Whole Wheat Shepherds Bread
Homemade Whole Wheat Shepherds BreadMakes: One 2-pound loaf
Sponge (take about 2 hours)
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
1/8 cup sugar (you can use a little more sugar if you want a sweeter bread)
Dough (first rise about 2-3 hours; second only 15 minutes)
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup white whole wheat flour (I used home-milled flour)
2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup extra bread flour for kneading
1) Prepare the sponge:
In a large bowl sprinkle the dry yeast over the 1 cup warm water, Using a large whisk add 1/2 cup of the flour and the sugar. Add remaining 1/2 cup of flour and beat hard until very smooth, 2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temp until soft, spongy and pleasantly fermented, 2 hours.
2) Prepare the dough:
Using a wooden spoon, beat down the sponge. In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir the yeast into the warm water to dissolve. Add the yeast, warm water, salt and olive oil to the sponge and beat well.
Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating vigorously until a soft dough is formed that just clears the sides of the bowl.
3) Knead the Dough:
Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead about 5 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. It should be firm yet springy and resilient. Only add about 1 tbs flour at a time to prevent sticking.
Place the dough in a floured deep container, dust the top with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at cool room temp until tripled in bulk, 1.25 - 3 hours until the dough looks proofed as much as it will get.
Turn out the dough onto a clean surface. It will be slightly sticky from the long rise. Knead in about 1/4 cup more flour to make a firmer dough, about 1 minute. Shape into a tight round ball. Pull the ends tightly to the center of the loaf to form a smooth bottom and sides. Mist the surface with water. Coat the top surface with flour.
Using a serrated knife or lame, slash the top of the loaf, no more than 1/4 inch deep to allow steam to escape and allow room for the dough to expand.
Place the lid on the bread dome (or Dutch oven or clay baker) and let the dough proof for 15 to 30 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the lid.
Spritz the loaf with water and place the lid back on. Bake the loaf for 10 minutes, then lower the thermostat to 400 degrees F and bake an additional 25-35 minutes. Remove the lid after 30 minutes to allow the loaf to brown thoroughly.
Remove the loaf from the pot and let it cool thoroughly before slicing and serving.