This crusty bread gets its flavour and chewy texture from a long, slow fermentation. It is baked in a cast-iron pot in a very hot oven. It looks just like a loaf you'd get from an artisan bakery. The herbs are optional but work really well in this bread.
To ensure the dough is fully risen and ready for the oven, try this test: flour your index and middle fingers and poke the side of your loaf about 1cm deep. If the indentations spring back, the dough still needs more time to rise. When the indentations stay put, the loaf is ready to bake.
I've been baking no-knead bread ever since the original recipe came out in the New York Times several years ago, so trust me when I tell you it is not recommended that you remove the baking vessel from the oven after you've just spent 30 minutes heating it. Do NOT remove it from the oven, just pour the dough (batter, really) into the baking vessel and then cover and bake. That way you don't lose the heat you just spent half an hour to achieve to heat the pan. Also, there's no need to shake the dough once it's in the pan, it'll spread by itself while baking. It's really a misnomer to call this a dough, because it really comes out as a batter. I agree with the other reviewer that it's impossible to form it into any kind of a ball 'cause it's just too sticky. And forget the step of placing it on a towel to raise. It's just messy and doesn't achieve anything more than if you just stir it and place it in a bowl and let it rise another 2 hours. That said, I would rate this a 4, only because I think the instructions are not the best way to make this bread. - 30 Jul 2010 (Review from Allrecipes US | Canada)
I became an avid bread maker when I discovered Jim Lahey's recipe. I wanted to post it, but you beat me to it, Jewissa. I'll have to try adding the fresh herbs, though. Great idea! Proud as a peacock, I brought a few slices from my first loaf to work. One of my colleagues, who lived many years in various European countries, picked up a piece and immediately identified it as European peasant bread. After one bite, she said, "I need this recipe." (She hasn't bothered with recipes in years!) BTW, the "heavy-duty casserole dish" should be either cast iron or stoneware. I've read that Le Creuset works fine, as long as you remove the handles, which aren't oven-safe at 450 F. UPDATE: I brought this bread (minus the herbs) to a staff potluck, and it was a great success. There were many recipe requests. Those who've tried it are converts. The only challenges are to find the proper pot and to figure out the timing. I haven't bought bread since I discovered this recipe! 2ND UPDATE: I've found, tweeked, and posted a recipe for a healthier yet delicious whole-wheat multi-grain bread which uses the same method. - 01 Oct 2010 (Review from Allrecipes US | Canada)
I use 1/2 tsp instant yeast. Mix all ingredients, cover the bowl & set it aside for 12 hours. Flour a surface, scrape the dough out, stretch it out, sprinkle with flour, fold it over itself one way & then the other, put a sheet of parchment paper in a bowl, spray with cooking oil spray & sprinkle with corn meal, place dough into the bowl for the 2nd rise (1-2 hours), & cover with a cotton towel. 1/2 hour before ready to bake, put the pot in the oven and preheat to to 500 degrees. When ready to bake, if you want sesame seeds/grains on the top, spray top with cooking oil and add your seeds/grains & pat down lightly, take the pot out of the oven and remove the lid. (I use several old towels just to protect surfaces when handling extra hot pots, also; you might want to use a pair of long sleeved pot mitts with silicone palms. Lift the parchment paper & dough out of the bowl and place it into the hot pot. Take a scissors and cut the excess parchment paper from around the top of the pot. Put the lid back on the pot and place it into the oven. After the first 5 minutes, lower the oven to 475 degrees & continue to bake for 25 minutes more. After 30 minutes, take out the pot, remove the lid & check the internal temperature. If it reads 200 degrees, & the end of the thermometer is not sticky or gooey, put the uncovered pot back in for 10-15 minutes until browned. Remove pot, use a turner to lift the bread & paper out & place bread on cooling rack. Remove paper when cooled. - 23 Jul 2010 (Review from Allrecipes US | Canada)