Ring in fall with all the pumpkin! Whole wheat sourdough pumpkin bread has the perfect tender texture, tight crumb, and subtle pumpkin flavor with bursts of tart dried cranberries and pepitas sprinkled throughout. Best of all, a simple trick of kitchen string will have this pumpkin-shaped loaf baked into a work of art!
We've officially arrived at festive fall eats and I am totally here for it. This whole wheat sourdough pumpkin bread has been breakfast on repeat every single morning. A little toast, butter and honey, it's easy and oh so tasty.
The use of equal parts bread flour and whole wheat flour gives it the perfect texture. You'll get the hearty bread vibe from the whole wheat, but that soft mouthfeel and structure from the bread flour. Here's what else you're going to love:
- subtle natural orange color and pumpkin flavor
- tender bread inside, crunchy crust outside
- adorable pumpkin shape
- sweet dried cranberries and crunchy pumpkin seeds sprinkled throughout the dough
It's pretty much bread bliss baked into a loaf. You could even divide this dough into smaller portions and make little pumpkin-shaped dinner rolls. (Lookin' at you Thanksgiving.)
Making the sourdough loaf
Starting this pumpkin bread is very similar to any sourdough loaf recipe. You'll fed your starter, then once the starter is active and bubbly you'll make the dough.
The trick to adding the pumpkin is to mix it in with the water, starter, and salt. The pumpkin flavor in the bread is subtle and the color is pleasant.
The remaining ingredients get mixed in together until a shaggy dough forms.
Stretch and Fold
You can either use stretch and fold process or coil and fold. They both are pretty equal, it's just a matter of preference. I like the stretch and fold process.
When the bulk rise starts, you'll do two series of stretch and folds (or coil folds) to help strengthen the dough. To do this, imagine the dough as a clock and at 12 o'clock grab the dough and gently stretch it up and over the dough, pressing gently into the dough. Repeat the process at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock. Cover and rise for an 1 hour after the first series and however long necessary to complete the bulk rise after the 2nd series. This is usually about 3 to 6 hours for me, depending on the temperature of the house.
How to make sourdough look like a pumpkin
This part is really, really easy so if you've already got sourdough baking down you can use your favorite loaf recipe and just add in this technique to shape it.
You'll need parchment paper, kitchen string, and scissors. Cut the parchment paper to fit the dutch oven. I like to cut mine with little handles (see picture below) because I've had the best results preheating my dutch oven. The handles help lower the dough into the hot dutch oven.
After the bulk rise, dust the loaf in the bowl or proofing basket with either cornmeal or flour. Cut four long pieces of kitchen string and lay them across the dough like you would cut a pizza (see picture). Cover the string with parchment paper and a plate or cutting board. Gently flip the dough over to release from the bowl/proofing basket.
Once turned over, gently rub flour over the loaf and tie the strings in the center of the top of the bread. Cut any access and score the bread however you prefer.
Tip: Before putting the strings down I like to gently pull the sides of the dough away from the proofing basket just to be extra sure for a smooth release.
How to bake the pumpkin bread
All the tricky stuff is over! Yay! On to the good part...making the house smell like bread.
Preheat the oven to 450°F with the dutch oven and lid in the oven as well. I've been troubleshooting this whole wheat loaf for months to get it perfect and have found whole wheat loaves don't get quite the same oven spring, especially since this loaf is higher in hydration. Having a hot dutch oven has given me better results. That said, you know your starter and process best so if you have a tried and true method, stick with that.
Bake the loaf in the hot dutch oven with the lid on for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and lower the heat to 425°F. Bake for another 35-45 minutes or until the internal temp on the bread is 205°F.
After baking, let it cool on a wire rack and remove the strings. The hardest part about this loaf is waiting for it to cool!! Generally, about 1 hour is best so you don't get a gummy texture from cutting too early but if you just can't wait I totally get it.
Tips for whole wheat sourdough bread
This is my favorite type of sourdough to make, because it's hearty but also super tender. My biggest fails with sourdough have been overproofing and mucking up a test recipe. Here's what works best for me:
- letting the dough rest overnight in the fridge
- using 100g starter for a shorter bulk rise
- scoring and baking the dough cold
- preheating the dutch oven and lid in the oven
- preheating a little bit longer than when the oven tells you it's ready
How to store leftover bread
Truth. Sourdough is it's most delicious eaten the day of baking, but it's hard to have this as your morning toast all in one day. To store this loaf for several days, slice it into ½-inch slices almost all the way through and then store in an air-tight bag in the freezer. If storing on the counter, let the bread cool completely first.
How to eat whole wheat sourdough pumpkin bread
Butter, honey, and a dash of cinnamon - call. it. a. day. It's my go to topping and the perfect mix a sweet and creamy. Other deliciousness is pumpkin butter or apple butter or even just straight up regular butter.
This loaf is perfect breakfast toast but it's not terribly sweet so it's fantastic to serve at dinner alongside cozy, comforting fall and winter foods. White bean and parsnip soup, butternut squash soup, lamb ragu, or simple buttermilk roasted chicken.
How will you be enjoying this pumpkin bread? As is? Sweet? Savory? Just ripping off fistfuls? Be sure to show us your creations! We can't wait to see all the delicious eats!
Whole Wheat Sourdough Pumpkin Bread
- 100 g starter fed and bubbly (½ cup )
- 295 g warm water (80-90°F) (1 ¼ cup )
- 7 g salt (1 teaspoon )
- 130 g pumpkin purée (½ cup )
- 250 g bread flour (2 cups + 1 tablespoon )
- 250 g whole wheat flour (2 cups + 1 tablespoon )
- 70 g dried cranberries (½ cup )
- 35 g raw pepitas/pumpkin seeds (¼ cup )
- Make the dough. In a medium bowl, use a fork to whisk together the water, starter, salt, and pumpkin purée until smooth. Add the bread flour, whole wheat flour, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds. Mix together until a rough, shaggy dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Form the dough. After the dough rests, form it into a ball by stretching four sides of the dough gently up and over the dough, one side at a time. Using a lightly wet hand, pull one side of the dough away from the edge of the dough and gently stretch it up and over the remaining dough, pushing it slightly into the dough. Repeat three more times. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel.
- Stretch and folds. After forming the dough, let the dough rest for 1 hour covered, then repeat the stretch and folds. Cover and let the dough rest again for 1 hour, then repeat the stretch and folds one last time.
- Bulk rise. After the last stretch and fold series, cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let the dough rest another 3 to 4 hours (for a total bulk rise of about 6 hours.). Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this could take more or less time. The dough should look about double in size and have a bit of bounce to it if poked with a finger.
- Shape the dough. Generously flour a medium bowl lined with a cotton or linen cloth or a bread basket, set aside. Gently remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Very gently stretch and fold the four sides of the dough. Using a bench scraper, flip the dough over, cover with a damp cloth and rest 15 to 20 minutes.
- Using a bench scraper, flip the dough over again so the smooth side is facing the work surface. If the dough is sticky, lightly flour your hands. Cup your hands around the far side of the dough and pull it towards you in a circular motion. You may find it easier to use a bench scraper to help you slightly move the dough while you shape it. After shaping the dough, place it seam side up in the breadbasket/cloth-lined bowl.
- Second rise. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour or leave the dough in the fridge overnight. Preheat the oven to 450°F with the dutch oven and lid inside. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of your dutch oven with just enough space to lift into the pan. I like to cut a parchment paper circle with narrow, longer pieces of two sides to use as handles, then smooth them out in the hot pan with tongs so they don’t affect the final shape of the dough.
- Make the pumpkin shape. Optional: Sprinkle the top of the loaf in the breadbasket with cornmeal (this will end up being the bottom once the dough is turned out.) Cut 4 long pieces of kitchen string and place over the dough in the breadbasket. Cover with parchment paper, then a cutting board or plate and gently flip over. Tip: Just to be sure, I like to lightly pull the rested dough from the sides of the breadbasket before placing the strings to make sure it cleanly released once flipped. After turning the dough out, sprinkle and lightly rub flour over the surface of the dough. Tie the strings in the center of the dough with a little tension. Cut any excess string.
- Score the dough. Use your own design or preference to score the dough. To keep the pumpkin shape, don’t score too deep.
- Bake the dough. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid - remember the lid will be super hot! Carefully place the dough in the dutch oven. Cover with the lid and bake at 450°F for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and reduce the oven temperature to 425°F. Bake for another 35-45 minutes until the center of the loaf reaches 205°F
- Cool the dough. The hardest part - carefully remove the dough from the dutch oven and let cool on a wire rack or cutting board for 1 hour before cutting for the best texture. Cut and remove the kitchen string. Add an inverted cashew or piece of cinnamon stick to the center of the dough for the stem of the pumpkin. Slice and serve, my favorite way is with butter and honey!
- Cups vs Grams: For best results, weigh ALL your ingredients. If you don't have a kitchen scale, use the spoon and level method of filling your measuring cups.
- Starter amount: The higher amount of starter means the dough will rise faster. Most sourdough loaf recipes call for 50g of starter for an 8 to 10 hours rise (usually for overnight counter bulk rise). If this timing works better for you, reduce the amount of starter. My preference is to let the dough rest in the fridge overnight for better oven spring and easier scoring.
- Sample Baking Schedule A:
- morning: feed starter
- late afternoon: make dough when the starter is just before it peaks
- evening: bulk rise and shape dough
- overnight: second rise/rest in fridge
- next morning: string, score, and bake
- Sample Baking Schedule B:
- morning: feed starter
- late afternoon: make dough when the starter is just before it peaks
- evening: bulk rise and shape dough
- evening: second rise at room temperature
- evening: string, score, and bake
- Sample Baking Schedule C:
- evening: feed starter
- early morning: make dough when the starter is just before it peaks
- morning: bulk rise and shape dough
- afternoon: second rise at room temperature
- afternoon: string, score, and bake
- Plastic wrap or damp towel - I have found that plastic wrap works best for me. Many sourdough bakers also use shower caps to cover their bowls.
- Preheating. I have had my best results preheating the dutch oven and lid in the oven. Also, letting the oven preheat longer than when it says it's ready. Usually about 20 minutes.
Jay Granucci says
Hi, can you recommend a recipe to make the starter for this recipe? I’m anxious to give this recipe a try. Thanks! Jay
Hi! I'd recommend The Clever Carrot, Bless This Mess, or King Arthur Baking if you want to make your own starter. If you have the time and resources, its really interesting! If you want a faster option, I'd highly recommend purchasing a sourdough starter from King Arthur Baking. It only takes a couple of feedings before its ready to use!
Hi! This bread recipe is perfect! Unfortunately fibers from the string stuck to my bread:( I spent a half hour picking the fiber pieces from the pumpkin seams. Is there a trick? Is there a particular brand of kitchen twine I should use? I bought 100% cotton twine from our natural food store.
You could try soaking the kitchen twine in a little vegetable oil before tying it. That will help!
I was a little nervous to attempt the forming of this beautiful loaf. I am normally a "no fuss" baker and seldom tackle loaves that look so "fancy". I am SO glad I tried it!! It turned out beautifully adorable and so yummy! This is going to make the perfect addition to our Thanksgiving table this year. I often stay true to a recipe when baking a loaf for the first time but I was really in the mood for a little pumpkin spice flavor. I ended up adding a little maple syrup (about 20 grams) and maybe 1 tsp of pumpkin spice (sorry I didn't measure it). I also soaked by craisins in warm water and pumpkin spice as this is what I normally do when baking. I then mixed them and pepitas in after the 30 minute rest period (again because this is how I normally add nuts and berries to by bread). Anyways, this loaf is so tasty with just a little butter. It is certain to be a normal part of my fall baking! Now I just need to keep practicing by scoring techniques.....your loaf is so beautiful!
Thank you SO much Michelle! And I absolutely love how you tweaked the recipe and made it your own! Soaking the cranberries is such a great idea, I'm going to try that next time!
I’m so excited to try this recipe it sounds and looks so good.
I would like to know what size bread bowl do you use?
I looked on Amazon and they have different sizes.
Thank you in advance for your reply
So exciting! The proofing bowl/banneton I use is a 9" round but if you didn't want to buy anything you could use a medium to large size mixing bowl and line it with a VERY well floured kitchen towel.
Hi! I was a tiny bit intimidated as I’m a new sourdough baker, but this turned out amazing! I probably read the recipe through 25 times during the process 😂
I wanted to add a tiny bit of cinnamon or sweetness, but wanted to stay true to your recipe the first time through. I need to work on my scoring. From the other comments, which I’ve just now read, seems like I could pretty confidently add some spice or a couple tablespoons of sugar, though now that I’ve tried the final product, I’m on the fence about sugar.
I’ve only done the “easy” sourdough recipes so far- no multiple stretch-and-folds, etc. This was a great dough! Thank you so much!
Jami, I'm so glad you tried this recipe! Once you get the hang of sourdough, you truly can do anything! You could def put your own sweet or savory spin on it too. This week, I made this loaf with fresh cranberries, it was delicious!
Hannah Bright says
Hey Lauren! I don’t have sourdough starter. Could this recipe be adapted into a yeast loaf recipe? I’m having a hard time finding a recipe for a free-form/shapable yeast bread That uses pumpkin purée. I dont want to mess up the wet/dry ratios, so I’m nervous to just wing it. Thank you!
Hi Hannah - I'm working on a yeast based version this week! I haven't translated a dough from sourdough to yeast yet so it's going to need a few test runs!
Gabriela Hernandez says
If you're interested Hannah, I bought a starter from Breadtopia (via Amazon) and it was up and running in less than a week.You can refrigerate or even freeze it after you're done if you don't use it often.
Erin B says
Excellent! I added some sultana raisins in addition to the dried cranberries, along with pecans (I had no pepitas), ginger, cinnamon, a little honey, orange zest and squeezed in some of the juice of the orange, maybe a couple of tablespoons. I thought the orange would work nicely with these flavors. I also doubled the recipe because I always like to get two loaves at a time out of a batch of dough. They came out stunningly beautiful and absolutely delicious! This is such a nice bread for a fall or winter breakfast!
Thank you so much erin! I also made this again recently and added some cinnamon chips and golden raisins - I love how versatile this loaf is!
Erin B says
This morning I made another batch of this dough but took it in a totally different direction, flavor-wise: I added an extra two grams of salt, a bit of garlic powder, 125 grams of diced Reggiano Parmigiano, some sautéed shallots, and chiffonaded fresh sage leaves. I just love the combination of pumpkin, sage, shallots and parmesan together, reminds me of pumpkin gnocchi I had in Italy. Hopefully it will be good! This is just such a nice texture dough to work with, I saw no reason not to try it in a savory direction!