Sticking my head above the towering pile of freelance work I'm buried under (not that I'm complaining one bit! Yay money!), to tell you to try this recipe. It's weird, and not quite perfect, but it produced the absolute best bread that has ever come out of my oven. Thin, crackling crust, airy, gorgeous crumb, and it's delicious too.
In case the Times decides to start charging for the article after a couple of weeks, here it is. A word of caution: in the accompanying video only 1.5 cups of water is called for, and I think that's what should be used. My dough was beyond loose and shaggy--it was more like trying to handle a thick pancake batter. But still, even though the whole time I was working with it I was sure it wasn't going to work, it was fantastic.
makes one 1.5 pound loaf
Originally published by Mark Bittman in the New York Times
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt (note: I use a heaping two teaspoons of salt)
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (very important note: this amount should be 1.5 cups but was misprinted in the Times), 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 (note: 500 degrees works even better). 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.