I know, I'm so 2000-and-late -- everyone and her sister has posted about this bread. However, I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as too much of this bread and I must continue to evangelize it. Plus, I've emailed the recipe so many times that this will make my life easier; call it productive laziness.
The basic recipe, Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread recipe posted in the New York Times, gives you some room to move. Although the posted recipe calls for 1 5/8 c water, rumor has it that it should have called for 1 1/2. I'm not overly concerned, because up until now I've never weighed my flour, so there's always been a bit of variation there. What I can tell you is that this is a very forgiving recipe, and if you fear bread-making, just try it. You don't have to tell anyone you've tried it unless it turns out as magnificently as I know it will -- and it's a really cheap risk.
No Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery Recipe
3 c AP flour (all-purpose)
1 1/2 tsp iodized salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast (also called rapid rise)
1 1/2 c filtered, room temperature water
Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a whisk. And yes, I believe that the quality of your water matters-- it's a major ingredient. Also, I've heard that chlorine in tap water can make your yeast sad. We have a fancy filter on our fancy fridge and it's the most delicious water I've had in my life, so I use that.
Add your water and stir to combine. Your dough will be sticky and look torn.
Cover your bowl tightly with plastic wrap and tuck the bowl in a warm place.
Ignore it for 19 hours. Really, you can leave it for 18-22 hours and be just fine. My favorite window is a 19 hour set. When you pull back your plastic wrap, the dough will have completely changed; it becomes wet, flat, bubbly, and taller.
This picture here is from a loaf of wheat, so it's got a little more goin' on.
Make yourself a nice place to grope your dough and be sure to flour your board generously. I also tend to shake some flour on top of the dough in the bowl; it makes it easier to coax it out on to the board.
Turn the dough in your hands a few times--really, a brief and gentle knead-- incorporating flour as you need it. I know this seems inexact and frightening, but have no fear, it will work out just fine.
Now here is where we hit the big No Knead conundrum. You are going to let your dough rest for another two hours, during which it will grow impressively, before you bake it. I have followed the original guidelines -- resting between two heavily floured towels -- and it has bitten me. The dough sticks and I lose it, and some of its lift, trying to pry it from the towel and hurl it into my pot. I have used, successfully, a small, high, oiled bowl. For my last effort, I left it on my heavily floured board under a nicely floured towel and it worked just fine. I lifted it with my hands into the preheated pot and it was gorgeous. So, you choose your method. It's really very forgiving.
Approximately 45 minutes before your dough will be ready for you, preheat your oven to 500 degrees and preheat your baking dish of choice with it. I use this Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 7-1/4-Quart Round French Oven, Flame. I cover the plastic knob in foil and it hasn't melted on me yet, but you can order Le Creuset Replacement Knobs if you're at all concerned. Make sure to get your pot good and hot -- just long enough to preheat the oven is not long enough.
When your dough has rested, push your finger into it on a floury patch. If the dent remains and the dough doesn't spring back at you, it's ready to go into the screaming hot pot. Lift or gently pour your dough into the pot and cover with the scary hot lid.
I bake it covered for 45 minutes and uncovered for 15 -- voila, you have chewy, crusty marvelous bread that you made all on your own. You rule.
Variations: Endless, really. But I'll only tell you what I've proven not to be disastrous. My attempt at a rye: substitute one cup of the all-purpose flour with rye flour and 2 TBS of caraway seeds. My Gently Wheat: substitute one cup of the all-purpose flour with wheat flour. I've only had one loaf turn out so-so -- I blame, in part the pot (it wasn't my usual), but it likely would have been fine if I'd cooked it longer. It was still a bit heavy-feeling, and I should have paid attention - eh, whatevs.