3 cups bread flour (plus more for dusting)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
2-3 teaspoons kosher salt (less if using table salt)
1 5/8 cups warm water
1. 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. Let dough rest for 12-18 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. 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. Gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Place ball on a floured surface, cover with a 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.
3. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it preheats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Turn dough over into the 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. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
For a really tasty variation, change the three cups of bread flour to two cups bread flour plus a half-cup each of wheat flour and flaxseed meal, and throw in a half-cup or so of flaxseeds. When you toss the bread in the pot, spritz it with water and sprinkle on some more flaxseeds. The crust on this version isn't quite as thick, but it has a lovely hearty taste. Plus, you can justify eating the whole loaf straight out of the oven because flaxseeds are good for you.