No-Knead Bread

from melskitchencafe.com

**No, I did not do the adapting, the recipe came to me this way from my aunt**

3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour, more for dusting

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/4 tesapoons salt

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl combine the 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. 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. (Don’t be fooled, your hands will be COVERED in sticky dough right about now…that is ok!) 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. Cover with another cottong towel and let rise for about 2 hours (I usually go for about 3 hours). When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

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. 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 OK. 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 (I only ever do an additional 5-10 minutes max because I don’t like a really hard, dark crust), until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Trade Secrets: This dough is sticky, VERY sticky so don’t be alarmed. When you stir together the biga (the starter the night before) you will wonder how on earth this gooey matter will ever form bread but don’t worry, it will. I have tried cutting the water down by 1/8 cup and it produces a less sticky dough. It turns out fine but using the full 1 5/8 cups yields a more tender bread dough. Also, I always use cornmeal for my dusting and all-purpose flour for the dough. Finally, the recipe says once you have baked the bread for 30 minutes to uncover the pot and bake an additional 15 to 30 minutes. The most I ever let it bake after removing the lid is 5-10 minutes because I don’t like a really dark, hard crust. I like mine a little bit lighter.