A little more than a year ago I started experimenting with a long autolyse for my 50% wholemeal loaves. I’ve recently tried it again, and I am even more content with the result. This post isn’t so much a recipe as an outline of how to do it with any wholemeal loaf, probably even 100%.

It starts with the starter. A change I’ve adopted almost completely over the past few months has been to use two builds rather than one in getting my starter going. I think it started with the Hamelman Multigrain with Soaker. That calls for about 35% prefermented dough, which is a bit of a stretch for the 50gm or less of my starter that I routinely keep. So now, no matter what bread I’m making, I do two builds. For the wholemeal starter that means 100gm of flour and 75gm of water and then, 8-12 hours later, the same again.

At the same time as I feed the starter for the second time I prepare the rest of the dough. In my case, that involves:

300gm wholemeal flour
500gm white flour
600gm water1
17gm salt

That sits on the countertop alongside the starter; no need to refrigerate.

When the starter is good and active, anywhere between 4 and 8 hours later, I remove a piece that goes into the fridge for next time and break the remainder into chunks that I bung on top of the wet dough. Then, with a wet hand, it is simply a matter of doing a few folds to get the starter incorporated into the dough.

Tip the dough out onto the counter and flatten it well with the heel of your hand to form a rough rectangle. This helps to distribute the starter too. Then fold in three, first in one direction, then the other. Put the ball back into the bowl cover with a damp towel and leave for an hour.

After an hour, do the wet-hand fold thing again and leave it for another hour.2

Repeat the fold every hour, becoming more gentle as the dough bulks up and builds strength. How many hours you will have to leave it depends on the usual factors; temperature and strength of starter. Mine is usually done after about four hours. At that point, divide the dough in two (or three), shape as you prefer and allow to prove. Depending on timing, I sometimes have to retard the loaves in the fridge overnight. The one in the photo above was in the fridge overnight and baked from cold after just an hour on the counter while the over heated up.

Then bake — with steam to begin with — for about 10% longer you normally would bake a white loaf of the same size.

Allow to cool before slicing.


  1. That gives 75% hydration; I'm pretty convinced the technique could go to 80% easily. 

  2. For a proper description of how to do that, go and take a look at Trevor Wilson’s video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *