It’s 10 minutes of work, including cleanup, over a 24 hour period.
By Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York: “Make sure everyone has access to it. That’s the goal.” It was popularized by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, in 2006.
Mix 3 cups flour, 1/4 tsp yeast, 2 tsp salt, 1 5/8 cups water (that’s 1.5 cups plus 2 tbsp). use your hands (they’re easier to clean).
1st nap: Cover bowl with a plate. let rest at room temperature at least 12 hours, but 18 or 24 is fine too.
2nd nap: Sprinkle LOTS of flour on a surface. remove the sticky dough from the bowl and dump it on the surface. sprinkle a lot of flour on the dough. fold it over on itself once or twice. cover with a smooth cotton towel and leave it alone for 15 minutes.
3rd nap: Shape the dough into a ball (or as close to a ball as you can get it, given that it may be very mushy). as you are tucking the dough into a ball, keep the smooth side up. cover with the towel. leave it alone for 1.5 hours.
Preheat oven AND pot: Put a large pot for which you have a cover into the oven. (A 4 quart pot is good, but bigger is ok too. Cast iron, pyrex, stainless, or ceramic are all fine.) Preheat the oven at 450 degrees F (232 C) for 30 minutes.
Carefully take that hot pan out of the oven. Be mindful of the hot lid! Sprinkle a little polenta or rice or any kind of grain into the bottom of the pan to prevent the bread from sticking. Then drop the dough into the pan. turning it upside down on the way from the nap to the pan. this way the “seam” from the bottom of the ball ends up on the top of the bread. put the lid on the pay.
Bake for 30 minutes. If it’s starting to brown at this point it’s probably done. turn the bread out of the pan and knock the bottom. if it sounds hollow it’s done. If the bread smells yeasty or if it is not yet brown, put it back in the oven without the pot for another 10-20 minutes. how long is a matter of unpredictable oven temperature and your crust preferences. check it every 5 minutes until you get to know your oven and preferences. if you want a crisper crust, but it’s already brown when you take it out of the pot, turn the oven off and put the bread back in for a few minutes.
- it’s hard to cut the bread when it’s hot, so use a sharp knife and saw gently, but it is delicious hot! have butter ready.
- STORAGE! do NOT put the bread in plastic. do NOT put the bread in the refrigerator. store in a brown paper bag, or wrapped in the kitchen towel on the counter. after the 2nd day, we recommend toasting for best flavor.
- PROPER TOASTING: do NOT undertoast. you should feel “twoness” when you squeeze the center of the toast slightly. it should feel like souffle on the inside and crisp on on the surface. before you get to this point, it’s inadequately toasted.
Additions to the bread:
- to make a multigrain bread, add up to 4 handfuls of uncooked seeds and grains (wheat berries, rice, buckwheat, flaxseed, quinoa, barley…) when Mixing.
- if you want to add herbs, olives, dried fruit, or nuts, stir them into the bowl before 2nd Nap.
- Our favorite recipe for raisin walnut bread: add 1/4 cup of buckwheat flour to Mix. add 3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup walnuts before 2nd nap (stir into the bowl before you dump it out).