Soft Honey Whole-Wheat Bread Recipe

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Anytime you add whole-wheat flour to bread, you run the risk of the loaf becoming dry and dense. Want to know my secret to a whole-wheat loaf that’s both soft and delicious? Plenty of sourdough starter for strength, milk to soften the crumb, and just a touch of honey for sweetness. The best part is the melted butter brushed over the top when finished. Work this loaf into your baking routine, and bake several to freeze for the week.

For lighter bread, let the dough rest for a full hour before the bulk rise. This will jump-start gluten development without kneading, adding great texture and height to the finished loaf. I also recommend using a stand mixer if you have one, for added air.

This loaf can be stored in a plastic bag at room temperature, but it’s best consumed within a day or two of baking.

Yields 1 loaf.


  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) bubbly, active starter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (270 grams) warm milk, whole or 2 percent
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) warm water
  • 2 tablespoons (40 grams) honey
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) oil
  • 1 cup (120 grams) whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat flour*
  • 3 cups (360 grams) bread flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (9 grams) fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, melted


  1. A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the starter, milk, water, honey, and oil together with a fork. Add the flours and salt, and mix to combine. Using your hands, continue mixing until a rough dough forms. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and set it aside, storing it according to your preference.
  4. After the dough has rested, gently work it into a somewhat smooth ball; this should only take about 15 to 20 seconds. The dough will feel supple and smooth when it comes together.
  5. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let rise at room temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit) until doubled in size, about 6 to 8 hours. The dough will look nice and domed when ready.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently dimple the surface with your fingertips to release any large air bubbles. Roll the dough into a log, tucking the ends underneath. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Lightly coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a little additional oil.
  8. With floured hands, cup the dough and pull it toward you to tighten its shape. Gently pick it up and place it, seam side down, in the prepared loaf pan. Cover the dough with a clean towel, and let rest until it has risen about 1 inch above the rim of the loaf pan, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature.
  9. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  10. Bake on the center rack for 40 to 45 minutes.
  11. Remove bread from the oven and brush with melted butter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer bread to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

*White whole-wheat flour is one of my favorite flours to work with. It’s milled from a wheat variety that’s lighter in color and more mild in taste than traditional whole-wheat flour — it’s not bleached wheat flour.

For additional recipes and information, see Simple Sourdough Bread Recipes.

Article and recipes reprinted with permission from Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa (Page Street Publishing Co., 2017).

Artisan Sourdough Made Simple A Beginner’s Guide to Delicious Handcrafted Bread

Baking with sourdough can seem intimidating, but author Emilie Raffa removes the fear and proves that the process is easy (and can fit into anyone’s schedule — even a working parent’s!). Thanks to step-by-step master recipe guides, you learn how to create and care for your own starters, and more than 60 unique recipes show you how to bake a variety of breads to suit your every need. The specialty recipes include Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Bread, Golden Sesame Semolina Bread, and more.

With the continuing popularity of the whole foods movement, home cooks are returning to the ancient practice of baking bread, and sourdough is rising to the forefront. Through fermentation, sourdough bread is easier on digestion (often enough for people who are sensitive to gluten) and healthier. Artisan Sourdough Made Simple gives everyone the knowledge and confidence to join the fun, from their first rustic loaf to beyond.

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