I have been making bread made famous by some New York bakers called 5-Minute a day bread. Their recipe, although beautiful and seemingly simple for so many people to make, had very complex, (and messy), steps. I have simplified it over my years, worked out some kinks, and got it nearly down pat. I say nearly, because there are so many variables, you never know what's golf to happen. Just today, both of my loaves managed to stick to the pot. I think I know why, but that doesn't change the fact that I managed to make this mistake. Frustrating. But, that's how bread making goes in my world.
There is one thing you can do that I don't. I don't have room in my itsy bitsy fridge to do this, but I used to when I had a second fridge. If you want to triple my recipe, you can keep half of it in your fridge and always be ankle to pull some out for a loaf in minutes. That's how the NY boys do it. The dough seems to develop a really good sourdough flavor this way.
Okay. I'll stop rambling. Here, to honor PW, is the cast:
1 1/2 cups warm water. I use the hottest that comes from my faucet. I think the industry's standard is around 120*F
3/4 T kosher salt
3/4 T yeast
3 1/4 c all purpose flour. If you want to make your bread whole wheat, sub no more than half wheat flour. I use 1 part wheat to 2 parts all purpose.
Pour the hot water into a medium size bowl.
Add the salt and mix it until its dissolved.
Add the yeast onto the top. Sprinkle it on and let it sit. As it sits, it should begin to bubble and grow. If not, either your yeast is dead or your water is too hot or cold.
Add the flour. You may need to add less or more, depending on how exact your water measurement was and what your weather is like. Do you know how to measure flour? Fluff it, scoop it into your measuring cup, level it off. Don't dig into the bag. You'll get a really heavy mix that won't work. I usually use 3 cups of flour in the winter.
See how tacky the dough is? This is what you want. You can't knead this bread. Remember, it's called "no knead bread"?
Cover the bread. Just a damp towel will work. Set it on the counter and walk away. Let it rise. It happens fast, there is a lot of yeast in this stuff.
Let it raise for about 2.5 hours.
After its done raising, turn your oven on as high as you feel comfortable. I usually set mine at 450*F.
As its heating, put a heavy pot into it. I use a Le Crueset pot. It's cast iron coated in porcelain.
You could use a cast iron uncoated pot, or a stone pot. If you don't have one and want to buy one, there are a few options. Mine is a fairly expensive brand, but I found it at a discount store for half price. Cuisinart also makes some really nice ones, and I've seen Martha Stewart brand ones at Macy's. It's an investment that I believe is well worth it.
Once your oven is nice and hot, (usually about half an hour), get your dough ready. This is honestly the hardest part of the whole process. Here's what to do:
Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Scrape the edges down to round the dough into a loaf shape. Scrape all the edges, then begin scraping towards the bottom. Continue until you have the whole ball of dough shaped into a - ball.
Pull the hot pan out of the oven and dump the dough into it. Cover it and put it back into the oven for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes, take the lid off, lower the heat to 200*F and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
This is really just to brown the top and dry out the loaf, the rest of the loaf should have been cooked through at the higher heat.
After the 10 minutes, take the pan out, take the bread out of the pan, slice and enjoy. It's best straight from the oven, as soon as it's cool enough to handle, but it will keep for a few hours to overnight.