Porcelain casserole dish with lid
I recently purchased a porcelain 2 qt casserole dish with lid, $15 at a Target store, and have gotten very nice results with it making a Bittman/Lahey style loaf 1/3 larger than the original recipe (NY times, Nov 8, 2006) by a simplified procedure in which I never touch the unbaked dough, nor transfer it to and from a floured towel. The breads come out of the casserole dish with a 2 inch wall, a crown 5 inches high, and a symmetrical dome. Loafs made according to the original Bittman/Lahey recipe, especially in larger pots, tend to be no more than 3 inches high, have little or no wall, and are frustratingly small.
I mix the dry ingredients, 4 cups flour, 1.5 tsp salt, slightly heaped 1/4 tsp Fleischman rapid rise yeast in a 3 qt pyrex bowl, add 1.5 cups of warm water, then with a fork mix and form a relatively stiff dough ball, then add 1/4 cup water to loosen the dough ball somewhat for rising. Instead of transferring the dough to a flowered towel a la Bittman, I keep the dough in the pyrex bowl for the 18 hr rising, 15 min rest and 2 hr second rising, reshaping the dough ball after each period, then drop the dough ball into the casserole dish preheated at 450 degrees F., bake for 30 min with lid on, then 15 min with lid off. The bread smells, looks and tastes great, with a crunchy flavorful crust that shatters when bitten, and a spongy, bounce-back texture inside the loaf. Thanks to the single transfer from pyrex bowl to casserole dish, no scattered flour or flour-loaded towel to clean up