In a medium bowl pour 6 cups lukewarm water and stir in 1/2 cup sugar. Sprinkle 3 Tbsp. active dry yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile into a large bowl scoop out 6 coffee mugs of whole wheat flour(or white flour for white bread) Add 2 Tbsp. table salt. Stir into flour.
Once the yeast is ready stir it with a fork and add 1 cup vegetable oil. Pour all this into the big bowl and beat the dough. Add flour as you knead it to a soft dough stage. Turn out onto a well floured counter and continue kneading and adding flour till it is done. (Feels a bit like an earlobe, no longer sticky either.) I use unbleached flour for the kneading part as the whole wheat doesn't get picked up as well.
Form dough into a ball and let rise for 45 minutes, set a timer, really. No need for that vague 'rise til double in bulk'.
Punch down and form into loaves, placing each into a well greased loaf pan. Arrange the loaves in your oven 4 vertically across the back, 2 horizontally across the front. Leave equal gaps for air circulation. TURN ON THE OVEN LIGHT. (gives enough heat for the dough to rise in a cold house) and set the timer for another 45 minutes.
When the timer goes turn the oven on to 350 degrees and set the timer for 46 minutes. No need to preheat, adjust to suit your oven. Bread needs to cool out of the pan on racks or doubled towels.
If you are going to freeze the loaves slice them first. Frozen slices can be chipped off and toasted in an emergency.
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For instant yeast, mix the yeast directly into the flour and let sit 30 seconds or so. The water can be a bit hotter, dissolve the sugar as above.
For freshly ground whole wheat flour, use 7 cups of water instead of the 6. Mix just enough dough to make a sponge and let it sit 15-20 minutes to give the flour time to soak up some moisture. Then continue on, I use about 3 lbs. of whole wheat and the rest unbleached. Knead more than you would for store bought flour to work up some gluten action. (One ice cream pail of wheat berries = 6 lbs. of flour = two batches of bread for the week.) Freshly ground flour bread can be dry and crumbly hence the extra liquid and the extra kneading.
Shaping: You can use this dough to make baguette, subs, rounds and 'French bread' shaped loaves. Not as fancy as the artisan recipes but it passes the lunch test around here.