I love “fancy” bread, not identical rectangular loaves with exact precut slices. When I see artisan breads on display with their flour-dusted, uneven crusts, I can’t help having a serious case of bakery lust, and I want to buy them all. I am a big sandwich eater and a firm believer that bread can make or break the final result, so I don’t shy away from splurging on a handcrafted loaf.
When I have a free day at home, I like to bake bread. Unfortunately, that can be a rarity. For years, I have heard the lore of no-knead bread, so I finally gave it a try. It took a few minutes to mix the ingredients, and then I patiently waited 18 hours for the shaggy dough to rise. Baked in a cast iron pot, the loaf turned out with absolute bakery-worth perfection.
Adapted from Jim Lahey via The New York Times by Mark Bittman
Makes one 1-1/2-pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour plus more for dusting (You can substitute up to 1 cup with an alternate flour such as whole wheat or spelt flour.)
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups room temperature water
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir into a shaggy dough. Cover the bowl and allow to rise for 18 hours, until the dough has doubled in size and has bubbles on the surface. Dust the top of the dough with flour and fold it over onto itself. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball, and place on a cotton towel (not terry cloth) dusted with flour. Cover the dough with a second towel and let it rise for 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a 6- to 8-quart cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic pot inside as it heats. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer the dough to it. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Take off the lid and bake until the loaf has browned, an additional 15-30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.