CRUSTY WHITE PEASANT-STYLE BREAD
8 C all-purpose white flour or white bread flour, plus more as needed
2 tsp granulated sugar
4 tsp table salt
1 ½ tsp yeast
4 C ice water, plus more as needed
Flavorless vegetable oil or oil spray for coating dough
In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together dry ingredients.
Vigorously stir water into ingredients until thoroughly blended, adding a smidge more water at a time if needed to ensure flour is incorporated but dough remains very stiff.
Brush or spray the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. For best flavor or convenience, refrigerate the dough for 3 – 10 hours before rising flour.
Let rise at cool room temperature for 18 to 24 hours. You may stir the dough vigorously half-way through the rise.
Using an oiled rubber spatula, gently lift and fold the dough in towards center all the way around until mostly deflated. Brush or spray the surface with oil, and re-cover with nonstick spray-coated plastic wrap.
Let dough rise for 1 ½ - 2 ½ hours.
20 minutes before baking time, put a rack in the lower third of the oven & preheat the oven to 450. Heat Dutch oven in the oven until sizzling hot. (Check with a few drops of water.) Remove Dutch oven and, taking care not to deflate the dough, loosen it from the bowl sides and gently invert it into the pot.
Generously spritz or brush top with water, then immediately top with the lid.
Shake the pot gently back and forth to even out the dough a bit.
Reduce heat to 425. Bake on the lower rack for 55 minutes. Remove the lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top is well browned and a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or til center registers 209 – 212 on an instant-read thermometer. When it seems done, bake an additional 5 minutes to ensure the center is baked through.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, then remove the loaf to the rack and cool thoroughly.