For our Bread 101 class, the five instructors conducted a grand experiment in bread making, with decidedly mixed, but edifying results.
Each of us has also been experimenting on our own, with more success. Two weekends ago I tried a natural starter bread from Clotilde Dusoulier, author of the blog Chocolate and Zucchini. Dusoulier follows a 1:2:3 ratio of starter: water: flour, which produces a very moist, but manageable dough. For baking, the shaped loaf is placed into a cold Dutch oven, where it finishes proofing as the oven heats. Following this recipe, and using a 50/50 mixture of Red Fife and white flour, I produced a lovely round loaf with a crisp crust. However, in a flu-addled fever, I omitted the salt, which produced a rather tasteless bread (lesson learned: don't bake when under the influence of viruses).
Last weekend I followed the instructions from Bread Lab baker Jonathan McDowell. This time I used all whole grain flour (80% Red Fife and 20% mixture of soft white wheat and buckwheat), and I remembered the salt. This dough is much wetter (87% hydration versus Dusoulier's 67%), which makes it challenging to handle. The hardest step for me was inverting the shaped loaf from my proofing "basket" into a piping hot Dutch oven without deflating it. The final bread had a delicious flavor and lovely crumb, but was decidedly flat. For a beginning bread baker like myself, I would recommend starting with Dusoulier's recipe, but McDowell's offers a great next challenge. Both will produce bread that is well worth the effort of nurturing a bread starter for days on end.