Anyhow, I found this recipe and I'm having a bit of an existential baking breakdown. I've been babysitting various loafs with all kind of hard-to-find ingredients that require lots of attention, kneading and timed turning.
And this recipe is none of those things. You need scant ingredients, time and labor to make this loaf, and it's like anything you'll find at one of those fancy break shops. I suppose you don't even need a stand mixer for this, but it does make it easier.
Here's how it goes:
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water
Mix the ingredients on low with the flat paddle. It will be sticky and not smooth. Place the whole thing in a draft-free corner overnight, 12-18 hours. It will be bubbly on the surface when done.
Turn out on a floured surface and press into a flat circle and then tuck over the ends, adding flour to keep it from sticking to your fingers or surface. It will still be sticky and quite watery.
Wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest 15-20 minutes. Then take out and gently form into a round loaf and place in between two floured cotton towels, but not terry cloth. Allow to rise until doubled.
At least a half an hour before cooking, start preheating the oven and your cooking vessel. I used a square casserole dish, but you can use any oven-safe pot or dutch oven with a lid. Put the whole thing in the oven and heat to 450 degrees for a half hour.
Place the messy little loaf into the pot and shake to evenly distribute. When I got to this stage, I thought there was absolutely no way it would turn into anything. It was sticky, unattractive and too watery.
Put the lid on and pop in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden brown. I took my loaf out of the pan entirely for this step to make sure it was browned all over.
I was aghast at how simple this recipe was but still yielded a beautiful loaf with a chewy crust and moist inside as well as a robust flavor. What have I been doing with all those other recipes ... I'll be investigating this for a while.