Breaducation of a Rookie: Quietly Going to Pot
I use three enamelled pots with cast iron cores (each is 3.5 qt. size, one round and two oval) frequently now in my bread baking---all three fit nicely into my oven at the same time--- and am delighted with the perfect crust and crumb this Lahey method delivers unfailingly. And for superior taste, I always employ a 24-48 hr+ initial cold refrigerator ferment, using ice cold water (77%), instant yeast .7%, table salt 2%, and 100% unbleached Canadian white all-purpose flour. On a stack of Bread Bibles, I solemnly (if immodestly) swear my Lahey Cold Pot Bread has no equal in the land, or in heaven for that matter.
But in my opinion the method Lahey suggests for proofing and "loading" the dough into the pot is fraught with unecessary difficulties. He suggests proofing on a wheat bran-sprinkled tea towel, and then inverting this "package" and plopping it unceremoniously into the hot pot. (In the Bittman video he looks like a farmer dropping a boulder off the top of his barn). The problem is, the very wet dough looks like a wayward handful of jello, and is liable to get out of hand, literally. Furthermore, the odds are good that this very wet dough will stick to the tea towel just as you are about to upend it. The result can be a less than perfect crust and less than perfect crumb structure.
The solution I came up with does not involve using parchment paper. (I hate putting that stuff in my pots).
1. Lightly oil the bowl in which you proof the dough, and then sprinkle wheat bran into the bottom. Cover with towel and when proofing finished, sprinkle more wheat bran on top of dough.
2. When oven is heated, take pot out and place on stovetop. Close oven door quickly. Remove lid.
3. Using gloved hand, tip pot over toward stovetop. Using other hand, roll dough from bowl into the pot using a quick, decisive wrist turn.
You will find the dough goes into the pot very, very gently, with the top of the proofed dough now on the bottom of the pot, with your carefully-nurtured gluten structure undisturbed.