Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. 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. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel 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.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.I know the waiting time sucks and it all sounds a little confusing but trust me on this, it will all be worth it. Patience is key for this recipe. You know the saying ' Good things are worth the wait!' I once waited for up to 20 hours and the bread came out even fluffier! Oh and I tried visualising the steps and it did help break down the recipe. It all looks wordy, but it's actually pretty easy once you get the idea. The words are out to get you I think! Haha.
You might like to add some herbs, salt, or even raisins if you like your bread a little more flavourful. Either way, they all work. It's good enough to eat on it's own with a hot bowl of soup and butter. Any additional herbs just steps it up a little. I hope you try it. Let me know how you go if you do! Have fun! xo