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These unbelievably soft whole wheat sourdough rolls use 100% whole wheat flour and are long fermented (no commercial yeast) for soft, slightly sweet, and flavorful dinner rolls. You’ll love adding this delicious and nourishing sourdough roll recipe to your baking repertoire!
*This recipe was updated on 11/8/23
Why Bake Whole Wheat Sourdough Rolls with No Yeast?
Sourdough is the natural way to leaven bread. The beneficial yeasts and bacteria in the starter ferment the flour in your baked goods slowly.
The added time reduces the gluten content, makes the grains more digestible, and increases the nutritive properties of the finished product when compared to bread made with commercial yeast.
For most people, sourdough is the healthiest way to enjoy bread!
Using and maintaining a starter isn’t as difficult as many people believe. You may have to plan ahead a little more for the longer rise times, but the hands-on process is much the same as baking with yeast.
Make Your Own Sourdough Starter
To make homemade sourdough rolls, you will want a strong, healthy starter.
I have simple instructions for making a sourdough starter from scratch here.
Make sure you feed your established starter ahead of time so it’s active and bubbly by the time you’re ready to add it to the recipe.
This recipe calls for starter that is at 100% hydration. That simply means it’s been feed with equal weights flour and water.
You can use a white flour starter or a whole wheat starter. You can also feed a portion of your white flour starter with whole wheat prior to making this recipe, if you prefer.
More Sourdough Beginner Guides:
- How to Feed and Maintain a Sourdough Starter
- Essential Sourdough Bread Making Tools
- Sourdough Baking Terms for Beginners
What Makes These Whole Wheat Rolls Soft?
These rolls are made with 100% whole wheat flour. I’ve made them with store-bought flour or freshly milled flour.
Though whole wheat can be notorious for baking up dense, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make these rolls incredibly soft and fluffy without adding white flour.
First, the dough is enriched with milk, eggs, and molasses (or honey, if you prefer).
I’ve also added vital wheat gluten and vinegar which both help to condition the dough for a better texture and rise. You will not taste any vinegar in the finished rolls.
You can probably find vital wheat gluten in the baking isle at your grocery store.
Finally, not adding too much flour and kneading properly will help you achieve the soft sourdough rolls you are after.
Brushing the finished rolls with melted butter will give them a soft exterior as well.
I highly recommend you use a mixer for this recipe!
Soft Whole Wheat Sourdough Rolls Baking Schedule
*The strength of your starter, the temperature in your home, and other factors will affect how long each step in the recipe will take.
- Mix and knead (including a 30-minute rest): 40 minutes
- Bulk fermentation: 4 hours
- Divide, shape, and proof: 5 hours, 15 minutes
- Bake: 17 minutes
Feed your starter several hours prior to baking the recipe and allow it to reach its peak.
I feed my starter the night before and start the dough in the morning to bake the same day. You can optionally retard the dough in the fridge after bulk fermentation to shape, proof, and bake on day 2.
Tips for Making Soft Whole Wheat Sourdough Rolls
- I like to use molasses for more depth of flavor and a deeper brown color, but honey works just as well to add sweetness to the bread.
- Don’t add extra flour to your dough.
- Follow the suggested order for mixing the ingredients and don’t skip the 30-minute rest. This will insure the dough develops to the “windowpane” stage without much kneading. I explain this more in the steps below. This is a huge key to getting the soft, fluffy texture you’re after.
- I prefer baking in a 13×9-inch pan for pull-apart rolls. You could also bake them on a half-sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Place your dough in a warm place for the bulk ferment and proof. It’s a slow-moving dough, and a warm temperature makes the process go faster. I put my dough in my turned-off oven with the light on or in the microwave with the light on and the door ajar. I keep my ambient thermometer in with the dough to make sure the temperature is not getting any warmer than 80°F.
- Mixer fitted with a dough hook (I use a Bosch Universal Plus mixer)
- Large bowl or straight-sided container for bulk fermentation
- Digital kitchen scale
- 13×9-inch baking pan (USA pans are my favorite)
- Parchment paper
- Pastry brush
How to Make Soft Whole Wheat Sourdough Rolls
Step 1 – Make the Dough
Add sourdough starter, 190g milk, molasses (or honey), eggs, vinegar, vital wheat gluten, and whole wheat flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
Mix on low speed until everything comes together.
Cover the dough and allow it to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. During this time, the flour will absorb the water fully, kickstarting gluten development.
After the rest, add the butter cubes and salt, and continue mixing until the butter is fully mixed in. Knead for 5 minutes.
At this point, drizzle in half of the remaining milk, and mix until the dough comes back together. Add the rest of the milk in the same manner.
(The dough will slide around the mixing bowl for a minute until the liquid mixes into the dough.)
Now check the dough.
Wet your fingers and pull the dough. It should stretch until you can see the light through it before it tears (the windowpane test pictured below), especially after it rests for a minute or two.
It should also look glossy and clean itself from the sides and bottom of the bowl while mixing.
If it’s not showing these signs yet, continue to knead on low speed for a couple more minutes and check again.
Step 2 – Bulk Fermentation (First Rise)
When the dough is well developed, dampen your hands, and form the dough into a nice neat ball. Place it into a large bowl or straight-sided container.
Cover and leave the dough in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. (If retarding overnight in the fridge, only let it rise by 1/3 its volume, as pictured below.)
Step 3 – Shape and Proof the Rolls
Butter a 13×9-inch baking pan, press a sheet of parchment paper down inside, and then butter the parchment paper.
For uniform rolls, weigh out 24 portions, 54g each, before shaping, but you can eyeball them if you would prefer.
Then shape the rolls into tight balls, lightly flouring your hands if needed. (Learn how to shape rolls quickly with this video.) I do not degas the dough when shaping.
Arrange the rolls evenly in your prepared pan.
Cover your pan with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to proof in a warm place until they have doubled in size, are touching, and bounce back only slightly when poked with a damp finger.
(Proofing will take longer if your dough was cold when shaping.)
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375°F.
Step 4 – Bake the Whole Wheat Sourdough Rolls
Remove the plastic wrap and bake your rolls on the center rack for about 17 minutes, or until they are lightly golden on the top.
Finally, brush the rolls with melted butter right after they come out of the oven. I sprinkled mine with a little coarse kosher salt this time around. This is optional!
Serve the rolls warm, or allow them to cool completely before storing at room temperature or freezing in an airtight container.
I hope you enjoy these!
If you make this recipe and love it, I would be so grateful if you would come back to leave a star rating and a comment. Your feedback is very appreciated!
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