for 8 portions
2 cups of warm water (480 ml), between 90˚-110˚F (30˚-40˚C)
1 envelope of active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour (500 g), lightly packed and levelled, plus more for dusting
1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of olive oil
Stir the yeast in the water and allow it to expand until it becomes foamy.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt by hand. Once incorporated, make a small well in the middle and pour in the water and yeast mixture.
Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so that the dough does not stick to your fingers. The water and flour should come together and form a coarse dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add flour in small amounts, about one tablespoon at a time. If the dough is too dry, add more water, one tablespoon at a time.
Once the dough has come together, cover and let rise until the dough has doubled in size (about 1 ½-2 hours).
Uncover the dough and give it a few finger strokes. If the dough has risen well, it should sink under the pressure of your finger and slowly deflate.
Using your hand or a rubber spatula, start at the edge of the bowl to rise the dough from the sides and fold it upwards and towards the centre of the bowl. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat until all the dough has been removed from the sides and folded toward the center.
When finished, cover and let the dough rise again for 1 ½-2 hours.
Once the dough has doubled again, gently transfer it from the bowl to a lightly floured surface.
Sprinkle a little flour over the dough. With your hands, start to shape it into a loaf. Fold the dough several times under itself to form a ball, then pinch the dough joints underneath.
Place the dough, seam side down, in a clean bowl lightly coated with olive oil and sprinkled with flour.
Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
In the meantime, place a 6-quart casserole dish (or a heavy casserole with an ovenproof lid) inside the oven. Preheat the oven at 450˚F (230˚C) with the pan inside for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Carefully remove the pan from the oven and place it on a tripod or heat-resistant surface. (Caution, it will be VERY HOT).
Turn the leavened dough onto a lightly floured surface and carefully place it inside the pot.
Cover with the lid and return the pot to the oven.
Bake for 45 minutes, removing the lid for the last 15 minutes.
Remove the bread from the pot, cover and leave to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.