Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC first came on the scene with this recipe about 5 or 6 years ago. I found out about it last month, apparently I am SO not in the know. I've been playing around with his original recipe and have crafted my own personal favorite loaf. Once I got this down I stopped buying bread and baby... I'm not lookin' back!
The recipe below is for modified white bread. That being said, using 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white is very delicious as well, not to mention better for you. AND, I found some stunning, coarsely ground flour at my local farmer's market from Breslin Farms.
2 cups of white bread flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
Mix the dry ingredients together (yes this includes the yeast). Add the water and mix just until combined. Hold the dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave it out on your counter overnight for at least 16 hours.
Than line a bowl or proofing basket with cloth and dust heavily with coarsely ground flour, wheat bran, sesame seeds, hemp seeds or any other potential crust enhancer. Put the dough in the bowl, dust the exposed side with more of the crust enhancer, and cover with cloth. Let this sit on the counter for 2 hours.
When there is only 45 minutes left on your resting dough, preheat the oven to 450. Place a heavy set pot with a lid (cast iron is preferred but not necessary) in the oven for at least 30 minutes and let it get scalding hot.
Now this is the hardest part. Quickly remove the hot pot and lid from the oven, swiftly flip the dough into the pot, cover and put back in the oven for 30 minutes (covered!). The moisture from inside of the bread steams the outside to create a grade A crunchy crust. After 30 minutes remove the lid and continue cooking for 15 minutes to brown. Remove bread immediately from the pot and set on a rack to cool.
The house will smell like heaven. Enjoy.