3 C strong flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast
JUST over 1 1/2 C water
Making a good, simple loaf of bread is just one of those skills you need. So, dear readers, if you don’t already have your own sourdough routine or bread making habit, this reliable, long ferment recipe is one that’s been road-tested around the world and may just be the rustic loaf of your dreams.
Time is the key here, as well as using a very hot (covered) pot in a very hot oven. Just a small amount of yeast helps get it going, then you let it rise quietly over about 24 hours. The original recipe from The NY Times (and a video of Jim Lahey making it) is still online here. Below is my reiteration, to keep the home made bread love going ’round.
Long ferment, no knead bread
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients then add the water. Using all your fingers on one hand, (your personal dough-whisk attachment), mix it together. Cover with cling wrap and leave for 12 hours – 18 hours. Find a warm spot if the room temperature is a bit chilly.
Sprinkle a clean work surface with a little flour, and pour out the wet dough onto it. It’ll be stringy, bubbly and messy. Sprinkle a little more flour on top, and fold the edges in on themselves a couple of times. Cover loosely with the cling wrap and leave for another 15 minutes.
Now on the floured work surface again, shape it into a ball by folding it in again a few times. Put a clean tea towel down on the bench, and generously load it with flour. Turn your dough parcel upside down onto this, so the messy overlapping part is facing down. Sprinkle with more flour and cover with the rest of the tea towel, or a fresh one. Leave this to prove again for 2 hours.
After 1 1/2 hours, it’s time to heat the oven and the pot. Any heavy duty cast iron, enamel, pyrex kind of pot is fine, it just needs a lid. Put the oven on to 230ºC and pop the pot in to heat up without the lid. *At this point you could prepare a new batch to bake tomorrow.
So now the dough has proved for 2 hours, and the oven and pot are red hot. Very carefully take out the pot, and quickly invert the dough into it. Any messy overlapping bits now facing up will become the attractive crusty bits on top. Put the lid on, and carefully place it back in the oven.
After 30 minutes remove the lid, but keep baking it for another 15-20 mins until the crust is a deep brown, even more than in this photo. Let it cool on a rack. It’ll hiss and crackle and make your kitchen smell utterly delicious. You may feel quite proud of yourself, baker. And so you should, look what you made.
Hints and Tips
When doing that last 2 hour rise, you can replace the (very) floured tea towel with a greased bowl (with lid). It seems some people find it easier to slide the dough into the pot, than transferring it from the potentially sticky tea towel.
Consider upping the yeast a little if you need a quicker proving / turn-around time.
Try out your own flour blends, with different combos of wheat, spelt, rye and whatever you fancy. They might not be as high and light as a white loaf, but they'll still be great. And don't forget seeds too.