This recipe takes some rise time, so plan ahead. If you like artisan breads with the crisp crust and texture of a Tuscan loaf, this is your recipe! You will never pay $4 a loaf again!
Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf
3 cups all purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or what Bran as needed
1 5/8 cups water
In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature (about 70 degrees).
Dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it.
Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice (no more, remember this is a no-knead recipe). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface and your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal (I used cornmeal because I like the finished results.).
Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When dough is ready, it will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. It may look a mess, but that is okay. Shake the pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed, it will straighten out as it bakes.
Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15-30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Get out the butter and slather it on while it is still warm and indulge yourself!