Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

If you’re a fan of honey whole wheat bread, get ready to fall head over heels for its sourdough artisan counterpart. This honey whole wheat sourdough loaf takes the nutty richness of 100% whole wheat and adds a sweet twist with honey, creating an artisan bread that’s hard to resist. The best part? It’s easy to make – especially if you’re already familiar with the sourdough artisan process. This sweet honey whole wheat sourdough artisan bread is a fantastic way to experiment with delicious whole grains. Not quite ready for the full whole wheat experience? No worries – try mixing half whole wheat and half bread flour. Trust me, it’s super delicious. Get ready to love it!

Ingredients in Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

  • Whole Wheat Flour: In this recipe I use a freshly milled hard whole wheat flour. I like a combination of white hard wheat and red hard wheat, or you can choose to use just one of them. Both are high in protein (13-14%) and are milled using a grain mill (I have the Harvest Grain Mill). You can also use aged whole wheat flour from the grocery store. Make sure to choose a wheat that has a flavor you enjoy.
  • Sourdough Starter: Use an active/ripe sourdough starter (doubled in size/bubbly/mild sour aroma) to mix the levain. I use my regular sourdough starter to mix this levain. If you maintain a whole wheat starter, you can use that too.
  • Water: Depending on the temperature of the other ingredients and the temperature inside your kitchen, you’ll want to use either cool, warm or room temperature water. This strongly influences how well your dough will rise (especially in the winter).
  • Honey: Honey adds a sweetness to this dough and helps balance any sour flavor that comes through from the fermentation process. If you are looking for whole wheat bread without the honey, try this recipe.
  • Salt: Salt enhances the flavor and helps tempers the fermentation. Don’t leave out the salt!
  • Vital Wheat Gluten: This ingredient is optional. It softens up the crumb of the whole wheat bread. I’ve made this recipe both with and without vital wheat gluten, and I prefer the crumb of the bread with the vital wheat gluten. If you don’t want to use it, leave it out and increase the total flour to 500 grams.

Sourdough Sample Schedule for Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than commercial yeast bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.

A few notes: This schedule assumes the dough temperature is 78°F during bulk fermentation and 78-80°F during proofing. Whole wheat flour tends to move more quickly through the fermentation process and freshly milled whole wheat moves even more quickly. Watch your dough closely so it doesn’t overproof. If you want to slow down the process a little, keep the dough at a lower temperature.

Day 1
9:00 AM –
12:30 PM
Mix levain. Cover and let ferment at 78°F for about 3 – 3.5 hours until peaked, bubbly and active.
12:30 PMMix Dough
1:00 PMStrengthen Dough through bowl mixing or slap and folds
1:30 PMStretch and Fold #1
2:00 PMStretch and Fold #2
2:30 PMStretch and Fold #3
2:30 PM –
4:00 PM
Bulk Ferment 1.5 – 2 hours
4:00 PMPre-shape
4:30 PMShape and begin cold fermentation
Optional: You can let the dough rise at a warm 78-80°F for 2-3 hours and bake the same day if you don’t want to do a cold fermentation.
Day 2
7:00 AMScore and Bake
Because this loaf is made with 100% whole wheat flour, you don’t want the loaf to cold ferment much longer than 15 hours, assuming you followed the above schedule.

Some Tips for Using Whole Wheat Flour in the Dough

Baking with whole wheat flour presents some challenges, but also a whole lot of flavor and nutrition. You can read more about baking with whole wheat flour here. These are a few tips to keep in mind when using whole wheat flour:

  • Fermentation will go faster: This recipe uses 100% whole wheat flour. Using a large percentage of whole wheat flour in the dough is going to speed up the fermentation compared to a normal loaf of sourdough artisan bread.
  • Use freshly milled flour if possible: I much prefer freshly milled flour over an aged whole wheat flour. It tastes better and has more nutrients than a flour that has sat around for some time. But, if you have a favorite whole wheat flour you purchase (instead of milling your own), it will work for this recipe too. Learn more about the different types of whole wheat flour I recommend here.
  • Whole wheat flour absorbs more water: The bran in whole wheat flour readily absorbs water, so you may need to add a little extra water when mixing the dough if it’s feeling too stiff and tight.

Mix the Levain

I like to make a whole wheat levain for this bread to make it almost 100% whole wheat or as close as I can get it without making an entirely separate whole wheat starter. If you have a whole wheat starter, feel free to use that to mix your levain.

1:1:1 Levain (ready in 3-4 hours at 78°F): This recipe calls for a levain made in the morning before you mix up your dough. Keep the levain at 78-80°F for consistent results. Levain is ready when it has just about doubled in size, has lots of bubbles, a slightly sour aroma and is just about to start going down from its peak height. Mix together:

  • 35 grams of ripe/mature starter
  • 35 grams of warm water
  • 35 grams of bread flour

If you prefer to mix a levain the night before you mix your dough, you can use a 1:10:10 ratio and mix together 6 grams ripe starter with 60 grams water and 60 grams whole wheat flour. Keep in mind this levain, because it uses whole wheat flour will mature faster and will be ready in 8-10 hours if kept at 78-80°F. Decrease the temperature of the levain if you want it to move more slowly.

Bulk Fermentation: Mixing the Dough

Typically I like to autolyse whole wheat for about an hour before mixing in the levain and the dough. However, in this honey whole wheat sourdough artisan bread, it is a little tricky to add the honey in after the autolyse, so this recipe calls for all the ingredients to be added together. Mix together the ripe levain, warm water, whole wheat flour/vital wheat gluten, honey and salt. Stir together until a rough dough forms. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes, keeping the dough warm at 78°F.

Bulk Fermentation: Strengthen Dough & Stretch and Folds

Strengthen Dough: After a 30 minute rest, uncover the dough. Pick up one side of the dough and fold it over on itself. The dough will be sticky. Wet your hands as needed and continue to work with the dough, gently kneading by slapping the dough in the bowl and stretching it back out. Or use the slap and fold method to help strengthen the gluten strands in the dough. This will probably take 3-5 minutes and the dough will become smoother in consistency. If you feel the dough needs a little more water, add it in during this mixing time. Transfer the dough to a plastic container or a glass bowl if desired.

The rest of the gluten development will be done through gentle folds, repeated every 30 minutes for 1.5 hours/3 times.

Stretch and Fold: To “stretch and fold,” wet your hand (so it doesn’t stick to the dough). Reach down to the bottom of the bowl of dough and pull the dough up and over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the stretch and fold. Turn another quarter turn and repeat. Perform one more quarter turn with stretching and folding the dough. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes. Repeat every 30 minutes, for a total of 3 times.

Bulk Fermentation: Resting/Rising

Rest: After the 2-hour period of stretch and folds, finish the bulk fermentation with the dough resting in a warm 78-80°F place until puffed up and risen about 30-40%. The dough will be jiggly with a few scattered bubbles around the top. This usually takes about 1.5 – 2 hours at 78°F. Because this recipes uses 100% whole wheat flour, the dough typically moves quickly through this fermentation process. Check on the dough frequently.

Pre-Shaping and Shaping the Dough

Pre-Shaping: Dump the dough out on the countertop. Wet your hands and the bench knife if needed and push the bench knife under the dough on one side and your free hand on the other side to tuck the dough under itself. The goal is to introduce some tension into the dough. Repeat this process going around in a circle until you have a ball of dough. Let rest on the counter for 30 minutes uncovered.

Shaping: Prepare a banneton or small bowl. Place a kitchen towel or hair net in the bowl and liberally flour. If you use the hair net, you should not need to use much flour.  Using the bench knife, lift the dough up off the counter and place it on top of the countertop, floured side down. Pull the dough down toward you and then fold up to the middle of the dough. Take the right edge and pull out and then into the middle of the dough. Take the left side of the dough and stretch out and then back to the middle. Repeat with the top of the dough, forming a little “package” of dough. Gather the bread into a circle and use a bench knife to lift the bread and place into your lined bowl.

Cold Fermentation

I almost always use a cold fermentation for all my sourdough artisan bread recipes. This recipe is no different, EXCEPT, the fermentation time is moving much more quickly due to the higher percentage of whole wheat flour in the dough. The honey whole wheat sourdough artisan bread dough cannot sit in the refrigerator much longer than 15 hours (assuming you followed the temperature recommendations) or else it will over-proof. Cover the dough in the banneton and place in the refrigerator for 14-15 hours. If it goes a little longer than that, it may be a little over-proofed. I would not exceed 24 hours.

Baking Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

Pre-heat the Oven: Put a Dutch oven (top and all) into the oven and preheat to 500°F. Allow the Dutch oven to heat for about 30 minutes at 500°F. This builds up steam, which is necessary to achieve the beautiful oven spring and perfect crust that artisan bread is known for.

Scoring the Dough: Once the oven is preheated for 30 minutes, pull the loaf out of the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap or bowl covering (this is easy to do straight out of the refrigerator if the dough is chilled – not easy if the dough warms up) and place a piece of parchment paper on top of the bread dough. Flip the dough over so that it is now sitting on the parchment paper. Take off the bowl/banneton and kitchen towel. Smooth some flour over the top of the dough (add a little extra for more contrast if desired) or leave the flour off completely for no contrast. Use a bread lame or very sharp knife to score the dough.

Temper your expectations with honey whole wheat sourdough artisan bread. Do not expect the same large ear or the same rise you would get out of a loaf made with mostly bread flour. However, your bread will have more flavor than a loaf made with only bread flour.

Baking the Bread: Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the 500°F oven with hot pads. Take the top off and place your bread into the Dutch oven (including parchment paper – this helps with the transfer). Be very careful not to touch the sides of the hot Dutch oven. Put your hot pads back on before you pick up the lid of the Dutch oven and place it on top of the bread. Put the whole Dutch oven back into your oven. Lower the temperature to 450°F and bake for 20 minutes. Once 20 minutes are up, take the top off the Dutch oven and continue baking for 20 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I store leftover honey whole wheat sourdough artisan bread?


After the loaf has cooled completely, slice it and freeze the slices for a month or two. When you want a piece of bread, toast it or let it thaw and warm up just a bit before eating.

This bread baked up with a more closed crumb. Why?


When using whole wheat flour, it’s more difficult to develop the gluten strands because the little bits of bran and germ act like shards and cut the gluten strands throughout the process. The long sourdough process can help, but in general whole wheat tends to have a more closed crumb. The way this loaf is mixed also lends itself to a closed crumb – mixing all the ingredients at once and not autolysing the grain beforehand. I found it difficult to add the honey into the loaf without mixing all the ingredients together at the beginning, so for the sake of working with the dough, all the ingredients are mixed in at the beginning.

Can I make this bread with 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 bread flour?


Yes! If you choose to substitute half of the whole wheat flour for bread flour, leave out the vital wheat gluten in the recipe and increase the total flour to 500 grams.

My sourdough bread baked up flat. What happened?

Most likely, your loaf was over-proofed. This can happen easily when using whole wheat. You will need to watch closely during fermentation, looking for it to be ready to be shaped and refrigerated for a cold proof. Even in the refrigerator, the dough will ferment faster than a bread flour dough. I wouldn’t let it cold ferment for more than 18 hours.

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

Amy
Honey whole wheat sourdough takes the nutty richness of 100% whole wheat and adds a sweet twist with honey, creating an artisan bread that’s hard to resist. Easy to make if you’re familiar with sourdough artisan bread, sweet and delicious. You’re going to love this sourdough bread with honey and whole wheat flour.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Fermentation Time 22 hours
Total Time 23 hours 15 minutes
Course Bread
Cuisine American
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

Levain (1:1:1 ratio, about 3-4 hours until ripe, 78°F)

  • 35 grams sourdough starter, ripe and active
  • 35 grams whole wheat flour
  • 35 grams water

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread

  • 80 grams levain, ripe/bubbly/active
  • 380 grams water
  • 100 grams honey
  • 10 grams salt
  • 485 grams whole wheat flour see recipe notes
  • 15 grams vital wheat gluten see recipe notes

Instructions
 

Day 1 Mix Levain (takes 3-3.5 hours until peaked, bubbly and active at 78°F)

  • Mix together ripe sourdough starter, whole wheat flour and water. Set aside to ripen for 3 – 3.5 hours at 78°F. The levain is ready when it’s doubled in size, peaked, bubbly, active and has a milky sweet aroma.

Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough Artisan Bread (the timeline for this recipe assumes a dough temperature of 78°F)

  • Bulk Fermentation Begins: Mixing the Dough
    Once the levain is peaked and active (bubbly, doubled in size, milky sweet smell), mix 80 grams levain with 380 grams of water, 100 grams honey and 10 grams salt in a bowl. Warm the water if the ingredients are too cold and cool the water if ingredients are too warm. Add 485 grams whole wheat flour and 15 grams vital wheat gluten to the bowl and mix until incorporated and a shaggy dough forms. Let dough rest for 30 minutes, keeping the dough temperature at 78°F.
  • Mixing: After 30 minutes, pick up one side of the dough and fold it over on itself. The dough may be sticky, but more cohesive than it was when first mixed. If your dough feels stiffer, and can handle more water, add a little water at this point. Wet your hands as needed and work with the dough, stretching and hand-kneading it in the bowl for about 3-5 minutes. You can also use the slap and fold method to knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes at 78°F.
  • Bulk Fermentation Continued: Stretch and Folds 
    Perform 3 sets of stretch and folds. To stretch and fold, wet your hand (so it doesn’t stick to the dough). Reach down to the bottom of the bowl of dough and pull the dough up and over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the stretch and fold. Turn another quarter turn and repeat. Perform one more quarter turn with stretching and folding the dough. Cover and set aside. Repeat the stretch and folds every 30 minutes, a total of 3 times.
  • Bulk Fermentation Continued: Bulk Rise
    After the stretch and folds are complete, let the dough rest in a warm place for the rest of bulk fermentation, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours at 78°F. During this time the dough will puff up about 30-40%, become more aerated, start to pull away from the edges of the bowl and have a few scattered bubbles around the edges/top of the dough. If your dough is not showing these signs, make sure it's warm enough and give it another half an hour or so until it is showing those signs that it's ready to shape.
  • Bulk Fermentation Ends: Pre-Shape and Bench Rest
    When your dough is ready to shape, wet your hands and a bench knife. Push the bench knife under the dough while using your free hand to tuck the dough under itself. Repeat this process going around in a circle until you have a tight ball of dough. Let the dough rest uncovered for about 30 minutes at room temperature. The dough will flatten a bit during this period of time.
  • Shaping and Begin Cold Fermentation: Prepare a banneton or small bowl. Place a kitchen towel or hair net in the bowl. Liberally flour. After the dough has rested for about 30 minutes, it is time to shape the bread into a round. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough. Using the bench knife, lift the dough up off the counter and place it on top of the countertop, floured side down. This ensures that the flour stays mainly on the outside of the dough. Going around in a circle, pull the dough sideways towards you and then fold up to the top of the round. Move 90 degrees and repeat the same process pulling the dough sideways and then folding up to the top. As you continue this process around the dough, increase the tension as you pull. Gather the bread into a circle and use a bench knife to lift the bread and place into a lined bowl or banneton.
  • Cold Fermentation: Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a reusable cover and store in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 14-16 hours. During this time, the dough will continue to ferment but at a much slower rate. You should look for another 20-30% rise in the dough after you place it in the banneton, before you bake it. Time your cold fermentation carefully because whole wheat dough is prone to over-proofing. Alternatively you can let your dough rise outside the fridge for another 2-3 hours, allowing the dough to proof and rise, and then bake your loaves the same day.

Day 2: Bake

  • Pre-heat Oven: Put a Dutch oven (top and all) into the oven and preheat to 500°F. Allow the Dutch oven to heat for about 30 minutes to an hour at 500°F. Once preheated for 30 minutes, pull your loaf out of the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap or covering (this is easy to do straight out of the refrigerator if the dough is chilled–not easy if the dough warms up) and place a piece of parchment paper on top of the bread dough. Flip the dough over so that the dough is now sitting on the parchment paper. Take off the bowl/banneton and kitchen towel.
  • Score the Dough: Smooth the flour over the top of the dough (add a little extra for more contrast if desired). Use a very sharp knife or bread lame to score the dough.
  • Bake: Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the 500°F oven with hot pads. Take the top off and place your bread into the Dutch oven (including parchment paper–this helps with the transfer). Be very careful not to touch the sides of the Dutch oven. Put your hot pads back on before you pick up the lid of the Dutch oven and place it on top of the bread. Put the whole Dutch oven back into your oven. Lower the temperature to 450°F and bake for 25 minutes. Once 25 minutes are up, take the top off the Dutch oven and continue baking for 20 minutes until the bread is a crackly deep brown. The loaf's internal temperature should register between 205-210°F when it's finished baking. If your loaf is getting too dark on the bottom, place a baking sheet or baking stone on the rack below the Dutch oven to help diffuse the heat.
  • Let loaf cool completely and enjoy!

Notes

Whole Wheat Flour: Use freshly milled, hard whole wheat flour in this recipe. I like a combination of white hard wheat and red hard wheat. This bread also works well with aged whole wheat flour from the grocery store. The better quality wheat you use, the better this loaf will taste. Choose a flour that has a higher protein content (around 13%) and keep in mind that flour absorbs liquid differently, so you may need to add a little more water or a little more flour depending on how your dough comes together.
Vital Wheat Gluten: This ingredient is optional. It softens up the crumb of the whole wheat bread. I’ve made this recipe both with and without vital wheat gluten and I prefer the crumb of the bread with the vital wheat gluten. If you don’t want to use it, leave it out and increase the total flour to 500 grams.
Same Day Baking: If you want to bake this recipe the same day and skip the cold fermentation, let the dough rise in the bannetons or bowls on the counter. Do your best to keep the dough warm, in the 78-80°F range for about 2-3 hours. Once the dough has risen another 20-30%, pre-heat the Dutch oven and bake the loaf according to recipe directions.
Honey: This is a sweeter loaf of artisan bread thanks to the addition of the honey. All of the ingredients are mixed together at the beginning to help incorporate the honey into the loaf. I have not tried reducing the honey in the recipe. If you do, you may need to increase the flour a little bit in the recipe.
Proofing: Watch carefully during the proofing process, as whole wheat dough is prone to over-proofing due to the increased fermentation. Dough should not sit longer than 16 hours in the refrigerator, assuming it was kept around 78°F during the fermentation process.
All of the tools I use in the sourdough process are linked in my Amazon Storefront
Keyword freshly milled whole wheat sourdough bread, honey whole wheat bread recipe, honey whole wheat sourdough, honey whole wheat sourdough artisan bread, honey whole wheat sourdough bread, honey whole wheat sourdough recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I used this recipe to make my first sourdough bread loaf and it turned out perfect! I’ll definitely be making this as often as I can! The directions and time schedule are very straight forward and easy to follow. 😋