If you’re looking to expand your artisan bread-baking skills, you should definitely try your hand at making this Overnight Rustic Sourdough Bread. Made in a similar fashion to my Dutch Oven Sourdough, this exceptionally crusty loaf incorporates whole wheat flour for added fiber and a deliciously nutty undertone.
The act of baking an artisanal loaf holds a rich tapestry of merits that extend far beyond the alluring aroma that fills your kitchen, or even the tangy taste and textured crust of slow-fermented sourdough. Nothing quite compares to the satisfaction of pulling a homemade loaf (like this whole wheat sourdough!) out of the oven.
In a world where convenience often takes precedence, the act of baking bread from scratch is the ultimate act of meditative self-care. The process of nurturing a lively sourdough starter, tending to it like a living entity, and then magically transforming it and a few simple ingredients into a gorgeous, golden-brown, crackly-crusted miracle is a deeply satisfying experience.
It's also a humbling journey that teaches patience, resilience, and the art of balance. Learning to blend just the right proportions of flour, water, salt, and time to create a masterpiece that transcends store-bought loaves? It’s magic! (If you know, you know. If you don't, there's no time like the present. 😉)
⭐ Why You’ll Love This Rustic Sourdough Bread Recipe
- Made Using Only a few Simple Ingredients - A short ingredient list belies the exceptional depth of flavor you can achieve with this overnight sourdough bread recipe.
- Boasts Hearty, Whole Grain Goodness - Sourdough wheat bread is the slightly nuttier, little bit denser cousin of my basic sourdough bread recipe. Adding the flavorful complexity of whole wheat flour is both delicious and a fun new way to level up on your sourdough basics.
- Super Versatile - This overnight sourdough recipe yields a loaf that is perfect for your breakfast cottage cheese toast, a turkey avocado sandwich or a sourdough grilled cheese!
As promised, you only need a handful of ingredients to make this whole wheat sourdough bread recipe. Here’s what to grab:
- Active Starter - The heart of any sourdough recipe.
- Bread Flour - While you technically can swap in all-purpose flour in my basic sourdough recipe, it is absolutely not advised here. Bread flour has more protein. More protein = more gluten, which means you’ll get a better structure despite the addition of whole wheat flour.
- Whole Wheat Flour - I used regular whole wheat flour, not white whole wheat (a.k.a. wheat pastry flour). You're welcome to swap in the latter, though you'll lose some of the rustic charm.
- Water - For optimal flavor, consider using filtered water if available. Your sourdough will undoubtedly benefit from the cleaner taste and improved quality.
- Salt - While I typically use regular kosher salt for all my kitchen needs, sea salt is also a suitable alternative. However, try to avoid using iodized table salt if possible, as it may impart a bitter taste to your bread.
- Olive Oil - Remember, the olive oil is solely for greasing the bowl during the dough's fermentation process. There's no need to use expensive cold-pressed finishing oil at this stage. Save that for dipping after the bread is baked to perfection!
- Rice Flour - Opt for rice flour when dusting your banneton (proofing basket). Unlike your sourdough, rice flour is gluten-free, making it an excellent choice to prevent the dough from sticking. If you don't have rice flour on hand, generously use all-purpose or bread flour to create an effective barrier.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
⏲️ Substitutions & Variations
- Batard: Embrace a different shape and add a touch of elegance to your overnight sourdough by shaping it into a batard. To achieve this elongated, oval loaf, follow the same recipe and instructions as above, but shape the dough accordingly. The result will be a stunning, slightly more rustic appearance with a fabulous crust-to-crumb ratio, perfect for sandwiches or slicing alongside your favorite cheeses.
- Bread Bowls: Transform your rustic sourdough bread into delightful individual-sized bread bowls that can hold your favorite soups, stews, or dips. These charming edible vessels will elevate your dining experience, adding a unique San Francisco-style touch to your soups or appetizer spreads.
- Add-Ins - Take your whole wheat sourdough bread to a whole new level of flavor by incorporating enticing add-ins like:
- finely chopped fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or basil
- ground spices like cinnamon or cardamom.
- finely shredded hard-aged, dry cheeses like Parmesan
This recipe has not been tested with other substitutions or variations. If you replace or add any ingredients, please let us know how it turned out in the comments below!
📖 Step by Step Instructions
If you're a visual learner like I am, I've added a recipe video that goes through the entire process of making sourdough bread in the recipe card to accompany the following directions. Let's get started!
Mixing and Folding the Sourdough Dough
Step 1: Make Levain. Mix active starter and water together before adding bread flour and mix until homogenous approximately 12 hours before you start the process of making your sourdough loaf. Place in a covered container at room temperature.
Step 2: Autolyse. Mix your levain and warm water together until combined in a large bowl. Then mix in the bread flour and whole wheat flour until little to no clumps remain with a spatula, wooden spoon or your hands and cover with a tea towel, plastic wrap or damp kitchen towel for 45 minutes.
Step 3: Add Salt. Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to your dough mixture and mix with a spatula or your hands until the salt granules have dissolved completely into the dough. Place in a bowl greased with one tablespoon of olive oil, cover, and set aside to rest for another 45 minutes.
Step 4: Folding The Dough. Gently stretch the dough in an upwards motion before placing back onto itself - do this four times every 30 minutes rotating around the dough as you do so. Repeat for a total of 4 times over 2 hours. Once you’ve folded the dough 4 separate times, let the dough rest for 45 minutes before continuing.
Step 5: Pre-Shape. Shape the bread into a boule or circle by turning it out onto a work surface or wooden cutting board greased with a touch of olive oil. Gently stretch 6 sides of the dough into the center to create a circular shape. As the dough rises, air bubbles have formed due to fermentation - stretch gently so we don't deflate the dough. Then, place dough upside down and drag the dough gently while creating friction towards yourself about ten times. Allow the dough to rest, covered by a towel for 30 minutes before continuing.
Step 6: Final Shape. Once again, follow the instructions above to build surface tension on the top of the bread before placing the dough seam side up into a banneton dusted with rice flour for best results. Place in the fridge for an overnight rest and the final rise.
Scoring and Baking your Sourdough Loaf
Step 7: Preheat. The next day or next morning, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with your dutch oven placed inside while preheating - turn on your timer for 45 minutes. After turning on your oven, remove your sourdough from the fridge.
Step 8: Score. Grab a piece of parchment paper larger than the diameter of the dough and flip the cold dough onto the parchment paper. Using a lame, razor blade sharp knife or kitchen shears, score the top of the loaf from top to bottom.
Step 9: Bake. Once your 45-minute timer has gone off, place the loaf into your preheated Dutch oven. Bake for about 25 minutes or until you start to see a hint of browning on the edges and top of your loaf. Once you see the top start to brown, you can remove the dutch oven lid completely. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the loaf of bread is a rich, dark golden brown with a crispy crust formation.
PRO TIP: Be careful not to burn yourself or drop in your sourdough! The parchment paper is your friend here - use the parchment paper as grips to gently lower the loaf into the dutch oven and place the lid on top.
Step 10: Remove Loaf & Cool. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and carefully remove the sourdough from within - I usually use a small spatula to coax one side of the bread from the bottom of the dutch oven, allowing me to remove the hot sourdough loaf and place it on a cooling rack for a minimum of 1 hour.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips/Expert baking tips
Whole wheat flour includes the entire wheat grain including the bran, endosperm, and germ — hence the moniker “whole”. While whole wheat boasts many charms (see: improved nutrition, nutty flavor), it also behaves like a completely different beast, especially in something as precision-based as a sourdough recipe.
Because of this, there are a few tips you should keep in mind as you’re working through this recipe:
- Whole wheat flour is, for lack of a better term, “thirstier” than bread flour. It drinks more water, and keeps drinking for longer. Give your dough an extra 20-30 minutes of time to rest before the bulk rise compared to what you would for basic sourdough.
- Since whole wheat flour has wheat bran in it, it is also sharper. Per Serious Eats, bran acts like razorblades, preventing the development of gluten in your dough. Gluten is essential for sourdough’s large-bubbled interior and supremely stretchy crumb. While I think I’ve achieved the right balance of flavor and texture, please note: this sourdough whole wheat bread will not have quite the same aeration or loftiness that you might have achieved with basic sourdough. That’s okay!
- Due to all that extra (yummy! nutritious!) fiber, whole wheat flour is also heavier than bread flour by volume. As such, your loaf will not rise quite as high as you may be used to. That’s totally normal.
- You’ll start to get the feel of when it has risen sufficiently by using your hands and your baker’s intuition. Give it a poke with your finger. You’re looking for Goldilocks here — if it snaps back immediately, it needs more time. If it stays indented, it’s over-proofed. (Which is salvageable. More on that later.) If it slowly returns to shape, it’s *just right.*
- Make sure you’re using a kitchen scale. Making sourdough is equal parts science and art. This is the science part! If you add too much whole wheat — which we know to be thirstier, sharper, and denser than bread flour — your loaf is at risk of being either dry or dense. It’s better to start with a smaller proportion — here we do 20% whole grain, 80% bread flour — which I think yields just the right amount of springiness.
While I’m not sure there’s one universal definition of what constitutes a “rustic loaf” is, I personally believe rustic breads typically incorporate whole or ancient grains and are distinguished by their slow, yeast-free fermentation process.
Heck yes! Well, let me tamper that enthusiasm — heck yes IF you aren’t currently in the midst of a sweltering heat wave. But, then again, you’re probably not baking if it’s in the 100s, right?? 😂 If your kitchen (or anywhere in your house) has a spot that’s no higher than, say, 74ish degrees? Then you should be good.
Lucky you, I wrote a whole post about it. 😉
Good news! Once your beautiful loaf of bread has cooled on a wire rack, store it at room temperature inside a plastic bag or wrapped in a tea towel. This helps in retaining the crust's crunchiness.
Certainly! A sticky dough is common, especially when relying on wild yeast from an active sourdough starter rather than commercial yeast. To handle it, use a bench scraper or a lightly floured surface to manage the edges of the dough. When letting the dough rest, cover it with plastic wrap in a large bowl to prevent it from drying out.
Achieving a better oven spring involves creating good surface tension on top of the dough. Before the final rise, shape your dough into a tight ball, ensuring air bubbles are preserved. For baking, using a hot Dutch oven or a baking stone can provide the consistent high heat necessary for that beautiful rise.
More Sourdough Recipes You’ll Love
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Overnight Rustic Sourdough Bread
- 20 g (1 Heaping Tablespoon) Sourdough Starter, 100% hydration, float test before using
- 80 g (⅓ cup) Water
- 80 g (⅔ cup) Bread Flour
- 100 g (½ cup) Levain
- 360 g (1 ½ cups) Water, 70 degrees F ideally
- 100 g (¾ cup) Whole Wheat Flour
- 400 g (3.2 cups) Bread Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Salt
- Olive oil - for greasing bowl
- 3 Tablespoons Rice flour - for dusting banneton
- Make sure to do a float test - It’s the best way to tell if your starter is fresh. Simply pinch off about 1 tablespoon of your starter and place it in a glass of water. If it floats, you're in business!
- Mix starter (20g) and water (80g) together before adding bread flour (80g) and mix until homogenous approximately 12 hours before you start the process of making your Sourdough loaf. Place in a covered container at room temperature.20 g Sourdough Starter, 80 g Water, 80 g Bread Flour
- Mix your levain and water together until combined. Then mix in the bread flour & whole wheat flour until little to no clumps remain with a spatula or your hands and cover for 45 minutes. This is called the autolyse - hydrating your flour prior to moving on to the next step.100 g Levain, 360 g Water, 400 g Bread Flour, 100 g Whole Wheat Flour
- *When making sourdough it’s helpful to have a little bowl of water nearby - dipping your hands in water prior to working with the wet, sticky dough will help immensely!
- Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to your dough and mix with a spatula or your hands until the salt granules have dissolved completely into the dough. Place in a bowl greased with one tablespoon of olive oil, cover, and set aside to rest for another 45 minutes.2 Teaspoons Salt, Olive oil - for greasing bowl
- Time to start folding the dough - every 30 minutes for the next two hours fold your dough as shown in the video below. Gently stretch the dough in an upwards motion before placing back onto itself - do this four times every 30 minutes rotating around the dough as you do so.
- Once you’ve folded the dough 4 separate times, allow it to rest for 45 minutes before continuing.
- Pre-shape - Shape the bread into a boule or circle by turning it out onto a wooden cutting board greased with a touch of olive oil. Gently stretch 6 sides of the dough into the center to create a circular shape. Then, flip the ball of dough upside down and drag the dough gently while creating friction towards yourself about ten times. This process is show in detail within the video below. Allow the dough to rest, covered by a towel for 30 minutes before continuing.
- Final Shape - Once again, follow the instructions above before placing the dough seam side up into a banneton dusted with rice flour.3 Tablespoons Rice flour - for dusting banneton
- The next morning, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with your dutch oven placed inside while preheating - turn on your timer for 45 minutes. After turning on your oven, remove your sourdough from the fridge. Grab a piece of parchment paper larger than the diameter of the dough and flip the cold dough onto the parchment paper. Using a lame or a razor blade, score the bread one ⅓ of the loaf from top to bottom. See the video below for an example! Once your 45 minute timer has gone off, place the loaf into your preheated dutch oven. Be careful not to burn yourself or drop in your sourdough! The parchment paper is your friend here - use the parchment paper as grips to gently lower the loaf into the dutch oven and place the lid on top.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until you start to see a hint of browning on the edges and top of your loaf. Once you see the top start to brown, you can remove the lid completely. Bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the bread is a rich, dark golden brown.
- Remove the dutch oven from the oven and carefully remove the sourdough from within - I usually use a small spatula to coax one side of the bread from the bottom of the dutch oven, allowing me to remove the hot sourdough loaf and place it on a cooling rack.
- It will be very challenging to wait before cutting into the loaf, but I promise you it’s worth it! Cutting into your bread when it is too hot could ruin it’s structure - I usually wait an hour at the very least before diving in unless you don’t mind cutting in early.
- Where can I get sourdough starter? You can easily make your own using flour and water, or you can buy it online or from specialty stores. If you have any friends who like to make bread, I’d also bet they have some they’d happily gift you!
- How long does homemade sourdough bread last? If you keep it in an airtight container on the counter, it should last for 3-4 days. However, if you want it to last longer, I suggest slicing it, placing it in a plastic bag, and freezing for up to a month. Whenever a bread craving strikes, just grab a slice!
- What is the best flour for sourdough bread? I prefer bread flour, which has a higher protein content than regular all-purpose flour. More protein means more gluten, which in turn means a better structure for the bread to be crusty on the outside and irregularly crumbed on the inside. YUM!
- What is the best size dutch oven for baking bread? I suggest reaching for one that is no smaller than 4 quarts and no larger than 7 quarts.