Recipe: No-knead, Dutch oven spelt bread

I adapted this from the famous Jim Lahey/New York Times no-knead Dutch oven bread recipe. It produces an easy (if time-consuming) loaf with a hint of sourdough flavor that goes well with basically anything, but especially soup. I have wanted to buy my own enameled Dutch oven ever since.

No-knead Spelt Bread

Yield: one 8 to 10-inch diameter round loaf.

Adapted from: NYTimes Cooking and Eva in the Kitchen.

2 +2/3 c spelt flour (mixture of white and whole grain is best)
1/4 t active dry yeast
1 t salt
1+3/4 c lukewarm water
Olive oil (optional)
Cornmeal for sprinkling

Mix the flour, the salt and the yeast together in a big bowl. Add the water and stir until just combined. Cover the bowl with plastic foil and leave it to rise at room temperature for 12-18 hours (best overnight).

After the dough has risen dramatically, and is bubbly and sticky, flour a clean, smooth work surface. Pour and scrape dough out of the bowl. With well-floured hands, shape the dough into a ball. Place ball in a (optionally, lightly-oiled) bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours. Ideally, dough will have more than doubled in size and will not spring back when poked lightly.

At least half an hour before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 450 F with a 6- to 8- quart heavy covered pot (for example, a Dutch or French oven), including the lid, inside. The pot needs to get just as hot as the oven before you put in the dough.

When ready to bake, remove hot pot from oven. If sticking is a concern, lightly brush the bottom and sides of the pot with oil. Work as quickly as possible so that the pot remains hot. Sprinkle the bottom lightly with cornmeal, place the dough inside the hot pot, lightly score the top, and cover it with the lid. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. After 30 minutes, take the lid off and bake for another 15-30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.

Take the bread out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Test for doneness by tapping on the bottom of the loaf; a hollow sound indicates a well-baked loaf.

Great with butter and honey or other spreads, or accompanying a brothy soup.

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