3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
3/4 – 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 1/4 tsp instant yeast)
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 c – 1 5/8 c warm water
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.
RISE 12-18 HOURS: Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
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.
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.
RISE 2 HOURS: 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.
PREHEAT CAST IRON: 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. (No need to butter or oil the pot).
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.
BAKE 30 MIN WITH LID: Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes.
BAKE 15-30 MIN WITHOUT LID [Most reviewers say it takes 20 min without the lid until the bread is done]: Remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.
Cool on a rack.
NOTES: BEST BREAD EVER!!!!!!!!!! SOOOOOOOOO EASY TO MAKE! PROFESSIONAL LOOKING LIKE YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE!! AMAZING!! NEXT STEP: TRY ALL THE VARIATIONS!!
1) Add 3/4 c chopped fresh rosemary to dough.
2) Add 3/4 c shredded cheddar cheese to dough.
3) Add 3/4 c raisins and 2 tsp cinnamon to dough.
4) Add 1/2 c chopped garlic to dough.
5) Add 1/4 c molasses to dough.
6) Add 1/2 c dried cranberries, 1/2 c walnuts, 1/4 c brown sugar, zest of one orange to dough.
7) Add 1/2 c shredded cheese, 1/4 c chopped green onions to dough.
8) Replace 1 c all purpose flour with 1 c almond flour, add 1/4 c cocoa powder, 1/2 c brown sugar to dough.
9) Add 3/4 c chopped fresh basil to dough.
10) Add 1/2 c chocolate chips, 1/2 c shredded coconut and/or nuts, 1/4 c brown sugar.
11) Add 3/4 c chopped fresh olives to dough.
12) Add 3/4 c chopped fresh sun dried tomatoes to dough.
13) Add 3/4 c chopped marinated green peppers to dough.
14) Add 3/4 c caramelized onions to dough.
15) Add 1/4 c honey, 1 tbsp cinnamon to dough.
16) Add 1/2 c chopped pecans, 1/2 c dried cherries to dough.
17) Add 1 c fresh grated Parmesan cheese, 2/3 c chopped olives to dough.
18) Add 1/2 c oats to dough to dough.
19) Replace 3/4 c of all purpose flour with 3/4 c rye flour, add 1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds to dough.
20) Add 1/2 c chopped walnuts, 3/4 c chopped onions to dough 1/4 c chopped coriander and basil. Increase lidless bake time to 25 minutes. NOTE: DELICIOUS, MAKE OFTEN! CRUNCHY OUTSIDE, SOFT INSIDE. AMAZING.
21) Replace 3/4 c of all purpose flour with 3/4 c rye flour, add 1/2 c chopped pecans, 1/2 c raisins, 1 tsp cinnamon to dough.
22) Add 1 c shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 c chopped jalapenos/green chilies to dough.