whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread
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A soft and fluffy 100% whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread that can even be made with fresh milled flour! This recipe is listed in grams for consistency and is simple to knead in a mixer for a hands-off bulk fermentation.

100% whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread recipe pin image

If you want bread full of naturally leavened wholegrain goodness that is soft enough for PB&Js or French toast, this bread is for you!

I’ve been playing around with this recipe a lot the past few months… trying to achieve a texture that is soft and sliceable, but not caky.

I wanted a kid and husband-approved substitution for store-bought sandwich bread that I could make myself with my freshly milled organic flour and simple ingredients.

And I wanted the bread to be straightforward and practical enough to make on a weekly basis.

a loaf of soft whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread before slicing

I know I’m not the only one who wants to bake more wholegrain sourdough, so I’m excited for you to try the recipe and give me your feedback!

Reasons You’ll Love This Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread Recipe

  • It uses 100% whole wheat flour. Unsifted freshly milled hard red or hard white flour would work perfectly for the recipe.
  • I’ve listed the ingredients in gram weights instead of cups for ease and consistency.
  • The bread is naturally leavened with a sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast, but has a mild flavor and a 1-day baking schedule.
  • Whole food ingredients (scalded flour, eggs, milk, honey, and butter) enrich the whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread for flavor and softness. No extra additives like vital wheat gluten or lecithin are needed.
  • Kneading is done up front in a mixer, so you won’t have to perform any stretch-and-folds during bulk fermentation.
  • The bread has a decent shelf life–up to 5 days at room temperature! The scalded flour in the formula (tangzhong) and the acidity from the sourdough starter are key to it staying soft and not molding as quickly as other homemade breads.
  • The bread freezes well, so you can bake a large batch at once to save time. The recipe as written yields 2 loaves.
  • You can substitute ingredients to make the bread your own.
slices of fresh milled sandwich bread

If you enjoy baking wholegrain sourdough recipes, you’ll love to try my 100% wholegrain Maple Oat Sourdough Bread or my Whole Wheat Sourdough English Muffins.

Whole Wheat Flour Selection

There are a couple choices for you as far as flour goes. You can use standard “whole wheat” flour for a more robustly colored and wheaty-flavored bread.

For a more mild flavor and color like the bread pictured in this post, choose a “white whole wheat” flour.

White whole wheat is just a different variety of wheat with a golden hue. It’s still a whole grain! I recommend you give it a try if your family likes to eat white bread (though this flour may not be available to you depending on where you live).

Avoid any soft wheat or whole wheat pastry wheat flours here–you’ll need strong gluten development for a good rise and fluffy texture.

For fresh milled whole wheat sourdough bread, choose either hard red wheat berries (spring or winter) or hard white wheat berries to grind.

hard white wheat berries and hard red wheat berries on a white plate
Hard white wheat berries on the top, hard red on the bottom

You can weigh wheat berries ahead of time to mill the exact amount of flour you need for the recipe. Make a little extra to dust your counter during shaping (600g should do the trick). Grind the wheat on the finest setting of your mill.

If you’re curious about the benefits of milling flour at home or how to get started, visit my blog post.

Starter Notes (How to Keep the Bread From Becoming Sour)

Ideally, use a whole wheat flour starter for true 100% whole wheat bread, if you have one. A white flour starter will work fine, though.

If you keep a white flour starter, you can easily prepare some starter for the recipe that you feed with whole wheat flour the night before. This way you can use a white starter and only introduce 10g of white flour into the recipe.

To make 220g prepared starter total for 2 loaves, mix:

  • 20g starter
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • 100g water

It should be risen and bubbly all the way through when it’s ripe and smell like yeast instead of raw flour. If it smells sour, it’s gone a little far.

ripe whole wheat sourdough starter

The sourness of the bread will be related to your starter maintenance (assuming you don’t over-ferment the dough).

Make sure you’re in the habit of feeding your starter at its peak rise, and don’t wait any longer. This is especially true with a wholegrain starter.

slices of sourdough whole wheat sandwich bread

Ingredient Substitutions

Though these substitutions may alter the texture and flavor of the bread a little, they are very doable! Feel free to make this sandwich bread your own.

Dairy-free option: Replace the milk with an alternate milk of choice (or water), and replace the butter with equal grams of a neutral oil like olive oil or avocado oil. Add the oil during the initial mixing before the 30-minute rest, then proceed as normal. (Kneading may take longer.)

Honey: Replace the honey with 60g granulated sugar or 45 grams real maple syrup, if desired. You can also reduce or omit sweeteners, in which case, increase the milk by 20g.

Whole wheat flour: If you want to squeeze in a little of a lower-gluten wheat like an ancient grain, keep that flour to 10% or less of the total flour weight.

Optional toppings: You can use wheat bran, cracked wheat, seeds, or rolled oats as loaf toppings, if you would like. Pat the tops of the shaped loaves with water. Sprinkle your counter or a sheet pan with the desired topping, then roll the tops of the loaves through the topping to adhere. Skip brushing the loaves with milk before baking.

A crumb shot of the whole wheat sandwich loaf

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread Baking Schedule

*The temperature of your dough and kitchen will affect how long each step will take.
I bulk fermented and proofed around 78°F with a final dough temp of 78°F after kneadingIf your dough/kitchen is cooler, expect the dough to rise slower.

Approximate timing:

  • Prepare scald (tangzhong): 7 minutes
  • Mix dough and rest: 40 minutes
  • Add salt and butter and knead: 6-8 minutes
  • Bulk fermentation: 3 hours
  • Shape and proof: 2 hours, 35 minutes
  • Brush with milk and bake: 35 minutes

*You could optionally refrigerate the dough after bulk fermentation if you need to shape, proof, and bake on day 2. For the most mild flavor and straightforward process, start dough in the morning and keep to a 1-day schedule.

Tips for Making Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

  • Use a strong, active sourdough starter at its peak rise.
  • Proper gluten development is the key to a light and fluffy loaf. You’ll notice I call for a 30-minute rest (“fermentolyse”) before the butter and salt are added to the dough. This rest is important to kickstart gluten development to avoid excessive kneading. It’s not uncommon that people knead whole wheat dough for 20-30 minutes to pass the “windowpane” test of gluten development, but with this technique, I knead only 6-8 minutes in my Bosch mixer. Since every flour and mixer are different, kneading could take longer for you. I’ll teach you which cues to look for.
  • Signs of insufficient gluten development in the finished bread: A crumbly texture when sliced, a rough/craggy top crust, and loaves that won’t rise well and don’t have much oven-spring are all signs of insufficient gluten development.
  • If your kitchen is chilly, you can set the dough in the microwave with the door ajar to keep the dough or proofing loaves warmer. 78°F is ideal here for bulk fermentation and proofing.

Recommended Equipment

How to Make Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Step 1 – Prepare Scald (Tangzhong)

The scald sets this bread apart from a lot of other whole wheat sourdough sandwich breads out there.

It’s super simple. Add milk and flour to a small saucepan and whisk to combine. Then cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens like thin mashed potatoes.

tangzhong or scald cooling before mixing the final dough
Scalded flour and milk (tangzhong)

Set the mixture aside to cool while you weigh out your other ingredients.

Step 2 – Mix Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread Dough

Into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (I use my Bosch mixer with the dough hook and dough hook extender), add ripe starter, whole wheat flour, honey, milk, eggs, and the cooled scald/tangzhong mixture.

Mix for a minute or two until the ingredients are combined. The dough will be sticky and shaggy.

Cover the dough and let it rest in the mixer for 30 minutes.

After the rest, add in the butter cubes (trust me, they will mix in well even if they are cold) and salt.

Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes on the lowest speed your mixer can handle without the motor lagging. Stop to scrape the sides down, if needed.

Then observe the dough after it rests for a minute. Dampen your fingers and see how far it will stretch. If the gluten structure is well developed, you’ll be able to stretch the dough dramatically into a thin “windowpane.”

windowpane test of gluten development

Equally important to passing the windowpane test: the dough should have a smooth, shiny, and “taut” appearance as it clings to the dough hook and pulls itself off the sides of the mixer.

If it doesn’t show these signs, continue to knead for a couple more minutes and check again.

At the same time, take care not to walk away and over-knead the dough. The gluten network will literally start to break apart if the dough is over-worked.

Step 3 – Bulk Fermentation

When your dough is done, dampen your hands to remove it from the mixer.

Form it into a ball and place it in a (preferably) straight-sided container for its first rise. Cover the dough to prevent it from forming a skin on the top.

I like to press the dough flat with my hand and mark the starting point on the container with a dry-erase marker (the 1L mark in this case).

Set the dough in a warm place (I like the microwave with the door ajar for warmth from the light) until it has risen by 75% (not double) or to 1-3/4L on the container.

Step 4 – Grease Pans, Divide & Shape

Grease the inside of your baking pans with softened butter (I apply it with a dry piece of paper towel) or oil. Turn out your dough onto a clean surface and divide into two equal pieces.

You can weigh the dough to make the two loaves exactly the same.

Lightly flour your counter and hands, and press out the first piece of dough into a round shape. Press all the air bubbles you can out of the dough (degas).

To shape, fold the two sides in towards the center.

Then roll the loaf up from the bottom into a log, creating some tension as you go (but not so much that the dough tears).

Avoid adding excess flour while shaping.

Place the loaf in the greased pan with the seam down (avoid pressing the loaf down into the pan). Then repeat to shape the second loaf in the same manner.

Step 5 – Proof

Cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap, and set them in a warm place to proof. If you’re using pullman pans, the dough should rise to about 3/4-inch below the top rims of the pans. Pictured here:

fully proofed loaf in a small pullman pan
Proofed loaf in a pullman pan

1-pound loaf pans, however, are a little smaller than pullman pans. If you’re using these pans, let the dough rise almost an inch above the rims of the pans before you bake the bread. Pictured here:

fully proofed loaf in a standard 1-pound loaf pan
Proofed loaf in standard 1-pound loaf pan

Don’t forget to preheat your oven to 350°F before the loaves are fully proofed.

Step 6 – Bake the Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

When the loaves are ready to go into the oven, remove the plastic, and gently brush the tops with milk using a pastry brush. The milk will make the loaves shiny and promote browning.

Finally, bake the loaves side-by-side on the center rack for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Allow the loaves to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then you can turn out the loaves onto a cooling rack. Let the bread cool completely before you slice or store it.

How to Store Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I don’t recommend you refrigerate bread. Instead, store it in an airtight container or bread bag at room temperature. I like these bread bags. They are nice and thick and can be reused.

For longer storage, freeze the cooled bread or slices, well wrapped, for up to 3 months. Leave at room temperature to thaw when you need it.

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!

Follow me on Instagram @aberlehome and tag me on your photo to show me what you made!

whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread

Leanna's 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Yield: 2 loaves
Hands-On Prep Time: 35 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes
Additional Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes

A soft and fluffy 100% whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread that can even be made with freshly-milled flour! This recipe is listed in grams for consistency and is simple to knead in a mixer for a hands-off bulk fermentation.

Ingredients

Scald (Tangzhong):

  • 30g whole wheat flour (see notes for flour options)
  • 190g whole milk

Final Dough

  • 220g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 550g whole wheat flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 45g honey (or sub 60g granulated sugar)
  • 270g whole milk (plus extra for brushing tops of loaves), lukewarm
  • 2 large eggs (112g)
  • All of cooled scald mixture from above
  • 70g (5 tablespoons) salted butter, cold and cut into small cubes (plus extra for greasing pans)
  • 14g kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Prepare scald (tangzhong): Add 30g whole wheat flour and 190g whole milk into a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent burning on the bottom of pan, until mixture thickens to the consistency of thin mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. Mix and rest: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook add the ripe starter, 550g whole wheat flour, honey, 270g whole milk, eggs, and the cooled scald mixture. Mix on low speed until well combined. The dough will look sticky/shaggy. Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. Add butter, salt, and knead: After resting, add butter cubes and salt, then knead for about 6-8 minutes (on the lowest speed you can use without your mixer lagging), stopping to scrape the sides of the mixer bowl as necessary. Knead until the dough cleans itself off the mixer bowl to hold to the dough hook and looks taut, smooth and shiny. You should be able to stretch it dramatically into a very thin "windowpane" if you pull it with damp fingers after a minute of rest. If it's tearing when pulled and still rather sticky, continue kneading for a couple more minutes and check again.
  4. Bulk fermentation: When kneading is done, use damp hands to remove dough from mixer. Form into a ball, and place in a straight-sided container for bulk fermentation. Press the surface of the dough flat with a damp hand, cover, and mark the dough's starting point on the outside of the container with a dry-erase marker. Set in a warm spot until dough has risen by 75% (not doubled in size). (Bulk took me 3 hours with a final dough temp and ambient temp of 78°F (26°C).)
  5. Shape: Grease 2 small pullman pans or standard 1-pound loaf pans with softened butter or oil. Turn out dough onto a clean surface. Divide into two equal pieces (weigh for accuracy). On a lightly-floured surface with lightly floured hands, press the first piece of dough flat (degas) into the shape of a rough circle. To shape into a loaf, fold the two side edges slightly into the center, then roll the loaf into a log from the bottom, creating some tension as you go. Place the loaf seam-side-down in a greased pan (do not press loaf down). Repeat to shape the second piece of dough.
  6. Proof: Cover pans loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to proof. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) with a rack set in the center. When fully proofed, the loaves should reach 3/4-inch below the rims of pullman pans or 1 inch above the rims of standard loaf pans. (Proofing took me 2 hours, 40 minutes at 78*F (26°C).)
  7. Bake: Without deflating the dough, brush the tops of the loaves with milk using a pastry brush. Bake loaves side-by-side on the center rack for 30-35 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 190°F (88°C). Leave bread in the pans to cool for 10 minutes, then turn loaves out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before slicing or storing.

Notes

Flour selection: Choose standard "whole wheat flour" for more "wheaty"-flavored and robustly-colored loaves. For a more mild flavor and color, choose a "white whole wheat flour" (used in bread pictured). If milling your own, mill either hard red wheat or hard white wheat berries on the finest setting. Weigh wheat prior to milling to make the exact amount of flour for the recipe. Mill 600g total for scald, final dough, and some extra for dusting the counter while shaping.

Starter notes: Use a whole wheat starter for true 100% whole wheat bread. A white starter will also work fine, or make some prepared starter the night before by mixing 20g starter with 100g whole wheat flour and 100g water. Allow to rise overnight and use in the morning once it's bubbly all the way through with a "yeasty" smell. This bread should come out with a mild flavor. If your bread is turning out too sour when you haven't over-fermented, you may have an issue with your starter maintenance.

Dairy-free option: You can replace the milk with an alternate milk or water, if you prefer. Replace the butter with equal grams neutral oil (like avocado or olive oil). Add oil with the other ingredients during the initial mixing. Kneading may take longer.

Optional loaf toppings: sprinkle the desired topping (rolled oats, seeds, wheat bran, or cracked wheat) in an even layer on the countertop. Pat the tops of the shaped loaves with water to dampen, then roll the tops through topping to adhere before placing bread in the pans. Skip brushing loaves with milk before baking.

Storage: Store bread in an airtight container or bread bag for up to 5 days. For longer storage, wrap loaf or slices well and freeze for up to 3 months. Leave at room temperature to thaw when needed.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 379Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 735mgCarbohydrates: 70gFiber: 9gSugar: 8gProtein: 15g

*Nutrition information is not always accurate.