This simple, overnight Crusty Bread has a few little tricks to make it the best you’ve ever had, let alone made!
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, measure out flour, salt, and yeast. Use a fork or whisk to mix together. Add water (see notes) and mix (a spoonula works great) until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and set aside on the counter for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great and the timing is not particular.
Adjust oven rack to the highest level that will accommodate your Dutch oven and allow you to easily get it in and out of the oven.
When ready to cook, turn dough out, very carefully, without deflating the dough (nudge it with a spatula, gently, if it sticks) on a heavily floured piece of parchment paper that’s a little larger than the bottom of the Dutch oven. You’ll want the parchment to go slightly up the sides for easy removal of the bread.
Flour hands and place a sprinkle of flour on top of the dougg. Gently cupping at either side of the bread, keeping pinkies and sides of palm down, form a little, loose “ball” of dough by pressing in at the bottom of the dough as you turn it bit by bit. If the dough sticks, add a bit more flour. Cover with plastic (the same one you used to cover during the rise is fine).
Carefully place parchment on a sheet pan or plate and set in a warm place (perhaps the front, not the back, which is too warm, of the stove) to rise. Dough does not need to double but should rise to the point that it does not readily spring back when gently poked. Place three slashes about 1/4 inch deep across the top of the dough if desired.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F, with the Dutch oven inside, lid ajar, for 20 to 30 minutes, keeping in mind ovens vary in the time it takes to preheat. You’re shooting for about 10 minutes after it gets to 450 degrees F. Electric stoves cycle, so go the full 30 if using one.
Working quickly to retain as much heat as possible, remove hot Dutch oven from the oven and gently drop in the dough, parchment and all. Toss in the water, most right over the dough, but let a little go down side to the bottom of the Dutch oven for steam and immediately place the lid back on.
Return immediately to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden brown (a few dark places are just fine.) Place on cooling rack.