This bread is almost effortless to make because it requires no kneading. Instead, the dough is allowed to slowly rise over a long period of time. Then it is baked in a preheated covered cast-iron pot, which helps produce a crispy, bakery-style crust on the finished loaf.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbls Herbes de Provence
Cornmeal as needed
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt, Herbes de Provence. Add 1 5/8 cups water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at warm room temperature (about 70°F) until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours. (my house is usually in the 67-68°F range so it took the full 18 hours)
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with a little flour and fold the dough over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel, preferably a flour sack towel (not terry cloth), with cornmeal. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, about 2 hours.
At least 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put a 2 3/4-quart cast-iron pot in the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. Shake the pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned, 15 to 30 minutes more.
Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, turn the pot on its side and gently turn the bread; it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2-lb. loaf.
John Lee is Black Tie and Flip Flops’ Raconteur-In-Chief: the World of food is his playground ~ the whole world! Having a Navy Dad gave John the passion to discover the world. Whether in one of Mr. Boeing’s flying machines, as an armchair traveler with a great book, or a plate beaming with the exotic flavors and fragrances, his day is all about discovering the world and sharing the stories with everyone he meets.
John cut his teeth in commercial kitchens starting in high school and continued into his undergrad years, then the media bug bit. After University he spent time at the Washington Post Company before jumping on the first internet wave in the 1990’s at some of the major players of the era. John also established himself as a culinary instructor where his style of cooking was first called “Comfort Food Remixed.” Don’t get him started on Disney Dining, but yes, he tried “the grey stuff” and it is delicious. He is also the Chair of Taste of Montclair and Montclair Restaurant Week. John jokes that he’s staying in NJ because he didn’t have enough miles to trade in for a return ticket home to San Diego, but we think he likes it here.