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  1. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Garnish by sprinkling a handful of oats on top. If baking a round loaf, slash a hash mark pattern (#) on top.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.