Originally developed by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery. Published by NY Times and food writer Mark Bittman. Incredibly easy and well worth the time.
This recipe makes one loaf
3 cups All Purpose unbleached Flour or Bread Flour
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 cups, and 2 Tbsp slightly warm Water
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Give it a quick stir to incorporate.
Pour in the water, and with a spoon, stir until blended and all the flour is incorporated. The dough will be rough and shaggy, almost like a scone dough, and fairly sticky. This step only takes one minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit out on the counter for 18 hours. If your kitchen is cold, you might need 24 hours. No need for a “warm” spot, room temperature is fine.
The dough will be ready when the surface is level and bubbly.
Preheat the oven to 450˚, with the enamel pot inside, and with the lid on. While the oven is heating, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. The dough will be very sticky and stringy.
With well floured hands, fold the dough a few times over onto itself, and then shape it into a ball. The shaping of the dough should only take a minute or two. No need to knead.
If you’re using parchment, dust the paper and lay the dough on top. Other wise, let the dough rest on a well floured surface for an additional 30 minutes covered with plastic wrap. Note, Jim calls for a 1-2 hours proof in his book. Just allow it to double in size.
Note: the oven will come to temperature well before the dough has risen, but you really want the enamel pan to be super hot, so that extra heating time is perfect.
About 20 minutes after you have shaped the dough, using a sharp or serrated knife, make cuts about 1/2 inch deep into the top of the bread. Then let it rest the final 10 minutes.
When ready, open the oven and remove the lid of the pot with a cloth or potholder. Either lift the parchment paper, or with well floured hands, carefully lift the dough and lay it into the pot. There is no need to grease the pan. It absolutely will not stick.
Using the potholder, replace the pan lid and slide the pot back into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Here is how it looks after the 30 minutes of covered baking.
Then remove the lid and bake for another 15 until the bread is browned and beautiful.
When ready, use a cloth and simply grab the bread out of the pot and place it on a wire rack to cool. Give it 10 minutes or longer to cool before cutting.