3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be so soft shaggy and sticky, do not worry. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. 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 rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size. It will be flat, very soft and sticky. It is OK.
3. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 5-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. With your hands or with a dough scraper turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is OK. 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.
Note: I cooked the bread with the lid on for around 40 minutes and took the lid off for the last 5.
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