I’m not really a baker, but I occasionally get a serious craving for homemade bread. For those times when nothing but homemade bread will do, this loaf is the perfect foil.
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To make the starter, mix together the cool to lukewarm water, 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, 1 cup of the bread flour, and ½ cup of the whole-wheat flour. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 to 16 hours.
To make the dough, combine all the rest of the yeast, bread flour, and whole-wheat flour with the sugar and salt. After the starter is done sitting at room temperature, stir it down. You can either use a wooden spoon to make the dough by hand, or use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. Alternate mixing the water and the dry ingredients into the starter. Mix until just combined and the dough starts to look shaggy. Leave the dough in the bowl, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with cooking oil, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, knead the dough by hand or use the dough hook on a stand mixer. You can add up to 1/2 cup more bread flour as needed during the kneading process. If you knead it by hand it will take about 10-12 minutes; if done with a dough hook in a stand mixer it will take about 5-7 minutes. The dough is done kneading when you press one finger into the dough and the indentation remains; the dough will be a little tacky, even when done kneading.
For the first rising, place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray; cover the plastic wrap with a towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature in a draft-free place until almost doubled in size (this will take 1-2 hours, depending on the weather). When the dough is almost doubled, gently deflate it but don’t knock out all the air.
For the second rising, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle cornmeal on the parchment. After deflating the dough, sprinkle it lightly with flour, flour your hands, and form the dough into a ball. Place the ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Dust the dough with a little more flour.
Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature in a draft-free place until it’s puffy and about 40-50 percent larger (this will take somewhere between 30-90 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place the pizza stone on a rack in the center of the oven.
After the second rising, only slash the dough if it has risen 40-50 percent; if the dough has risen more, do not slash it. Lightly spray a little water onto the bread and into the oven. Transfer the bread and parchment paper to the preheated pizza stone in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425 degrees and spray a little water in the oven every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking. Bake the bread for about 25-30 minutes, or until done. The bread is done when it has a golden brown crust that’s firm to the touch, and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.