From The New York Times: (with my notes added)
3 C all purpose Flour (I alway use unbleached),
1/4 tsp instant yeast,
1 1/4 tsp Salt,
cornmeal or wheat bran as needed,
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups Water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl iwth plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferable about 18, at warm room temperature, around 70 degrees.
Dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkkle it with a little more flout and double it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back whem poked with a finger. (BETTER WAY: line a basket or bowl the same size and shape as the baking vessel with parchment paper, place dough in and cover with plastic wrap and raise as above.)
At least half an hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6 - 8 uqart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, pyrex or ceramic) (I use a "Romertopf") in the oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot fron oven. Slide your hand under the toewl and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. (LIFT parchment paper holding dough and place in baking pot) Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 -30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. (LIFT loaf out of pot using parchment and place on oven rack to finish baking for the last 15 - 30 minutes)
Cool on rack.
The parchment and basket idea was developed by member JoeV and is a real trouble (read cotton towels) saver and makes everything work much more easily. One variation I employ is to substitute one cup of the regular flour with a cup of white whole wheat flour. Delish!
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. We are all here to help one another.