- Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl. Stir, then use your hands (or a stand mixer) to mix up a sticky dough. Continue to work the dough enough to incorporate all the flour, or beat for several minutes in a stand mixer.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it rest at room temperature overnight, or for at least 8 hours; it will become bubbly and rise quite a bit, so be sure your bowl is large enough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. To make a single loaf, choose a 14" to 15" long lidded stoneware baker; a 9" x 12" oval deep casserole dish with cover; or a 9" to 10" round lidded baking crock. See "tips," below.
- Shape the dough to fit, and place it in the lightly greased pan of your choice, smooth side up. Cover and let rise at room temperature for about 1 hour, until dough has become puffy and fills the pan about 3/4 full.
- Garnish by sprinkling a handful of oats on top, if desired. If baking a round loaf, slash a hash mark pattern (#) on top.
- Place the pan into a cold oven. To keep the bread's bottom crust from burning, set the rack in the middle, not at or near the bottom. Set the oven temperature to 450°F. Bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to bake for another 5 to 15 minutes, until the bread is deep brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers about 205°F.
- Remove the bread from the oven, turn out onto a rack, and cool before slicing.
Tips from our Bakers
- For best results, use a heavy-duty crock or baker with a light-colored interior; uncoated cast iron isn't a good choice, as its dark surface can easily burn the bread's bottom crust. Likewise, a lightweight pan can brown the crust too quickly.