What's not to love about freshly baked bread with a lot less elbow grease?
3 cups all-purpose flour (or part whole wheat)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
1-1/2 cups water plus 1 tbsp, at room temperature
Extra flour, wheat bran, cornmeal, sesame seeds, etc.
Step 1: In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and yeast. Stir in water. Dough will be a sticky mess. Cover with plastic wrap. Cover with a tea towel. Let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Dough should be double and have bubbles on the surface.
Step 2: Lay a clean tea towel on counter and flour heavily. Scoop out dough (it is a little messy) and pat into a rough rectangle. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
Step 3: Place another clean tea towel on work surface. Rub with flour and sprinkle with bran, cornmeal or sesame seeds. (Use enough flour so dough does not stick.) Fold dough into thirds and brush off any extra flour. Fold into thirds again to form a rough cube. Place seam side down on second tea towel and dust top with flour, bran, cornmeal or sesame seeds. Fold tea towel over top. Let rise for 2 hours.
Step 4: After 1-1/2 hours, preheat oven to 450°F. Place a medium-sized heavy cast-iron pot with a lid (I like Le Creuset, and, yes, the pot goes into the oven empty and covered) in oven and heat for 30 minutes.
Step 5: Very gently slide your hand under tea towel holding bread. Open tea towel (over a tray to catch excess flour). Carefully flip bread into hot pot. Cover and bake at 450°F for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for 20-30 minutes longer, or until browned. Cool on a rack. Be really careful. Pot and bread are extremely hot!
Makes 1 loaf
Reprinted with permission from Bonnie Stern's Friday Night Dinners (2008 Random House Canada).