(Source Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery, as reprinted from a Mark Bittman column in The New York Times)
Adapted by Greg Mowery
Time: 1/12 hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
(I've also used 2 cups of regular flour--Hecker's--and
one cup King Arthur's whole wheat flour)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon salt (I use 2 teaspoons and the bread doesn’t taste salty)
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir (I use the fingers of one hand to stir to mix) until blended; dough will be shaggy and rather sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (I then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel). Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. It will be very wet and hard to handle. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself three or four times. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from stick to work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously spray canola cooking oil on an 18-incgh length of parchment paper. Place it in a shallow 10-inch skillet (like an omelet pan) and put dough seam side own on the paper. Cover with the same plastic wrap you used when raising the dough and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. But it will still be a warm and sticky wet dough.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to8-quart heavy covered pot (Dutch oven of cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven (actually, I use a 4-quart cast iron pot with a glass lid) in oven to heat. When dough is ready, slash the top of the loaf with a sharp razor blade. Carefully remove the very hot pot from oven. Pick up the dough on both side of the paper and gently place it into the hot pan. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, being careful not to let the bottom of the loaf burn (a little char is fine), until loaf is beautifully browned. Remove loaf to a rack and cool, discarding the parchment. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.
I find the loaf is done at approximately 30 minutes with the lid on the pot and another 10 minutes without the lid.
The recipe works perfectly well with three cups of white flour using 1 1/2 cup water. Add the extra two tablespoons (making 1 5/8 cup) if you're opting to add whole-wheat flour to your recipe.
The finished round loaf will look like a slightly flattened round boule, rustic and artisanal in appearance.
I use a plastic scraper to get all the dough out of the bowl.
Even adding some flour to the dough and your hands when you shape the dough for its final rising is tricky. The loaf is so pliable, it resists. Don’t worry, it will be fine.
Once the bread cools, you owe it to yourself to cut a slice once the loaf has cooled (about 30 minutes) with butter, or preserves or even just plain. The crust is amazing. Once you wrap it, the crust becomes softer, losing that crunch.
This makes amazing toast. It's also good toasted lightly for sandwiches. It was made for bruschetta.