Form the dough: In a big bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Pour water into the bowl and using a spatula or a wooden spoon mix it until well incorporated. You do not need to activate the yeast before, even though we're using active dry yeast. The slow rising process will do the trick.
Allow it to rise: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter or inside your unheated oven for 12 to 24 hours.
Preheat your oven: Preheat oven to 450°F. Add your cast iron pot to the oven as it's heating and heat it as well until it's at 450°F. Usually when the oven is done preheating your pot should be hot enough as well. Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid from it. Use oven mitts, as to not burn yourself.
Shape the dough: Flour your hands really well and also sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. With your floured hands gently remove the dough from the bowl and roughly shape it into a ball. Sprinkle some extra flour directly into the bottom of the pot. Take the ball of dough and drop it into the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and place it back in the oven. Alternatively, you can also place the ball of dough onto a piece of parchment paper, then lift the parchment paper and drop it in the pot, with parchment paper and all. This could also ensure that your bread doesn't stick at all to the bottom of the pot. I have found that if I use parchment paper, the bread doesn't brown so much on the sides, but otherwise it's still crusty and delicious.
Finish the bread: Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, after which remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Remove the bread from the pot, it should fall out easily. Let cool completely before slicing into it and serving.
I used a small 3.5 qt Dutch oven. A small Dutch oven is better here so that the bread rises upwards, whereas if you were to use a big Dutch oven the bread would spread out over the entire surface of the pot.
If the dough mixture is too dry, add a bit more water, the dough should be sticky, as seen in the video.
To add other ingredients to the bread such as dried fruit, seeds, herbs or cheeses, add them in step 1 when mixing everything together.
Why is my bread chewy: Usually your bread will be chewy when there isn't enough gluten formation or you're using a low-protein flour. Make sure you let your bread dough rest for at least 12 hours to give it enough time for gluten formation.
Why is my bread dense: Usually bread will be too dense when there is too much flour. Keep in mind this dough will be pretty sticky, do not add more flour than specified. Other factors that come into play are humidity and age of flour. Little yeast, long rise, sticky dough are keys to a good, light loaf.
I don't have a Dutch oven, what can I use instead: If you don't have a Dutch Oven, a covered metal pot would work as well, just make sure it can stand up to 450 F heat. A 4 quart Calphalon soup pot with lid would work as well. If your pot doesn't have a lid, you can cover the pot with heavy-duty aluminum foil, just make sure you seal the pot well.
How do I know when my bread is done baking: Tap the bottom! Take the bread out of the Dutch oven, turn it upside down and give the bottom a firm thump with your thumb, or a knock and if it sounds hollow it's done. If using an instant thermometer, the internal temperature should be around 200 F degrees.
Nutrition: Nutritional information assumes 10 slices per bread and is per slice. Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.