This bread is a go-to favorite for us.  Aiven and Matt could almost live off of it, and it takes almost no time at all to prepare.  My mom gave me the original recipe when she bought the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and I later tracked down the recipe online.   I follow absolutely no rules about the length of time I let it rise other than this: the longer the better.  (I’m not sure it’s kosher, but I once accidentally left it for the first rise overnight.)  Whole wheat flour makes a really dense loaf that I can never get to cook through completely, though I recently learned that letting it cool completely before slicing it helps with that, so I may try again.  For now I use a white whole wheat/unbleached blend of flour.  I also add more yeast than they call for in the original recipe.  Basically, this is no fail regardless of how I switch up the ingredients or how long I let it rise or how long I let it bake.  I am definitely a fan of using a cast iron dutch oven to achieve the steam cooking that gives it a really crispy, crusty crust.  Here’s the recipe as I make it:

3 cups warm water

1.5 Tbsp yeast

1.5 Tbsp salt

6.5 cups unbleached flour

cornmeal for sprinkling on the pizza peel

Mix all the ingredients in a big pot with a lid and let it rise for at least 2 hours, but basically as long as you have time for.  You can use it right away (and I think this makes the fluffiest bread) or you can refrigerate the dough and take out hunks as you need them.  When you’re ready to use the dough follow this procedure: liberally dust a pizza peel (or edge-less cookie sheet) with cornmeal.  Cover your hands in flour and grab a hunk of dough.  It will be pretty sticky, but just keep dusting your hands in flour as you work to shape the dough in to a loose ball.  Place it on the cornmeal to rest.  Let it rest for about a half hour if it hasn’t been refrigerated or for up to 2 hours if it just came out of the fridge.  About 20 mins before you’re ready to bake the dough, place a cast iron dutch oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 450.  When you’re ready to bake, take the lid off of the dutch oven, shake the pizza peel to loosen up the ball of dough so that you can slide it right down in to the dutch oven.  Replace the dutch oven lid, and bake the bread for a good 40 min or until it’s nicely brown and sounds hollow if you knock on it.  Let it cool as long as you can stand to.