I do have to confess one thing, and that is that while I state that it has four ingredients it actually has five...that is if you want to count the two separate flours (bread flour and whole wheat); I've included them as one ingredient because they basically are...one (the bread flour) is simply a refined version of the other (whole wheat). For an actual typed recipe for this bread, click here; for a recipe for bread made with 100% whole wheat flour, click here.
Anyhow, to make this bread you will need these simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast.
This is the equipment you will need: a bowl, an electric upright mixer (or you can mix the dough by hand), a bowl or bucket, a sharp knife or razor (to slash the dough), a baking sheet (or bread pan if you want a traditional sandwich loaf), and an oven.
This recipe will make one really big loaf (as pictured) or two regular sized loaves. Now here's how to make the bread:
Make a preferment by combining 2 teaspoons of instant yeast with 2 cups of whole wheat flour and 2 1/2 cups cool water. Stir it (it will have a batter-like consistency), cover it, and set it aside. Now go about whatever business you have for your day. This can rest and ferment for anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours (or longer if you refrigerate it).
preferment when it was just mixed, and right is how it looks after a couple hours; the bottom of the three is it being lifted with a spoon to illustrate how frothy and bubbly it has become.
dough hook. Add 4 cups of bread flour, another teaspoon of instant yeast, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher or sea salt (try not to have the yeast and salt come into direct contact with each other). Run the machine on low for a minute--until it begins to form a dough--then turn it up to medium and knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes (alternately you can knead it by hand for about 15 minutes).
F and allow the bread to rise for 30-60 minutes at room temperature. The below left photo is the dough when it was initially shaped, then covered with the bowl (right). The bottom photo is the dough after about 60 minutes.
Using a sharp knife or razor blade slash the dough (I prefer a single-sided razor blade but there is an actual tool for this). Slashing the dough is twofold; it is for aesthetic purposes but it also allows the inner, unbaked dough to rise after the crust has formed.
"oven spring" and a crispier crust). Bake the bread for about 30-40 minutes, until it is golden brown, feels light for it's size, and sounds hollow when tapped with a finger. Remove the bread from its pan and transfer to a cooling rack. Tempting as it may be, allow it to cool for 15 minutes before slicing (it will have better flavor and slice easier).
Now your house will be warm and cozy and smell intoxicatingly like fresh bread.