Combine in a large-sized mixing bowl: 3 cups flour, 2 tsp salt and generous 1/4 tsp yeast. Stir in 1–1/2 cups tap water (any temperature) and stir. The mixture may look a bit shaggy. Let rise, in bowl covered with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel for 10-18 hours, the timing isn’t too fussy. Dust counter or cutting board with heavily with flour. Dump out dough. Sprinkle with a bit more flour. Fold dough over on itself once. Leave on board or put back in bowl, with the fold down and cover loosely. Wait about an hour to 90 minutes.
Place a pot with oven-resistant handles and cover (see note below) in oven on middle shelf. Preheat oven (and pot) to 450 to 500 degrees F, depending on how dark you like the crust. The hotter the better in my opinion. Carefully remove the pot from the oven, dust the pan’s bottom with cornmeal, if desired or else generously dust the top of the dough with little more flour. In one “plop,” dump the dough into the pan, replace the cover and put it in the oven. Don’t worry if it looks uneven, although you can shake the pan once if it looks unevenly distributed. Cover and bake for 25. Continue cooking uncovered for another 20-25 minutes, depending on how dark you like the crust.
The original recipe came from The NY Times and you can find much discussion on the NY Times web site and across the Web, but these are the tips I think are most important:
- Use a pan that is really oven resistant at high temperatures. Le Creuset and other manufacturers only suggest oven temperatures of up to 350 F for their pans with bakelite-type handles.
- Feel free to try other kinds of flour: I like to use 1/3 semolina or whole wheat. Sprinkle the bread with seeds just before it goes into the oven. Check out my High-Fiber No-Knead Bread recipe.
- You can also make loaves of bread. When you flip over the bread, go light on the flour, grease a loaf pan and let it rise in the pan. Put the pan, uncovered, into the oven after the rising period. It may stick, hence the suggestion to grease the pan.
- You can make much larger loaves: my favorite trick is using a fish poacher to make a 9-cup batch of bread. It makes nice square bread for even sandwich-style slices.
The bread is moist and will last several days in the room, especially if you leave it with the cut end down on a cutting board or plate.