I was skeptical when I mixed up this dough because it was so wet! More like a batter than a dough, I was barely able to shape it into a ball. Ive since read a ton of blogs about this bread that say to use 1 1/2 cups water, not 1 5/8 cups like the original recipe calls for. Even though the dough was so wet, it still turned out great. Next time I will do it with a bit less water though.
I just have to say that this is the best loaf of bread that I have EVER baked! Sure Ive done plenty of quick breads, but I'm always so afraid to try out yeast breads. My last batch wasn't like what Id hoped for, so I went into this as a skeptic. Well, I am forever changed. This is the kind of bread that Id be proud to serve at any dinner party. Its the crusty, holey texture of the Artisan breads I always see in bakeries, but have never figured out how to duplicate at home. This loaf of bread took me about 5 minutes of prep time then it just rested for 18 hrs! Easy!
I added a bit of whole wheat flour as well as some flax meal, since I'm always trying to sneak something good into recipes. It is still so yummy! Usually I am bummed I tried to make it more healthy. Not this time. I am definitely going to try it out again with just white flour, just to see if its really so much better, but I doubt it.
I cant wait to make this bread again and again! Definitely my favorite bread recipe Ive ever come across.
This recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey, of the Sullivan Street Bakery, in NY.
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. 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 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 cotton towel (not terry cloth) 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 for about 2 hours. 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, 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 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 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.