5 cups bread flour (or all purpose flour or half and half)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups cool water
cornmeal or semolina, for coating the pan
First thing to do when baking this bread? Decide on a timeframe. The dough is stirred together; rests for 10 hours; is put into a crock; rises for 2 hours, and bakes for 45 minutes. So that’s just under 13 hours. It’s a good weekend bread; stir it together Friday night at about 10 p.m.; scoop it into the crock about 8 a.m. Saturday; bake about 10 a.m., and your bread will be baked, cooled, and ready to slice by noon.
Be sure you have something to bake the bread in, a 4- to 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven, cast iron or casserole dish. It must be oven-safe, it really does need a lid, and it has to be deep enough (about 4″) to hold the rising dough. Or two loaf pans.
To make the dough: Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine. At first the dough will stick to the spoon and follow it around the bowl. But once all the flour is completely absorbed (after about 10 seconds of vigorous stirring), the dough will become softer and stick to the sides of the bowl. That’s it; you’re done stirring.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set the dough aside to rest at cool room temperature for 10 to 12 hours. The dough should be very bubbly and will have risen quite a bit.
Grease your chosen crock with non-stick olive oil spray, then sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina, for a nicely crunchy crust. Be sure the crock is well-greased; the last thing you want is for the baked bread to stick.
Gently stir the dough down, and scoop it into the greased crock. Add the lid and let the dough rest and rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours at room temperature; again, 68°F to 70°F is ideal. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 425* – 450°F.
Check the dough before putting it in the oven; it will have risen about 1/2″ and show some large bubbles on the surface, though it’ll be flat across the top, not domed. Shake the crock very gently; the dough should jiggle a bit.
To bake the bread: Bake the bread for 45 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the top of the loaf is golden brown with deeper brown blisters (from the bubbles). Remove the crock from the oven, and turn the bread out onto a rack to cool.
I have gotten great results using both King Arthur all purpose flour and bread flour.