Here’s one of the most popular recipes ever published by The Times, courtesy of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery. It requires no kneading. It does not use any special ingredients, equipment or techniques. And it takes very little effort – only time. You’ll need 24 hours to create the bread, but a lot of that is unattended waiting, a slow fermentation of the dough that results in perfect bread. (We’ve updated the recipe to reflect edits made by Mark Bittman to the recipe in 2006 after publishing and receiving feedback from readers. The original recipe called for 3 cups of flour; we adjusted it to call for 3 1/3 cups/430 grams of flour.) In 2021, J. Kenji López-Alt revisited the recipe and shared his own modified version.
Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf
Duration: 1h30, plus around 20h of rest
3 1/3 cups/430 grams all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
Generous 1/4 teaspoon/1 gram of instant yeast
2 teaspoons/8 grams kosher salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups/345 grams water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough on it; dust it with a little more flour and fold it over once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes.
3. 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 (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; lay dough seam side down on a towel and sprinkle with more flour, bran, or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When ready, the dough will have more than doubled in size and won’t spring back easily when pricked with a finger.
4. At least half an hour before the dough is ready, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered casserole (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven while it heats up. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pan from the oven. Slip your hand under a towel and return the dough to the pan, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that’s okay. Shake pan once or twice if batter is unevenly distributed; it will recover while cooking. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.