Honey Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread
Soft honey wheat sourdough sandwich bread is the perfect loaf to make sandwiches with for adults and kids alike! It is soft and chewy with a hint of sweetness and the whole wheat flour adds such a rich and hearty flavor!
- Difficulty Level: Intermediate Sourdough Recipe
- Skills Used: Sourdough Starter, Stretch and Fold Method
A nice rustic sourdough boule with a big open crumb structure is so lovely and what most sourdough bakers strive for. However, there are plenty of instances where this style of crusty bread isn’t what I’m after. Sometimes I want something a bit softer and more appropriate for sandwiches.
I developed my soft sourdough sandwich bread about a year ago and it has quickly become a reader favorite! Many of you have also requested a version with whole wheat flour. So I’ve been playing around with ratios to come up with this honey wheat sourdough sandwich bread.
Ratio of Whole Wheat Flour in this Bread
This is a 32% whole wheat flour dough, which means 32% of the total amount of flour is whole wheat flour. This percentage creates a dough where the whole wheat flavor is prominent, but it also has enough bread flour to keep it soft and fluffy.
It is very difficult to build a strong gluten structure with whole wheat flour because the bran and the germ present in the flour act as little knives, cutting through gluten structures. Bread flour in combination with whole wheat flour is the ticket to keeping it fluffy.
If you want to play around with increasing the whole wheat ratio in this dough you may want to also increase the hydration. And just be aware that it will likely lead to a more dense loaf of bread.
As with the all-white flour sourdough sandwich bread recipe, the timeline for this bread is extremely versatile. You can choose to bake the loaf the same day you make the dough, which will give you a really nice and mild sourdough flavor. Or you can make the dough and put it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days until you are ready to bake it.
Retarding the dough in the refrigerator increases its sourness and depth of flavor, so keep that in mind as it may not be desirable for some. If you like truly sour bread, plan to refrigerate the dough for the full 4 days!
I personally love to keep it in a rotation. The first time I make the dough, I make the full batch which gives me enough for 2 loaves. I bake one of them that day and put the rest of the dough in the refrigerator. When the bread runs out, then I can pull the dough out and bake it to have more fresh bread on hand and replace it with another half batch of dough made that day.
This allows for a lot of flexibility in your baking schedule and makes it easy to have fresh bread on hand all the time.
See the note section in the written recipe below for example timelines to make the dough fit into your schedule.
HOW TO MAKE Honey Wheat SOURDOUGH SANDWICH BREAD
STEP 1: PREPARE YOUR STARTER (LEAVEN)
A full batch of this dough requires 300 grams of active fed starter. I typically feed 50 grams of my starter with 150 grams of flour and 150 grams of water to give me 350 grams of total starter. I will use 300 grams in my dough and have 50 grams leftover for my next feeding or baking day.
I like to do this right before I go to bed so that I have a starter that is bubbly and ready to go into a dough first thing the next morning. But do what works best for you. There is no one way to approach this. I made a detailed video about understanding starter feedings and ratios if you are unfamiliar with how this works.
STEP 2: MIX THE DOUGH
For this dough, all of the ingredients can go into the bowl at once. I like to start with the water and starter so that I can get the starter kind of broken up before I add the rest of the ingredients. But the order doesn’t truly matter as long as you mix thoroughly.
This dough includes some fat, either oil or butter, to help create a softer bread. You may notice that most sourdough recipes do not include this but that is why they are so crusty.
We also include some honey in the dough to give it a touch of sweetness. It isn’t overpowering and does not make a truly sweet bread.
STEP 3: STRETCH AND FOLDS
After the dough is mixed, you will perform 4 rounds of stretch and folds with about 30 minutes in between each round. If you are unfamiliar with this technique, watch the video as it will help to see the process.
Get your hand damp then grab underneath the dough pulling it up to stretch it as far as it will go without breaking, then fold it down over itself. Go all the way around the bowl until it tightens up into a ball. Cover it and let it rest again before the second round.
OPTIONAL STEP: RETARD DOUGH IN REFRIGERATOR
If you want to bake your bread the same day you made it, you can skip this step. However, if you want to bake your bread later you can cover it and place it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This gives you more flexibility with your timeline and also increases the flavor of your bread.
STEP 4: BULK FERMENT
After the dough is mixed, you will allow it to bulk ferment before it rises. If you are baking the same day it should take about 3 hours at 72 F (22 C) to finish bulk fermenting. If you refrigerate your dough, pull it out of the fridge to come to room temperature and finish bulking for about 5-6 hrs.
Your dough is done bulk fermenting when it is puffy and filled with air. There should be some bubbles on top and you should see some rounding on the sides of the bowl. It likely won’t double in size the way a yeasted dough does.
STEP 5: SHAPE
When you go to shape your dough, lightly flour the counter and turn your dough out onto it. Gently press the air out of the dough and shape it into a log. If you are unfamiliar with how to shape the dough, watch the video tutorial so help you see the process.
STEP 6: PROOF
Cover your shaped loaves and let them proof until they have crowned your loaf pan and are full of air. You can check to see if your loaves are done proofing by pressing in on the dough with a floured finger. If it bounces back quickly, give it a bit more time. If it slowly fills in and the tension feels relaxed then you are ready to bake.
If you press on your dough and it collapses or feels like it might collapse, you have likely over-proofed your dough. You can still bake it, but it will be a bit denser. Unfortunately, there is no coming back from over-proofed dough.
STEP 7: PREP OVEN
About 30 minutes before baking prep your oven. Place a baking stone on the center rack. If you don’t have a stone, use two sheet pans stacked together.
Place a metal roasting pan (do not use a glass pan) on the bottom rack and fill with about 2 cups of water. This helps create a steamy environment for your oven. Preheat to 400 F (205 C).
STEP 8: BAKE
Spray or sprinkle some water over the tops of your loaves before going into the oven. This helps then get a bit more rise.
Bake with steam for about 15 minutes, then remove the steam pan out of the oven being careful not to spill it. I put a towel over the oven glass so the glass doesn’t shatter if some spills.
Continue baking for about 20 more minutes.
STEP 9: COOL BEFORE SLICING
When your loaves come out of the oven, tip them out of the pan onto a cooling rack and let them cool COMPLETELY before slicing. This will ensure that your loaves do not stale too quickly.
The crust will be slightly crispy when it comes out of the oven, but it will soften as it cools. You can also rub a little butter on it right when it comes out of the oven for an even softer crust.
FOR A FULL BATCH (MAKES 2 LOAVES)
- 650 grams water at 90-95 F (32-35 C)
- 300 grams mature sourdough starter
- 680 grams bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 320 grams whole wheat flour
- 50 grams oil neutral-flavored oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower, or avocado) or soft butter
- 80 grams honey
- 20 grams kosher salt or fine sea salt
FOR A HALF BATCH (MAKES 1 LOAF)
- 325 grams water
- 150 grams mature sourdough starter
- 340 grams bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 160 grams whole wheat flour
- 25 grams oil neutral-flavored oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower, or avocado) or soft butter
- 40 grams sugar or honey
- 10 grams kosher salt or fine sea salt
*Note: Read the recipe through completely before starting. It is also highly encouraged to watch the video. Sourdough recipes are just guidelines and it is important to learn how to read your dough. The video highlights visual cues to look for in your dough.
*See Note Section for Example Timelines
- Get Starter Ready for Dough: If you are making a full batch of bread, you will need 300 grams of active fed starter to go into your dough. For this amount, I do a 1:3:3 feeding so that my starter is usually ready to go into the dough at about the 5 hr mark and can be used until about the 10 hr mark after feeding. I take 50 grams starter and feed that with 150 grams flour and 150 grams water to give me 350 grams total starter. 300 grams will go into the dough with 50 grams leftover for the next days feeding. For a half batch, you can use half the amount of these feedings. If you are confused about how feedings work, please watch my video on understanding sourdough starter for clarification.
- Mix Dough: In a large mixing bowl measure out your slightly warm water. Add your starter, bread flour, whole wheat flour, oil or butter, honey, and salt on top. I like to start mixing the dough with a silicone spatula or a dough whisk first. Once the dough is starting to come together, use clean hands to thoroughly mix the dough until all of the ingredients are very well incorporated and there are no dry patches of flour. This will take about 2-3 minutes of mixing to make sure it is well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or a shower cap and let sit at room temperature (72-75 F, 22-23 C) for 30 minutes.
- Stretch and Folds: Over the 2 hours perform 4 rounds of stretch and folds (see video if you are unfamiliar with this technique) about every 30 minutes. The timing between the rounds does not need to be exact. Drizzle a tiny bit of oil over the dough after the last stretch and fold and cover it with plastic wrap or a shower cap to prevent it from drying out.
- Retard Dough (optional): If you would like to bake your bread the same day, you can skip this step. However, if you would like, you can refrigerate your dough at this point to increase flavor, sourness, and provide some flexibility with baking time. to do this, place your dough in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and up to 4 days.
- Bulk Ferment: If you did not retard your dough, let it continue sitting at room temperature after your last round of stretch and folds for about 3 hours. If you did retard your dough, bring it out of the fridge and let it sit out for about 5-6 hours to finish bulking. Your dough will likely look like it hasn't risen much or at all when you first take it out of the fridge. You know bulk is finished when the dough is full of air and is rounding on the sides of the bowl. You can also perform the dough float test (see video) if you are unsure your dough is ready.
- Shaping: Oil your 8.5 x 4.5" (22 x 11 cm) loaf pans. Turn your dough out onto your very lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half if you made a full batch. Shape the dough into a tight sandwich loaf (see video for shaping demonstration). Be cautious about not using too much flour on the bench or on top of your dough as this makes it difficult to build tension and to get the dough to stick to itself. Transfer the dough to the loaf pan, seam side down. Gently press down on the dough to ensure it is evenly filling the pan and that no air pockets are trapped inside the dough.
- Proof: Cover the pans with plastic wrap or a shower cap and let proof until the dough begins to crown the pan and is full of air. This should take around 2 1/2 hours at a room temperature of about 72 F (22 C). Your timing will be quicker if your room is warmer, or longer if your room is cooler. You can also perform the dent test to see how far along your dough is with proofing. Take a well-floured finger and gently press down into your dough about 1/2" down. If the dough immediately fills back in, then it needs a bit more time. If the dent very slowly fills back in, then you are well-proofed. If the dough feels like it might collapse or does collapse, you have gone too far and your dough is over-proofed. You can still bake it, but it will be very dense.
- Prepare Oven: About 30 minutes before baking, prepare your oven. Place an oven rack in the center position and another in the bottom of the oven. On the bottom rack, place a roasting pan or other metal pan (not glass or ceramic) in the oven and fill it with about 2 cups (480 ml) of water. Set a baking stone on the middle rack. If you do not have a baking stone, you can use 2 sheet pans stacked and turned upside down. Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Preheating with the water already in the oven will make your oven moist and steamy when your bread goes in and will help with a good oven spring.
- Bake: If you have a water spray bottle, spray the tops of the proofed loaves with water. If you don't, you can just sprinkle some water over the top of the loaves with clean hands. Transfer the loaves onto the preheated baking stone or sheet pans and bake for 15 minutes with the pan of water in the oven. After 15 minutes, very carefully remove the pan of water from the oven. Continue baking for 15-20 more minutes until the loaves are golden grown and sound hollow when thumped. The center of the loaf should also read 200 F (93 C) if you are unsure if they are baked through.
- Cool: Transfer the baked loaves into a cooling rack and gently tip out of the pans. Allow to cool completely before slicing. Cool a minimum of 2 hours before slicing, and preferably longer. Loaves of bread can have a gummy texture if sliced into before cooling and it will also cause them to stale more quickly.
- Store: After sliced, I keep my sandwich bread cut side down and unwrapped in my bread box. If you do not have a bread box, and your climate isn't extremely dry, you can keep it cut side down out on your cutting board in the open air. Or you can wrap it in a kitchen towel and place it in a paper bag as the next best option if your climate is very dry. If you would like to store it in a ziplock bag, make extra certain that it is cooled completely before you do so and that there is no moisture present before you seal it, otherwise it can get moldy. This is how I store the bread for up to 72 hours. After that, I slice what is left and transfer it to the freezer in a ziplock back. Toast to refresh.
Same Day Bake (afternoon bake)
- 11 pm (night before bake): Feed Starter
- 9:00 am (day of bake): Mix Dough
- 9:30-11:00 am: Stretch and Folds
- 2:00 pm: Shape Dough
- 4:30 pm: Bake
Same Day Bake (night bake)
- 8:00 am: Feed Starter
- 2:00 pm: Mix Dough
- 2:30-4:00 pm: Stretch and Folds
- 7:00 pm: Shape Dough
- 9:30 pm: Bake
Schedule for Refrigerating Dough
- 8:00 am Feed Starter
- 5:30 pm: Mix Dough
- 6:00-7:30 pm: Stretch and Folds (optional)
- 7:30 pm: Into the Refrigerator
- 9:00 (day of bake): Take out of Fridge
- 2:30 pm: Shape
- 5:00 pm: Bake