Fifteen years ago, the New York Times printed a recipe from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery which was very innovative and popular. In this recipe a long rising time created gluten instead of kneading, and baking in a heavy pot created a nice crust by trapping moisture. I have made this a few times over the years and remade it for New Year’s Eve. It turned out very well. Since I have a banneton, I used it for the second rising, rather than just having the dough on a floured towel. This recipe takes 18-24 hours, end to end. Sullivan has several variations of this recipe. This is an adaptation of the basic one using white bread flour. Be careful, since you will be working with a very hot pot.
400 g. bread flour
8 g. table salt
1 g. yeast
300 g. cool water
Flour, cornmeal, bran, semolina for dusting.
The day before the bake, put the flour, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl. Pour the water on top of the yeast and let it sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast. Stir with a dough whisk until well blended. Cover and rest for 15 minutes. Massage briefly with a wet hand to ensure that all the flour has been incorporated into a smooth and sticky dough. Put the dough into a doubling container, cover, and allow to rise on a kitchen counter until doubled, about 12-18 hours. When doubled, prepare a floured work surface, and remove the dough from the doubling container. With floured hands form the dough into a neat ball. Heavily flour a banneton and put the dough, smooth side down, into the banneton. Cover and allow to rise until doubled, 1-2 hours.
About 30 minutes before the second rising is complete, put a heavy oven-proof pot and lid (~5 quart in size) separately into the oven and heat to 475 degrees. When the rising is complete and everything is preheated, carefully turn the banneton upside down over the empty pot. After the dough falls into the pot, put the lid on and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes until the crust is nicely browned but not burned. Remove the pot from the oven and with a spatula, remove the bread from the pot and allow to fully cool on a wire rack.