1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon honey
4 cups unbleached flour
4 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup unbleached flour for kneading
1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
2 generous tablespoons fresh minced sage
2 generous tablespoons fresh minced rosemary
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/4 cup cornmeal, for sprinkling on baking sheet and tops of loaves.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup lukewarm water, yeast and honey. Let mixture stand until yeast becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.
In large bowl, combine unbleached flour, whole-wheat flour and salt; make a well in center of flour. Add yeast mixture to well and stir just to combine a little of the flour. Add half the water and start to blend in some flour with a wooden spoon. Add oil and rest of the water and continue mixing. Once most of the flour is mixed in and it becomes hard to stir, turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.
Gather dough together and knead for 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with flour if sticky, as needed. The dough should be a bit heavy. Place kneaded dough in large, lightly oiled bowl to rise, covered with damp towel. If you are letting the dough rise overnight, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Check to see if it needs punching down. If it has doubled in bulk, punch it down with your fist, give it a few kneads, turn it over, and either cover it to rise again, or prepare to shape loaves.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees when ready to shape loaves. Combine herbs and chopped onion together. Divide dough in half and knead each portion, one at a time, gently flattening dough. Spread one-quarter herb mixture on flattened dough and fold it in half to cover and knead. Flatten dough again and spread another quarter herb mixture on dough, fold over and knead. Continue kneading and working herbs and onions into dough, gathering any pieces that fall out. Once dough is homogenous, shape it into a loaf. Repeat process with remaining dough and herb mixture.
Lightly sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal. Place loaves, not touching, on sheet and sprinkle tops with cornmeal. With sharp knife, make two or three diagonal slashes, about 1/2 inch deep, across tops of loaves. Place towel over loaves and allow them to rise in warm place until almost doubled in bulk. Bake in hot oven for about 45 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Remove to baking rack to cool.