I was visiting a neighbor the other day and she had baked the most amazing bread for us. I have never made bread before, but she swore it was super simple and absolutely foolproof, so I asked for the recipe. I tried it out yesterday and she was so right – it was very simple to do and as far as I can tell, it’s pretty foolproof too. 🙂
This bread is not only delicious with its slightly salty, crusty outside and super soft, airy inside, but it’s a beautiful addition to a table too. It has such a lovely, rustic imperfection, you almost don’t want to slice it – but then you remember how amazing it is…
Think you want to give it a try?
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I used bread flour), more for dusting
½ teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
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 room temperature, or 70 degrees, for at least 12 hours (up to 20 hours is ok). Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles – usually between 12 and 14 hours.
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 (if you’re adding in any additional ingredients* add them to the dough now and then fold it over).
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
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) or slipmat 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 1 ½ hours. Dough will be ready when it is more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 425 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’s ok. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed, it will straighten out as it bakes.
Cover with lid and bake 25 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 18 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.
Remove from oven. Cool on rack.
This recipe was adapted for the New York Times from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City.
*You can add seasoning or other ingredients such as herbs, olives or cheese. My neighbor included olives, rosemary and feta and it was awesome. I think some kind of sun-dried tomato combination would be fabulous too.