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3cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼teaspoon instant yeast
1 ¼teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy ? (I have no idea what this really means) and sticky. (sticky, I know) Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Ok, here's my take on this recipe. Not knowing what shaggy meant I think I got through the first part of making the bread without a hitch. However, it being winter in New York it's hard to find a spot in your house that is 70 degrees warm to let the dough rise for 18 hours. Heck I keep my thermostat at 66 and if you touch it you will be punished! I did place the covered bowl in the oven figuring that the pilot light would at least warm the oven up a little for this process.
At the end of the 18 hours the dough looked ready. Its surface was dotted with bubbles. The recipe was easy to follow from this point on.
When the bread came out of the oven I have to say that it was absolutely beautiful. It looked like something that was baked on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. The crust was nice and hard, crunchy just the way we like it and the inside bread was like cake.
But here is where I wish I had tweaked the recipe...It needs SALT. The bread had no flavor. It didn't taste like anything. It just tasted like baked flour and water. My bread had no personality. This bread, after rising and resting for 20 hours, with a crust as hard as a skiers helmet should have personality!
So if you decide to make this bread, don't be shy with the salt. It definitely needs it.