This is how I make my most basic and old-fashioned bread. I bake two to four loaves of it a month.
To make the sourdough starter, mix three tablespoons of flour (rye or wheat) with two tablespoons of water. Cover it loosely, leave it in a warm place, and feed it twice a day with the same amount of flour and water. After the first day, throw out half the mixture before each feeding. The mixture should turn frothy after a day or two. It’s probably best to start with whole grain flour, but after a day you can switch to refined flour; however, avoid bleached flour. If it’s too sour, use more refined flour; if it doesn’t rise enough, use more whole grain--especially rye.
To make the dough, mix three heaping cups of King Arthur organic white bread flour (all-purpose flour doesn't work nearly as well) with one or two heaping tablespoons of wheat germ (raw is best), any amount up to an even cup and a half of wheat bran (optional), a teaspoon and a half or two of salt, about a quarter to a half cup of sourdough starter, and a cup and a half of warm water (less if you have a lot of starter and not much bran, more if you’re adding a lot of wheat bran). Mix this well by hand but don’t knead it: it should, ideally, be just a bit too sticky to knead. If it’s too dry, add more water; if it’s too sticky to handle, add more flour. Put it into a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for quite a while--I usually let it alone for eighteen hours, but that may not be necessary. Depending on the strength of the culture, the temperature of the room, the amount of bran, etc, it might turn somewhat spongy and rise a lot, or it might just sit there and not rise much at all. Avoid putting it in too warm a place--it’ll rise too fast and you’ll get a flat, sour loaf. If it seems to be rising too much--well over double its original size--go to the next step right away, or else you’ll get a rather sour and flat loaf.
Sprinkle about three tablespoons flour, bran, and/or seeds on a cheesecloth or dishtowel and place the dough on it. Using the cloth, fold the dough in half, then pick it up with your hands and form it gently into a large ball with the seam on the bottom and put it back on the cloth, making sure to place it on a well-floured or -seeded spot. Let that rest in a bowl for another two hours or more.
Put a covered pot (I use a clay one) into an oven and warm it to 425˚. Put the bread in by lifting the whole cloth with the bread in it out of the bowl, placing a hand under it, unfolding the cloth, and turning it gently upside-down into the pot. Bake covered for thirty minutes; by this time the bread should have risen substantially. Then uncover the pot and bake for another twenty-five minutes or so until you’ve developed a golden brown crust. Cool for thirty minutes before serving.
If you use the full amount of wheat germ and bran, you’re entitled to call this a whole wheat sourdough loaf; but it’s best to keep in mind that whole wheat, like pure white flour, is a relatively recent invention--traditional milling methods always sifted out a large proportion of the bran, but retained most of the germ.