Knock your socks off bread!
This bread is so easy, crusty, chewy and downright fabulous that you won't believe it. You do need a ceramic covered iron pot like the one here. There is no kneading or extra rising, but you do need to start the night before. I made a loaf 3 days this week and Mike and I ate the entire loaf on two of the days. I made one for Sunday dinner at Mike's sister's and left it with her to keep from finishing it off. This recipe came from this Pinterest link but I changed it some. After the first round I thought it could be made into a larger loaf because my pot could handle a bigger one and it was perfect. I also shortened the cooking time.
Before you go to bed get a good size mixing bowl and stir in 2 C. cold water, 4 C. *unbleached flour 1 tsp. instant yeast and 1 3/4 tsps. salt. (I like to add 2 cups of flour to the water with the yeast and salt and stir until smooth and then add the other 2 cups for the rough stir. *(I never use bleached flour because there are bad chemicals in the bleaching process.) Fluff your flour before measuring. I upped the water by 1/4 cup for awhile but then changed back because the loaf was better with less. You might need to tweak the salt for your taste. I had 2 tsp. to begin with but Mike thought it too salty and my daughter thought not salty enough with 1 1/2.*Check out the bottom for a quick rise option if you forget to stir up the dough the night before.
Stir it up until all the ingredients are moistened and in a rough ball. One minute will do it. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter until the next day.
In the morning your dough will look like this. It can sit on the counter from 12 to 16 hours. I have done both times and it was great. One and a half hour before you want to eat your bread scrape it out of the bowl onto a generous layer of flour. Tuck the edges up to the middle until you form a flat ball. Cover it with your upside down bowl and turn your oven on to 450. Put your covered pot into the oven immediately and leave heating for 20 minutes. This must be the crusty secret.
When the 20 minutes are up tuck the edges of the dough up again and turn the dough over. Remove the pot from the oven and plop the dough in the middle. (no greasing necessary) Cover and return to the oven for 25 minutes at 450. Remove the lid and bake for 10-15 minutes longer.* I have been baking mine for only 10 more minutes lately because it is browning quickly. The crust is so crusty that an electric knife works wonderfully for cutting it.
The Pinterest site has some ideas for adding herbs, cheese and stuff. I haven't tried them yet but plan to. The ceramic pot is pricy. I found mine (6 qt.) on clearance at Shopco for $47. I think anything from 5 qt. on up will work. You can buy a 6 qt. at Shopco on line for $49. Walmart has a 6 qt. for $58. I consider that it will pay for itself in joyful bread over the years. I will definitely make this bread often.
*If your pot is a 5 quart, which I think would be the minimum there is not much space around the dough while it is cooking and this increased heat cooks the bread faster (I have a small and a larger pot so I can cook 2 at a time.) So I would bake the bread covered for 20 minutes and then uncovered for 10 or less. You might need to experiment a bit.
* So what if you forgot to stir up your dough the night before, can you still have bread that day? The answer is yes. Turn on your oven to 350 and leave on for 1 minute and then turn off. Place your bowl with the plate on top in the warm oven and let sit for 4-6 hours. The flavor was a little different because the long rise sours the dough a little but it was still crusty and delicious. Here is a picture of the quick rise loaf.