white rice flour.

      • maccompatible

        That makes sense. They look longer than the ones I’ve been using. Where do you buy them? I like that shape better. Ha

        • Yes, I like to use longer baskets so the dough can relax out fully — no confinement. You can find them many places online, here are some good ones.

  • Jen Rossey

    Looking forward to that pizza recipe!

    • Coming here at some point! Still testing, testing, testing 🙂

  • Michelle P

    Thank you for so much practical guidance. I’m a lone home baker living in a remote part of Australia in very hot conditions. Baking sourdough has been a dream and you have helped it become a reality. My dreams are now getting bigger! I would like to start adding olives to my sourdough. Is this another whole chapter of learning?

    • So glad to hear that, makes me incredibly happy! I love helping people get started with sourdough, so awesome.

      Add-ins are very common and most things won’t affect the way the bread comes out. There are some that will either speed up or slow down fermentation. Most fruits and nuts (and olives) are totally fine though! I have many recipes here with different add-ins: olives, walnuts, raisins, polenta, oat porridge, and so on. Have a look at my Recipes page (link at the top) for some ideas!

      Happy baking!

  • Jenn

    Hi Maurizio,
    Can I still use my combo cooker for this recipe?
    Thank you!

    • Jenn — absolutely! Happy baking 🙂

      • Jenn

        Finally getting to make this as my last plans didn’t quite work out on moving week! If I use my Dutch Combo cooker what would the temps be like then and when would I remove the top of the cooker? Thank you and happy holidays!
        PS: Also, I just used my normal starter that I doubt is 100% hydration I wonder if that means I can add more H2O later? I’ll try and play it by ear and see what 100% hydration starter is like if you explained that in the starter section.

        With gratitude,
        Jenn

        • When using a combo cooker I typically bake at 500ºF for 20 mins with the lid on, then remove the lid and bake at 450ºF for 30 more minutes or so until done.

          If your starter isn’t 100% hydration then yes, you can add more water so the overall hydration of the recipe meets what’s specified here. However, keep in mind your flour might be different than mine so it may need more or less water (that’s why I recommend holding some back and adding it in at the end of mixing if it feels like the dough can take it).

          Have fun, Jenn!

  • Sam Ross

    Hi Maurizio,

    First off, I have to say I am a huge fan of the blog. I’m sure you’re going to win the Saveur award so I figure I should ask my question now before you hit the big time and get too busy to reply!

    I have been having issues with my dough texture. I measure everything to the gram and I follow all of the instructions (though I gauge water temperature more by feel…), but my dough consistently turns out way too sticky and spreads out too much when I try to shape it. When I made the perfect sourdough recipe at ~80% hydration I definitely had this issue, but despite looking uber-spread out the loaves still sprang nicely and looked great post-baking. The 50/50 whole wheat at 100% hydration was a mess, though. I used slap and fold, which seemed to give the dough some good stiffness, but every time I took the dough out for a stretch and fold it had lost its tautness. After finishing bulk it had no body, I could barely pre-shape, and after proofing and baking there was a pretty disappointing end product (dense, very little spring).

    Can you guess at what I might be doing wrong that causes the dough to be so difficult to handle? My schedule is super hectic and I only get to bake every two weeks or so (i keep the starter well fed and active), so I try to make the most of each opportunity.

    Thanks again – I love the site!

    Sam

    • Sam — hah! Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      It sounds like you should try reducing hydration for this recipe, I would drop it down 10% and try to keep everything else as consistent as possible. If the dough just won’t come together, even with slap/fold and stretch and fold during bulk then it’s likely there’s just too much water for the flour to handle.

      Dough can also become extremely slack and spread out when it’s over fermented, but it doesn’t sound like this is the case for you here.

      Try reducing water next time and let me know how it goes!

      • Sam Ross

        Maurizio,

        You were right. I made two batches at 80% and 75% and they were much better – I think 75% is the way to go (especially since NYC is super humid right now I probably shouldn’t go over 75).

        Today I mixed up some of your best sourdough recipe (again with hydration cut to 75%) and I haven’t baked it yet but already it is the best-textured dough I’ve ever made. Maybe with enough experience I can work my way up to 85% but for now I am thrilled.

        Thanks again!

        Sam

        • That’s great news! Slowly moving up is the right move. Glad you’re off to a good starting point now, have fun with it and happy baking!

  • Heather Hilton

    I just pulled this out of the oven this morning. I added figs, walnuts, cinnamon and a touch of vanilla. It’s so incredible. THANK YOU for your wealth of knowledge!

    • Heather — ooh that sounds wonderful. You’re so welcome and I’m glad I could help! Happy baking 🙂

  • Drew

    Fantastic post, thanks for the great step by step!

    I’ve also recently been using my baking steel — previously reserved for pizza — for sourdough bakes, as I also love the oven spring it produces. I’m having a recurring issue with burnt/scorched loaf bottoms, though, and was wondering if you’ve experienced the same, took some mitigating measures? I’ve tried propping up the loaves on an inverted sheet pan halfway through the bake, but the damage seems to be done in the first 15 or so minutes. I’ve seen the issue across a number of higher hydration recipes, so it doesn’t seem to be unique to a particular formula. I use small pieces of parchment to load the dough, and am going to experiment with sprinklings of corn meal next, see if that helps. Any advice from you or your readers would be great!

    Thanks again…

    • Thanks, I appreciate that!

      Since using my Baking Steel I’ve played around with reducing the temperature (or time) of my preheat by 25ºF. The BS heats up rather quickly and, as you know, retains heat for quite a long time. This drop in temperature hasn’t affected my oven spring at all but has helped to reduce the scorching on the bottom of my loaves. I think cornmeal would also help!

  • Kat LeSueur

    Hi Maurizio! I’m really excited to play around with this formula today. Looks SO good! I only have non-diastatic malt on hand… I’ve had issues with it clumping/crystalizing in certain applications in the past… will it work in this recipe? Also I”m assuming the malt is mixed into the flour before autolyze? Thanks!

    • Hello, Kat! I actually haven’t used non-diastatic malt but I could see how that could cause an issue. I’ve read about other bakers using “malt syrup” before, I would assume they would mix it in with the liquids for the bread then incorporate into the flour. My diastatic is powder, of course, so I just toss it in with the flour mix when I perform my autolyse.

      Hope that helps, let me know how the bake goes!

  • Yan

    Hi Maurizio,
    The recipe here is looking amazing. I’m planning to bake one with the recipe above. However, I have 3 questions here. Can u pls help?
    1. Can I use rye flour instead of wheat flour here?
    2. I want to add the walnut, which step I should add into the dough?
    3. I have a small oven, I just want to bake one with around 400-500g. But the levain build is not much there. Should I reduce that proportionally, but which will only have about 33g of mature left there. Will it be too little?

    Many thanks,Yan

    • Yan,

      Thank you for the kind words! Answers below:

      1. Sure, you can use rye but with the expectation that the loaf will be quite dense at such a high percentage of rye.
      2. I like to add walnuts after the second stretch and fold during bulk.
      3. Good question — I like to keep the levain build at the same quantity as listed above, even if you are going to halve the dough formula. Good call!

      I hope that helps Yan, sorry for the late reply! Happy baking 🙂

  • Kuzmatron

    Hi Mauricio,

    I somehow missed seeing the malt and have already progressed to autolyse. Plus, I don’t have any and am not sure I can get some quickly. What happens if I leave the malt out? Or if I find it, can I mix it with the water used to incorporate the levain?

    • Hey there! You can definitely add it in when you add in the levain.

      If you didn’t have any malt that’s ok too, it might just reduce the dramatic coloring you’d see on the crust — no worries.

      Happy baking!

  • Becca

    After the overnight ferment, my dough is pretty flat. I am not sure what went wrong, but suspect it might be the starter. I had to let the levain sit for several more than two hours before it looked strong enough to use. Then I forgot about the additional time it sits during the autolyse stage. I am not sure how to save it at thing point. Maybe baking in my cast iron dutch oven?

    • Becca — baking it in your Dutch oven will help it keep its shape. Another thing you can do is when you go to bake it, give it a gentle re-shape on the counter and then put it in your Dutch oven for baking. This will give the dough some added structure and it should be easy to perform since the dough will be cold from the fridge.

      One note: if you let the dough autolyse too long it can increase the extensibility of the dough, make it able to stretch out quite a bit before resisting. Try to cut that back the next go and see if it helps!

      • Becca

        Maurizio, I ended up baking in two loaf pans and shaping it into a loaf right before baking (I still need to get my hands on proofing baskets). It came out very well! It could have been a bit more airy inside but it was a great sandwich loaf. I brought the two loaves on a camping trip and toasted slices over the fire for everyone. It was amazing! I made another batch this morning, which looks like it rose in the oven less than during my last attempt. I plan to keep going with this, so next week I will try a shorter autolyse time.

        Thank you for sharing your bread making adventures in such detail and being so responsive to comments. This blog is truly a work of art!

        • Oooh toasted over a fire sounds perfect! Now that the temperatures here are getting cooler that’s going to have to be a must-do for me 🙂

          You’re very welcome I’m glad my website has helped you! It sounds like you’re on the right track here — let me know if you need any help and I’ll get back to ya.

          Thank you and happy baking!

  • Nivedita Sahasrabudhe

    Hi Maurizio,
    I’ve been making this formula weekly for over a month, fiddling with different variables. The results are always tasty, the top crust has largely been thin and crispy. I wanted to get your input on a few issues I am running into though. The two main things I’d like to fix are:
    1. Bottom crust is harder and thicker than I would like. Slices have more of a hacked feel to them because my bread knife starts to bend as it encounters the bottom crust. It’s not a heavy duty one, but still – if this knife works well enough with artisan bread from the bakery, I need to fix my crust, not get a new knife. I tied putting crumpled foil at the bottom of the pot – the bottoms were too pale. A pale cookie sheet on the rack below the pot didn’t seem to make any difference. Haven’t tried cornmeal yet.
    2. This is the one I care about more: I get nice big holes, but not the oven spring that I see in yours and certainly nowhere near the grin on yours. I am assuming that oven spring is what gets those nice medium size holes and has them sort of sweeping up towards the lovely grin. Sometimes, the slashes on my loaves just melt into the crust. Here is a link to some pictures of various bakes: https://goo.gl/photos/dqtU2VhKGfWxM27R7 I would like to see a better crumb structure in my loaves – i.e. more evenly sized big holes instead of the disparity in size I am getting now . I hope I am not using terminology incorrectly here – I believe I am developing dough enough, since I get some nice shiny thin hole walls. I wonder if I am over-developing and also if I am over-proofing? What are the signs of over-development?
    I tried not retarding for as long, but then flavor suffered. I might try reducing bulk rise since anyway I am going a bit beyond your specified time to compensate for the dough cooling down when I do slap and folds. I tried doing these both on the granite counter, as well as on a wood chopping block. Speaking of dough temperature, when do you measure final dough temp? Thanks so much for any insights!

    • That’s great to hear! I’ll answer below:

      1. If you’re using a Dutch oven with your bakes then I’d recommend not placing the DO directly on a baking stone. When I do this my crust on the bottom can get a little more cooked then the rest of the loaf. If you’re baking directly on a baking stone you could try reducing the preheat time of your oven so your stones aren’t quite so hot when you load your dough onto them. Cornmeal is definitely another good approach, I’d recommend trying that as well. One more thing: if your baking stones are close to the bottom heating element in your oven you could raise that rack one or two rungs so it’s a little farther away.

      2. There can be several factors that lead to a lack of pronounced oven spring when baking. The first I usually recommend, and would do so here based on your pictures, is to try and reduce your overall proof time. If you let the dough ferment for too long (either in bulk, in proof, or both) then it’s possible your dough will not have enough “energy” left to spring high. There’s a balance here between proofing just enough and not too much, of course, and finding that perfect spot takes practice and experience. It looks to me your dough might be going just a bit too long, I’d try cutting bulk by 30 minutes, or what I’d probably do in my own case, is reduce my proof time in the fridge by 1-2 hours.

      Signs of over development/fermentation: lack of oven spring, little to no ear on the dough at the slash points, lots of small holes in the interior, dough spreading in the oven when loading.

      Unfortunately some of the things I just mentioned could also be due to lack of sufficient tension in the dough from final shaping. Make sure you’ve shaped your dough tight enough so there’s a nice taut skin on the outside and you should be fine.

      You measure “final dough temperature” right after you are finished mixing and right before bulk fermentation.

      I hope that all helps, keep me posted and happy baking Nivedita!

  • Fred

    Where would you put it for proofing if you don’t have a shaping basket?

    • If you don’t have a proper proofing basket (or banneton) you can simply use any bowl in your kitchen that is about the same size as your boules with a little more height so the dough can rise. I’ve used all sorts of mixing bowls from my kitchen and these work so well, just line them with a clean kitchen towel and you’re good to go!

      • Fred

        Thanks, they turned out great but is it a bad thing to have one big hole on the left side that goes on to the end.

        • You definitely want to try and avoid any large pockets in the dough like that. The best result is a consistently even crumb with holes just about the same size throughout. That hole cold have been caused by a shaping error or, if it was a really large one, can sometimes indicate your dough was underproofed and could use more time in bulk fermentation or proof (or both).

  • Marley Negus

    Simply amazing. This is about as close to my perfect loaf as I can envision. I’ve only been baking bread for three weeks, all naturally leavened for the past week. You are a HUGE inspiration, everything from your process to your activity in the community truly moves me to bake the best bread that I can.

    Expect many questions from me in the future.

    • Thanks so much Marley, really appreciate that! Really glad I could inspire — baking sourdough is something I just can’t get enough of and I know when others do it, even just one time, they’ll be following suit!

      I’m here to help — happy baking!

  • Christina Lazarakis

    Hi Maurizio, questions for you: I am planning on making this bread again in a few days and picked up some Giusto’s Organic Baker’s Choice All-Purpose Flour thinking it was the Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour you recommended. Will that still work well for the 50/50 recipe? I went to the website to research it and it appears to have the same protein content (11.5%) as the Artisan Bread Flour and is also listed as one of the bread flours. That said, it is also listed as all-purpose so it confused me. It doesn’t contain malted barley like Giusto’s Artisan Bread Flour and I unfortunately don’t have access to it. Are there any special considerations I need to keep in mind when making the bread with what I have this time around? Any and all help/thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much, Maurizio!

    • Hey there Christina! I’ve never used Giusto’s All Purpose flour, but usually that indicates it will have a little lower protein percentage than their “bread” flour options. It’s strange that it lists the same percentage, though. I would say yes, use it for sure and see how it goes. You might want to add in another set of stretch and folds during bulk to see if that helps build more structure. When the dough is developing observe how it feels and try to mentally (intuitively) compare to dough in the past when you might have used bread flour. If it feels a little weaker, more slack, give it another set of turns like I mentioned.

      Also, keep an eye on the hydration and hold some back water during mix just in case the all purpose can’t take on quite the amount of flour as their bread flour.

      The King Arthur flour should be pretty strong so it should help add strength to the dough overall, I wouldn’t be worried about using the all purpose!

      Let me know how it goes and good luck!

      • Christina Lazarakis

        Thank you SO much, Maurizio, I really appreciate it; that’s all very helpful. I will definitely let you know how it goes!

  • Gage Allen

    Hi Maurizio! Ive been absolutely loving this recipe, wonderful flavors! I tend to bake a double batch at a time mostly because some weekends are busy and baking gets missed. I always like to have sourdough on hand. I have been struggling to find a good way to thaw and reheat these loaves. I’ve been removing them from the freezer and letting them sit out for a good 6-8 hours, reheating the loaves for about 10min at 350. And still I cut them open and the centers are quite gummy… Wondering if you’ve had any luck with a different method?

    Thanks again mate!!

    • Hey! Super glad to hear that, thank you 🙂 If the bread is in the freezer for too long unfortunately things do tend to get a bit gummy when they are thawed and then used, hard to avoid that. What I usually do instead of heating the entire loaf up is to let it thaw, slice out what I want, and then toast those slices heavily to get them to crisp up. I usually use my toaster for this but if I’m doing a lot of bread then I’ll use my broiler in my oven with the slices on a baking sheet.

      Hope that helps. It’s hard to get them 100% back to original!

    • Daniel M

      Hi. I read your post and have an answer for your issue. I find that slicin up the bread before sticking in the freezer is best. That way, whenever I want a slice or two of bread I just take out the individual slices and stick them in the toaster. My toaster has a defrost option, so I press that when I turn it on. And since the bread is frozen like a rock when I put it in the toaster, I just turn the knob on the toaster a little more to the darker side to compensate. I hope you’re able ron try this out and works for you. Best.

  • Vagelis Stephanou

    Hi, I’m just getting to know sourdough and today I made this recipe as my first attempt. Used only 730 grams water (which is around 78%) but did a mistake and added all 150 grams of levain, so I got a really sticky dough, especially for a first timer like me (most I ever done is a 70% pizza and it seemed too wet!)

    This is a great website/baking diary and I’ll be around here often, I guess. Great job presenting the fine art of bread making.

    Thanks!

    • Thanks so much for the comments Vagelis! Yes, adding in too much levain would lend a stickier dough (more water and also more fermentation) but that’s an easy fix for next time 🙂

      Glad you’re enjoying the site and hope to hear from you again! Happy baking.

  • Ciao Maurizio! Thanks so much, as always, for detailing your process.

    I’m curious how you come up with the seemingly random amounts of ingredients in most of your recipes. I’m sure there’s a reason for it! For example, this bread uses 932g flour (random?), 14.14% levain, etc. I’m curious where these amounts stem from (i.e. why not 900g or 950g flour?).

    I definitely scale down recipes from time to time, especially if I find that I get “too much” oven spring (at least to fit into my cast iron cooker)…but I always tend to reduce by 50g increments or whole percentages. Just curious! Cheers.

    • You’re very welcome! This is such a good question, I’m actually surprised I haven’t been asked it until now 🙂

      So I have a spreadsheet where I tinker and develop all my recipes, the spreadsheet is laid out so that it calculates both a “Final Dough” formula (which is what I post here and results in strange, odd numbered ingredients) but also the Levain (I also post this in the “Levain Build” section), and finally it has an “Total Formula” section — this total formula section is almost always in whole numbered values.

      For example, when I develop a recipe I might come up with 30% whole wheat flour, 70% white flour, but in my spreadsheet after it takes the levain into account the actual values might be strange in the end and result in values like 903g or 122g. When you run the numbers you’d see that if you take the levain into account it changes the resulting percentages and ingredient amounts to non-whole numbers.

      I only post the Final Dough formula here because that’s what’s really needed to make the bread described (i also have a note about this at the start of the formula). Perhaps in the future I should start listing the entire table.

      Thanks for the comments and I hope that makes sense!

      • Yep, makes sense. I had a feeling that was it.

        It’s interesting…Chad Robertson (at least in Tartine) doesn’t count the levain flour/water toward the total flour/water amounts in the recipe (he just treats it as another ingredient)…but a lot of people in the community feel that his method of using baker’s percentages is wrong. Personally, I’ve been calculating like Chad…but I’ve often wondered if I would get better results by switching to the other method.

        Anyways, thanks again for the post. I modified things a bit on my end (50% whole wheat, 50% BRM bread flour, 85% hydration, 15% levain), and came up with an OK result: https://www.instagram.com/p/BPVMsJCD6Oi/ . The proof may have been too long for that dough, at 18 hours…

        Now if only I had an oven that could get hotter…

        Cheers,

        Ryan

        • Yeah Chad’s formulas are almost all based on 1kg or 2kg final dough weights, his levain is at 100% hydration and he doesn’t calculate in the levain. I’ve seen a few other bakers do this but it’s not too common — perhaps he wanted to make things more clear for the home baker, not sure.

          Your bread looks beautiful to me! Wonderful colors and a really nice crust. Nicely done. Aren’t we all trying to get that oven just a bit hotter… 🙂

          Happy baking, Ryan!

  • Rebecca Metraux Canna

    Hey Maurizio! I’m trying to get more comfortable with the whole slap and fold technique. I find that more often than not, I feel like my dough gets stickier the more I do the slap and fold thing. I don’t think I’m overdoing it because I feel like the stickiness starts to increase after only about a minute of doing it. I don’t know what gives. Any ideas? Thanks in advance.

    • Hey there! Slap and fold can take some getting used to and does require a certain “feel” to folding that dough over. You really want to try and keep your hands from digging into or pressing the dough too much, over time it will make things more sticky. After a few mins of slap/fold if you find your hands start to stick really bad to the dough try moistening them very lightly with water so they don’t stick quite as much. Be careful not to use too much water or the dough won’t stick to the counter (if this happens just keep going and it will resolve), just enough so your hands become kind of nonstick.

      Aside from that tip it really just comes down to practice. The dough should get smoother and smoother as you go. If it’s overly wet when you are doing this it might never come together but it should never really get more and more sticky. You could try also holding back more water than I recommend, maybe 50g-100g, until after the first slap/fold session, this way you can see how the dough strengthens up at a lower hydration where it should happen faster.

      I hope this helps!

  • Juwanda Hassim Tfbb

    Hi there,

    I am at the exactly on the equator, And I have trying sourdoughs for a while now..I bake cakes, baguettes, and brioches for my cafe and and I am all self taught..But sourdoughs are so hard to make…I will throw away my starter and try yours (as it doesn’t work and as i read on your instruction it doesn’t do anything yours does..haha) you explain the ways so well…I love eating sourdough breads..I want to make one..Wish me luck..Thank you for your blog…I truly am thankful! will it prove in any fridge at the last stage?

    • Sure you can use any type of fridge for the overnight, cold proof. I keep mine at 38ºF.

      Thanks so much for the kind words and good luck on your sourdough journey, I’m sure you will make it happen!

  • Carol Doeringer

    Maurizio, I recently discovered your blog, and it’s wonderful! I’m a longtime hearth bread baker, but you’re rekindled my interest in sourdough, and this is a great breadmaking romp. One question: do you have any idea of the volume that your bannetons hold? I’d like to match my dough weight to yours in the banneton, as they come in various sizes and shapes. I’m thinking of lining the basket with a sturdy plastic bag, filling to near the top, and then measuring the water. Have you ever done that?

    • Thanks so much, Carol! I’ve never measured the volume my baskets will hold. I kind of gauge the amount of dough they’ll hold by the length, the baskets seen here are 14″ long and easily hold 1kg of dough — you could probably push it to 1.5kg and I think that’s what they are rated for. I picked them up at the SFBI.com website a while back!

      Hope that helps and happy baking!

      • Carol Doeringer

        Thank you. My musing is more related to baking smaller loaves…thinking how to choose a basket sized for say, 1/3 or 1/5 of a loaf you would put in one of yours. There’s always good old fashioned trial and error!

        • It’s a very good question. I’d go by the specs listed at the vendor, they will almost always indicate the max dough weight a basket can hold. From there, yes, trial and error to see if it’s what you’re looking for. When I bake I usually like for there to be plenty of room at the top and bottom of my loaves so the dough can relax and expand fully.

          • Carol Doeringer

            Thank you again! I followed two of your recipes to the ‘t’ recently, and the results have been outstanding. Your love for the process is quite apparent, and you are so generous to share as comprehensively as you do.

            • Fantastic, really glad to hear that Carol! I’m glad to help 🙂

  • Jayden

    Hi Maurizio, this might be a stupid question, but are the baskets you are using here the same as the 10″ bannetons (batards) on your “My Baking Tools” page. I am looking at buying a couple. You mentioned that the ones you list are a bit on the small side. When I click on the link, the website says they are 10″ x 6″. Would you say this size is still fine to buy, or if I can find bigger, should I go with that? Thanks again for great website and information.

  • Courteney

    This is my favorite recipe of yours so far, it turns out fantastic. I am in a bit of a pickle for tomorrow and need to attempt to get the entire (levain to bake) done in a day. Is there a way to not put it in the fridge overnight for the rest and proof and instead shorten the proofing process and leave it out on the bench or in a warmer place and bake that same day?

    • Awesome, glad to hear that! Yes, you can definitely proof the dough on the counter. Just be aware that the dough will be less firm overall when you go to bake it so it helps to shape a little bit tighter than usual (or use a proofing basket that wont let the dough spread too much). Give it the time it needs on the bench!

      • Courteney

        Awesome. Thank you so much Maurizio! And just as a general idea, for this recipe how long do you think it will take until it’s ready to go in the oven on the bench?

        • Really hard to say. When I’ve been doing 100% ww on the counter at 72F it only takes 2.5 hours or so, but this is very relative to how the dough is doing. You can wet a hand and use the “poke test” reliably (check out google for videos)!

          • courteney

            Got it, thank you for the help 🙂

          • Laura

            Hi Maurizio,
            Thank you for this wonderful site. Similar to the question above, I am on a time restraint. I travel a lot and will be getting home this afternoon, then leaving again tomorrow early evening. Is it possible to extend the levain to an overnight one – (So I make it tonight, and then continue the process in the morning and bake before leaving)?

            • Laura: you’re very welcome!

              Yes, you can definitely do that. Just use a smaller amount of mature starter to create your levain, perhaps 15-20%, to slow things down so it will last overnight.

  • Dimana

    This recipe didn’t work for me at all.
    From the beginning it was doomed – I used wholegrain stoneground rye flour which took all the water that the recipe called for.
    And since then it became just a gloopy, ugly mess that made me clean the kitchen counter for hours. It was completely unmanageable dough that never developed any strength in the initial kneading (even though I battled it for 10 minutes +). During shaping I had to wet my hands so many times it completely changed the structure… Anyway, now its in the fridge proofing and I will bake it tomorrow, but I doubt there will be any result. Just wasted a lot of time/effort/ingredients.. I might as well discontinue sourdough for now, because I lost faith completely… No clue what I’m doing wrong. And since I’m SO bad with math all the % and numbers are confusing me even more… 🙁 Nevermind, I still enjoy your lovely photos and tips 🙂 Thank you!

    • Ah, sorry to hear that Dimana! Rye flour is very, very different than wheat. It does not have the same gluten (and other) properties and so it will be very difficult to do 50% rye in a recipe like this which calls for wheat. Rye won’t every mix up into a cohesive mass like wheat will (the higher percentage of rye you use in a formula the more pronounced this will be). Additionally, whole grain rye flour can take on a lot, lot more water than wheat.

      Sorry the bake didnt work out well for ya! I’d say give this recipe a shot with the flour called for here (wheat), you’ll be surprised by the difference!

  • Zach

    First off, thanks so much for the site! I had never baked any kind of bread before, and from getting my starter going up to my first actual bake, everything went pretty well. Right from the start I had very good bread. It’s not GREAT bread yet, but it’s very good bread. I’ve settled on a recipe based off this one, but with 50g dark rye and 50g buckwheat substituted for 100g of the white flour. I’m going to work that recipe until I work all the bugs out and get the shaping down better.

    Anyway, I just have a question about the steaming part. I use the Lodge cast iron combo cooker, with parchment paper. My question is whether I should trim the parchment paper to fit inside the cooker. Right now it sticks out the sides. I just wonder if that does anything to the seal. I could see it going either way…it might create a better seal, or it might be allowing more steam to escape.

    What do you think? Doesn’t matter? Helps keep steam in? Is letting more out?

    Thanks!