Adapted from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting (I usually use half whole wheat and half all-purpose, sometimes with a shake of ground flaxseed added)
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (sometimes I use about 1/3 teaspoon regular active dry yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
1In a large bowl stir together the flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let it rest on the countertop for 18-24 hours at room temperature.
2The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. 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, then roughly shape into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Fold it over the bread or cover with another cotton towel and let it sit for another hour or two.
3While the bread is resting, preheat the oven to 450°. Put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and flip the dough over into the pot; it may look like a mess, but that’s OK. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake another 10-15 minutes, until it’s nice and golden.