I was very skeptical...
This morning I got out of bed and immediately went downstairs to see if it was all bubbly, like it was supposed to be. Unbelievably, it was. So, my skepticism faded a little. But I still didn't think it would come out in the end. Merde, I sound like such a pessimist.
I had a difficult time handling it and used more flour on the work surface and my hands than called for, as it was very sticky and wobbly. I still had it stuck all over my fingers after trying to shape it into a ball. I've read a few more posts about it and others have mentioned that the water could be cut back to 1 1/2 cups. Getting it from the flour coated towel into the cast iron pot was quite a feat. I almost dropped it on the floor and the pot was blisteringly hot so it took some coordination.
I intend to practice quite a bit more with this bread because it is fabulous stuff!
Voilà! Look at that crust! It is beautiful, golden and very, very tasty.
I took the recipe directly from The Wednesday Chef, whom I would like to thank.
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
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 at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, 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. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. 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 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.
4. 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 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 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.