It should be ready for punching down right around the time Sally wakes up from her nap. Then all we'll have to do is shape it into two rounds and let it rise again. By lunchtime, we'll be sitting down to homemade ham and lentil soup with hot buttered bread.
James Beard adapted this from a NYT recipe back in the 90s, and I've made a few of my own changes too. The nice thing about it is that once you get your starter going, you don't have to start from scratch every time you want bread. Just keep it in the fridge, feed it with equal parts flour and water, and the night before you want to start the recipe, take it out and bring it up to room temp.
2 tablespoons dry active yeast
3 and 1/4 cups warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rye flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 and 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar (you could probably use honey, but I haven't tried yet!)
2 cups whole wheat flour
cornmeal, for the pan
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Four days (or in my case, seven!) before you plan to bake, prepare the "starter." Stir together 1 tablespoon yeast, 2 cups warm water, and 2 cups all-purpose flour in a large yogurt container. Cover tightly and let stand at room temperature for two days. Then refrigerate for at least one more day, and as many beyond that as you like.
The day before preparing the dough, take the starter out of the fridge and stir it well. Combine 1 cup of the starter with the rye flour and 1 cup warm water in a bowl. Cover it tightly and let it stand at room temperature overnight. (I let mine stand two nights with no apparent ill effects.)
The next day stir down the dough and add the remaining tablespoon of yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water along with the salt, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, butter, and sugar. Stir in the whole wheat flour, then the remaining 2 cups all-purpose flour, one cup at a time. Beard says you may not need all of the all-purpose flour, but I found I did. Knead the dough for 10-12 minutes (I was nursing Sally so I let mine "knead" in the Kitchen Aid which worked quite well).
Shape the dough into a ball, place it in a buttered bowl, and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Punch the dough down and divide it into two balls. Form each into a round loaf and place on two greased baking sheets generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the loaves and let them rise again for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and prepare the egg wash. Brush the egg wash over the loaves and bake them for 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. If you can help yourself, cover with towels and cool before eating to prevent the crust from hardening. I'm not sure we'll be able to, but we'll try with at least one loaf!