3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 1/2 cups cold water
extra flour or cornmeal, as needed
Make the Boule:
Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Stir in 1 1/2 cups water to blend. What you'll have is a wet, shaggy, sticky, batter-like dough. Cover the bowl with a clean tea/dish towel and let it rest in a warm place for at least 14 hours, and up to 24 hours. It's ready for the next step when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
Flour a work surface and dump the dough out onto it. Sprinkle over a little more flour and fold it once or twice. Cover with a tea towel and let rest 15 minutes.
Place a clean tea towel on a half sheet pan, and coat the center of the towel where the bread will rest with at least 1 cup of flour. Using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your fingers, scrape the dough out of the bowl and shape it into a ball, or boule as they say in French. Lay the dough on the towel, seam-side down. Dust with more flour. (Again, you'll need quite a lot because you want to be sure the dough doesn't stick to the towel ). Pull the sides of the towel up around the dough folding over the top and let rise for about 2 hours. The sheet pan will allow you to easily move the dough to a warm place. When ready, the dough will be more than double in size.
Half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 4 quart cast-iron pot or Dutch oven inside to heat.
When the dough is ready, remove the pot from the oven and literally dump the dough out of the towel into the pot. Aim for seam-side up, if possible. It may not fall that way, and it may look messy, but that's OK. Shake the pot to settle the bread evenly. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake until the loaf is nicely browned, another 15 to 30 minutes. Cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes. Get the butter ready!
Makes One 8 inch round loaf. YUM!
1. Yes, the 1/4 teaspoon of yeast is all you need. It's not a misprint.
2. And, Yes, 1 1/2 cups of water is not a misprint either. It will be more like a batter than a dough.
3. Have patience. 14 hours is the minimum rise time and will yield a delicious bread. But if you can let it sit longer, it will be even better.
4. Tea/DishTowels? You can cover the bowl with plastic wrap for the first rise, if you want. But for the 2nd rise, a tea/dish towel is mandatory. Not only does the towel loosely cover the dough, but it's the easiest and safest way to transfer the dough into that very hot pot. I tried parchment once. It stuck to the paper, and became very difficult to get into the screamingly hot pot. Not a good idea.
5. Don’t be stingy with the flour either on the tea towel for that second rise. You'll need at least one cup. I tried to use less once. Again, that sticky problem occurred. Getting the dough into the hot pot was nearly impossible with the dough sticking to the towel. Again, not a pretty sight.
6. Make sure you preheat the Dutch oven for the full 30 minutes--that extra blast of heat is crucial to the bread's success.