- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 13 ounces warm water, between 95 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit
- Dutch oven
Prep: 15 minutes First Rise: 12 - 18 hours Second Rise: 2 - 4 hours Total: 14 - 22 hours + change
I found this recipe during my first year of graduate school. I can't remember how I stumbled upon it, but the first time I made it I had no idea that it had originated from Jim Lahey, the owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, and is one of New York Times Cooking's most popular recipes. This bread has a nice chewy inside and a crunchy, developed crust. We made it this week (yesterday) and it's gone (today). There is nothing you can do that will make it taste bad! I had it with butter for breakfast, with hummus for lunch, and last night we chopped some up and made croutons for salad. It's a wonder bread!
There are a few tricks to baking bread that I've learned. The first trick is to watch the temperature of your water before you add it to your yeast. When making bread, the water (or sometimes milk or another liquid) activates the yeast. If the water is too hot, you'll kill the yeast which will then cause a sad bread (your dough won't rise). If the water is too cold, your dough will take much longer to rise. The second trick is to bake recipes more than once and pay attention to your results and the process. It takes a few times of making bread for your hands to understand when the gluten is developed, when you've overworked your dough, and when your dough needs a little more love. The third trick is patience. For the most part, you shouldn't bake if you're in a rush. The longer you let dough develop, the more flavorful it will be and the less likely you are to have hard, dense bread.
For this bread, combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Add warm water and mix with wooden spoon until you have a shaggy ball. The dough won't look smooth and pretty at this point, so don't worry if it doesn't resemble the picture yet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel (my preference - I hate extra waste) and leave it alone! Walk away, go to sleep. The dough needs to rest for at least 12 hours and up to 18. I left mine alone for 14 and was very happy with the results.
After 12 - 18 hours, remove towel or plastic wrap and transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough over itself twice, then form into a ball. Don't overwork the dough here, this should only take a few minutes. Another way this recipe is forgiving - the dutch oven. It holds the shape of the dough, so no matter how messy your dough looks, it'll come out a beautiful loaf.
For the second rise, place the dough onto parchment paper (this will make it MUCH easier to transfer the dough into a very hot dutch oven in the next step), dust the top of the loaf with cornmeal, and cover with kitchen towel. Allow to rise for at least 2 hours. I let my rise for 3 hours and could have gone four.
Prep: 30 minutes Bake: 45 minutes - 1 hour
Thirty minutes before you are ready for the bake, place a dutch oven into a 500 degree oven.
After the dough has completed its second rise, very carefully remove the dutch oven, grab the tips of the parchment paper, and plop the bread into the dutch oven. Cover with lid and return to oven for 30 minutes. This is the great trick of this bread! Cooking in the dutch oven preserves the shape of the loaf while the lid of the dutch oven traps steam, making that delicate, tasty inside you saw in the top photo. When you remove the lid after 30 minutes, you'll crisp up the exterior of the bread. It's real magic!
After 30 minutes, remove the lid, lower oven temperature to 450 degrees, and bake for another 15 - 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the bread after 15 more minutes. I took mine out right at the 15 minute mark. If you're worried about the middle being finished, flip your bread out and give it a nice knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, you've got a ready-to-eat loaf!