Thursday, December 2, 2010
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 t salt
1 1/2 C water
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 1/2 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 flour sack towel with flour, put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Fold towel over and let rise for about 2 hours. ( I have also used a rising basket and it worked great, still flour generously.) 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, enameled, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. ( I used a dutch oven until I splurged on a french enameled pot.) 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 10-15 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.