This recipe is for the much loved, five-star rated bread that is so incredibly simple to make, and the result nothing short of impressive. How can only flour, yeast, salt and water achieve this result? Probably magic. Time is the fifth ingredient, so plan on making this dough a day ahead of baking. Here’s how to make it.
3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting (NYT says all-purpose is ok, too)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt (slightly more than the original recipe)
1 5/8 cups water
1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and blend into a dough with your hands. It will be very sticky. Once combined, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest at least 12 hours but up to 18 at room temperature.
2. Once the dough is ready, you will see little air bubbles on the surface. Sprinkle your work surface with flour, turn dough onto surface, and sprinkle a little extra flour on the dough. Fold the dough over itself a couple of times. Cover with plastic and allow to rest 15 minutes on the counter.
3. Sprinkle a little more flour on your work surface and hands, and quickly work the dough into a ball, keeping the fold seam face down once formed. Coat a flour sack cotton towel with flour and place the dough ball on it seam down, then fold the corners of the towel up over the dough to cover. Allow to rest for another 2 hours. During the next couple of hours, the dough will rise again and become springy to the touch.
4. At the 1.5 hour mark of resting, preheat your oven to 450°F and place a round 6 or 8 quart Dutch oven (with lid) into the oven to preheat. Once preheated, carefully remove the Dutch oven and lid onto a heatproof surface, and place a long piece of parchment paper inside the pot, enough length to cover up the sides of the pot. Place the dough on top of the parchment, make an ‘X’ on top of the dough with a sharp knife, replace the lid, and bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until browned.