Overnight No-Knead Bread

2 loaves
Adapted from NY Times Article 11/8/06

1000 g. (6 2/3 c.) whole wheat bread flour
½ tsp. active dry yeast dissolved in ¼ c. warm (110f) water, OR
1 tsp. desem starter dissolved in ¼ c. room temperature water
2 ½-3 tsp. salt
Canola oil mixed with soy lecithin, for greasing pans
Cornmeal or wheat bran, as needed

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the middle, and pour in yeast or desem mixture along with ~3 1/4 c. water (~800 g. water total, including water in which desem is dissolved). Stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. let rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at room temperature (50-70 degrees).

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Divide dough in two, and with wet hands, fold each piece over on itself a few times until dough tenses, and form each into a loose ball. Allow balls to rest, seam down on a plate for 15 minutes. Grease covered 6- 8-quart casserole dishes (or clay cloches) with canola/soy lecithin, and sprinkle with cornmeal or wheat bran.

Using wet hands, gently and quickly flatten the balls; shape dough into loaves by folding the sides in. Place seam down in prepared pans. They will look limp and unpromising, but don't worry! Cover, and set aside at room temperature for 1 1/2-2 hours. Check dough after an hour. If it's risen and feels springy when poked with a wet finger, preheat oven to 450f and set bread aside for another ½ hour. (If it's really cool, the dough might need to proof for a total of 2 hours, but usually it's ready in an hour and a half. Be sure to preheat oven ½ hour in advance of putting in the loaves.)

Slash tops of loaves with a sharp knife just before putting them into the oven (slashes should be about 1/4-inch deep). Cover the pans, and bake with cover on for ½ hour. Then remove the covers, rotate pans if your oven is uneven, and continue baking until tops are golden and bottoms are hollow when thumped, about 15 minutes more.

Variations:
To add other ingredients, gently flatten the dough round on a plate before rounding. Sprinkle evenly your choice of fruit/nuts, and roll up dough carefully, trying not to tear it or get air bubbles inside. Your goal is a fat log with dough on the outside, fruit/nuts layered inside. Fold ends of log under, and allow dough to rest for 15 minutes as above. Just be sure, when you then form into loaves, that you're extra-careful not to tear the dough. All those fillings weaken the structure of the dough.

Add 1 c. soaked raisins mixed with 1 tbsp. cinnamon.

Add 1 c. chopped olives, and 1 tsp. each oregano and basil.

For pizza: Dough can be shaped into pizzas after the initial 18-hour rising, or the dough can be set aside in the fridge for later use for up to three days (let come to room temperature for about an hour before using). A little less than one loaf's worth (half a recipe) makes a large, 18-inch, round pizza. Gently stretch dough to fit a greased pan, while the oven is preheating to 450f (about half an hour). Spread sauces on, and bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 20 minutes. Add cheeses and other toppings, if desired, and bake for 5-10 more minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is crispy and cooked through.