Make the starter:.
Using the starter ingredients listed above, combine water and yeast in medium bowl. Stir to dissolve yeast. Add flour and stir until thoroughly mixed. Cover with a cloth and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before using in the dough.
Make the dough:.
Using the dough ingredients listed above, combine the water, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer. Stir to mix thoroughly. Add shortening, flour, salt, and starter. Mix ingredients on low speed, with the mixer, until the dough is smooth and elastic (this usually takes me about 8 - 10 minutes). To test it for elasticity, I pinch off a piece of dough, and stretch it between both thumbs and my fingers into a square. If the center stretches and becomes thin (like a windowpane) it's perfect. If the dough breaks easily instead of stretching, it's not ready yet. When ready, remove dough from mixing bowl.
Divide the dough into two halves. Form each into a smooth ball. (You can wrap and freeze one of the loaves at this point.) Place the dough on the counter, or in a proofing basket, and cover with a warm, damp cloth. Rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Form the dough into a loaf shape (free form or use a loaf pan), and cover with a warm, damp cloth. Let rest another 30 minutes.
Baking the bread:.
Score the loaf (loaves) with a sharp knife. Spritz with some water and place in the pre-heated oven (if making a free form loaf, place on a preheated baking stone). Bake for 30 - 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown, and the temperature in the middle of the loaf is about 195ºF. I use a digital probe thermometer to test the temperature.
Remove the bread from the oven and from the pan (if using one). Let cool about 30 minutes.