You will LOVE this bread. It is the easiest bread you will ever make. I have made a TON of bread over the years and have failed at so many :) This one I have never failed and it is so flexible you can create just about anything. If you love making bread for your family, or love giving it as a gift, PLEASE promise me you will give this a try. It is worth the wait.
1In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
2Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. THAT'S IT!
3Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great also because I have had to let mine sit for up to 24 hours. DO NOT REFRIGERATE. This is not optional. It takes that much time to proof the dough. The reason why you need a large bowl, is because the dough will start to rise.
4After 12-18 hours the dough is pretty sticky, but that's ok it's supposed to be. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. As soon as it has heated to 450 degrees place your cast iron pot with the lid in the oven and pre-heat the pot for 30 minutes. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR CAST IRON POT HAS A METAL CAP! If it has a plastic cap that sucker will blow up in that 450 degree oven.
5Right after you put the cast iron pot in the oven to preheat, dump the dough out onto a semi-HEAVILY floured surface and shape into a ball. It will not be a perfect ball because this dough is sticky and spreads. So just make a nice little ball with not a lot of handling.
6After you shape the dough cover it with the plastic wrap that was over the bowl. It needs to sit for 30 minutes to rest and it can do this while your pot is heating.
7Remove the pot from the oven and carefully pick up the ball of dough and drop it into the pot. You may want to flour your hands, because the dough is going to stick like crazy. Remember the pan is now 450 degrees hot! Be careful. Put the lid on the pot and return it to the oven for 30 minutes.
8Remove the lid from the pot and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. This is when you can start patting yourself on the back while telling yourself how awesome you are...because you ARE.
9Remove from the oven and carefully remove bread from the pot. Place the bread on a cooling rack until completely cooled. That's it! You did it! How easy was that?
10Key Tips that helped me make a great Crusty Bread.
Yeast – make sure and use Instant Yeast or better known as Bread Machine Yeast. This yeast does not have to be activated before adding it to your dry ingredients. You can use Active Dry Yeast, but make sure and activate it with a little warm water before adding it to your dry ingredients. I just don’t like taking the risk of not activating it properly and then my loaf doesn’t rise.
Parchment Paper – this dough is super-duper sticky. After it rises for 18 hours you have to plop it out onto a heavily flour surface and then drop it into your Dutch Oven. The best way to do this without touching this ball of gooey love… is with Parchment paper!! Just make you an area with your Parchment Paper, flour it up very nice, plop your bowl of gooey goodness down onto the paper, make your ball of dough and then when you are ready to drop it into your Dutch oven all you have to do is pick up the sides of the parchment paper and TADA! You cook your Crusty Bread on the parchment paper! It doesn’t burn, plus it makes it easy to remove when everything is all done! SUCCESS!
When you are shaping the dough into a ball after it rises, try not to fuss with it too much and deflate the air bubbles.
Make sure and let the dough rest 30 minutes (after you have shaped it into the ball) before you put it in the heated Dutch Oven and into the oven.
DO NOT grease your pan. Whether you use the parchment paper or not. The parchment paper is the easiest way I have found to move the dough around.
Also, you do not have to use an enamel covered cast iron dutch oven like I have, you just need something that can take the heat. The following have been used: Clay pots with lids, Pizza stone with a bowl to cover the bread, insert from a crockpot, pyrex baking dish with a lid, stainless steel pot with a lid, baking dish covered with aluminum foil, old cast iron dutch oven.
11Here are some of the breads I have made:
Rosemary and sharp cheddar
Rosemary lemon Gruyere
Jalapeno, and pepper jack
Cranberries, Almonds, Orange zest
Pepper jack cheese
Lemon, Thyme, Asiago
Marinated artichokes and raw garlic - sliced 6 cloves very thinly