I came across this recipe when I was searching for the sardine pasta recipe. This one is also from the New York Times website. What intrigued me was the fact that it requires very minimal ingredients and practically no work involved in the process of making the bread. I used to love baking but quit due to work-related injuries and really hated having to give up on this hobby in the past. I could have used the dough hook attachment of my kitchenaid mixer or my bread maker but I was too lazy to do all the dishwashing plus it didn't taste the same. This recipe has revived my passion for baking...Awww, the possibilities...
This recipe is by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street bakery. It was originally published in NY Times on November, 2006. Here's the recipe:
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoons salt
wheat bran or cornmeal, if desired
NOTE: I originally intended on using Pam non-stick spray but changed my mind at the last minute and stick to the recipe instruction.
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, bran or cornmeal. 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.
NOTE: I followed the step-by-step instruction which was easy enough. Didn't really run into any problem other than the minimal smoke produced by high heat and empty cast-iron pan. I used my trusty heavy cast iron pan with lid in baking the bread and it turned out perfect.
Don't worry if you put too much flour when you wrapped the dough in kitchen towel because it will add to the rustic look when it is baked.