Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

I recently got inspired by watching Cooked, a Michael Pollan documentary, to learn how to make bread.  The documentary on Netflix is broken into four parts: fire, water, air, and earth.  Each part shows how people cook with that element.  The episode on air focused on bread.  It is pretty magical that we can make bread out of nothing more than flour, water, a little bit of salt, and magically, air.  I have to say that making bread is one of the most satisfying culinary experiences that I have had.  If you’ve never tried it, go for it!  Try it once!  It makes for a fun day (well week) and a delicious reward at the end!


whole wheat flour




  • Day 1: You first need to make the starter.  Start by mixing 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup water in a bowl.  Stir until the batter is smooth.  Place container lightly covered (not air tight) at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Day 2: Feed the starter by adding 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup water to the dough.  Mix until it is a smooth batter.  Place container lightly covered (not air tight) at room temperature for 24 hours.
  • Day 3: Feed the starter by repeating the steps of Day 2.
  • Day 4: Feed the starter by repeating the steps of Day 2.  Your active sourdough culture/sourdough starter will be ready to use on the following day, Day 5.
  • Day 5: Make the leaven.  Combine 1 tablespoon of the now active sourdough culture with 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water.  Mix thoroughly.  Lightly cover and let stand at room temperature for about 12 hours overnight.
  • Day 6: This is the main day!
    • 1. Combine 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon of salt in a bowl in order to dissolve the salt.  Set aside.
    • 2. Combine the leaven from Day 5 with 2 cups of water.  Work with your hands to break up the leaven and dissolve it to the extent possible in the water.  It will not dissolve completely. (pictured below).
    • 3. Stir 5 1/2 cups of flour into the water/leaven mix until there is no dry flour.  Time: _____
    • 4. Rest dough lightly covered for 30 minutes – 4 hours.
    • 5. Mix in the salt water from step 1.
    • 6. Fold dough.  To fold the dough, grab the dough on one side, lift it up, and fold it on top of itself.  Move clockwise around the dough to make 4 folds (“set of folds”).  After each set of folds, let the dough rest for 30 minutes.  You will do 6 sets in total (2.5 hours).  Time: (1st set of folds) _______, (2nd set of folds) ________, (3rd) _________, (4th) ________, (5th), __________(6th) __________.  After last set of folds, let rest 30 to 60 minutes.
    • 7. Place dough on floured flat cutting board or counter.  Divide the dough in half gently with a pastry scraper.  Work very gently to not deflate the dough.  Gently shape the 2 halves into dough rounds.  To do this, slip pastry scraper along the sides of the dough.  Time: ________.  Rest dough 20 to 30 minutes.
    • 8. Place clean dishtowels in 2 baskets or mixing bowls.  Rub flour onto the dishtowels to prevent the dough from sticking.
    • 9. Shape the loaves.  Shape each loaf by folding up each side into the middle of the dough.  Gently pull up the side and fold it onto the center of the dough.  I find that when I do this, I only end up folding up 3 sides (thirds of the dough) instead of 4 sides (quarters of the dough), but do what works for you.  (pictured below).  Roll the dough right side up and gently round out the dough with your hands.
    • 10. Transfer the dough to the baskets or bowls you prepared in Step 8.  Place the dough in upside down so the seams are up.  Time : _________.  Rest dough lightly covered for 3-4 hours at room temperature or overnight, 12 to 15 hours (I’ve done 10 hours), in the fridge.
  • Day 7 (or later on day 6): Cook the bread!
    • Heat over the 500 degrees with a dutch oven inside the oven as it preheats.
    • Once the oven is preheated, tip or place the loaf seam-side down into the dutch oven.  I dust off any excess flour.  Take a serrated knife and score the surface of the loaf.
    • Bake covered for 20 minutes.
    • Reduce heat to 450 degrees and continue baking covered for 10 minutes.  (Do not open the dutch oven to peek).
    • Remove the cover and bake 15 more minutes uncovered.
    • Remove the loaf from the oven and repeat with the second loaf.  If you have 2 dutch ovens you can bake both loaves at the same time.
  • Beyond: Keep your sourdough starter in a sealed container in the fridge.  Once a week take it out and feed it as you fed the dough initially: 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup water.  After feeding, leave the starter on the counter lightly covered overnight.  You can throw away up to half your starter before feeding it so that you don’t end up with too much.


I find it helpful to write down the time as I go through the recipe so that I know I got all my folds in, etc.  I left lines in the directions for you to do the same if that is helpful to you.

In the future, now that your sourdough starter is made, take it out of the fridge and feed it the day before you want to make your leaven for your next batch.  Then you can jump to Day 5.

The original recipe was given in weights and measurements.  I’ve made the bread both ways and did not notice a difference in how it turned out.  Since using measuring cups is easier to me than a scale, those are the measurements I provided.

Making bread is fun! I hope you enjoy it!  If you have doubts, warm sourdough bread fresh out of the oven is seriously worth the effort!!!

The original recipe that guided me can be found here: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-sourdough-bread-224367  Thanks for the inspiration!


Leaven mixed with water


Shaped dough, seams up


Finished Loaf!


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