Not only is this bread easy, it's got great flavor and a superior texture both inside and out. The outside gets nice and crusty while the inside is soft and chewy and has big holes. The only draw back is that you have to plan ahead a bit to let the starter develop, but that's where all the flavor comes from, so it's definitely worth it.
The starter takes about two minutes to make. Combine all ingredients and stir until it forms a shaggy mass. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature for a day or so (the number of hours is not a hard and fast rule, just don't let it sit more than 20-24 hours).
The next day (or 8-18 hours later), you will see that the dough has risen quite a bit and has lots of big holes in it.
Gently dump the mixture out onto a floured board or counter. Use plenty of flour as this dough is a wee bit sticky.
Knead the dough ten times or so; then shape the dough into a ball.
Place the ball in the middle of a sheet of parchment that is sitting in a circular vessel that can be covered. I use a skillet with a lid but you could use a bowl or whatever else provides the dough with room to rise unimpeded. Let the dough rise until double, about 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. If you haven't had your oven this hot in a while, be prepared for a little smokiness. You'll need a cast iron Dutch oven for this recipe. I have an old regular, seasoned Dutch oven, but I would recommend using an enameled one. Lodge puts out a good one for a reasonable price. The seasoned cast iron tends to smoke a lot at that high temperature, which is not so fun. Be sure your Dutch oven is at least 6-8 quarts so that the bread has room to rise up when first put in the oven. Place the Dutch oven into the oven to preheat as well.
If you want, you can slice the top of the loaf half an inch deep before baking. This procedure can help the bread rise better in that last gasp effort when first place in the oven. When you put the bread in the oven, reduce the heat to 425 degrees F and bake, with the lid on, for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes is up, remove the cover and bake another 20-30 minutes until the bread is done and exhibits an internal temperature of 210 degrees F. Remove from the oven and set on a rack to cool completely.
Here's the best way I've found to cut a round loaf: cut the loaf in half and then cut slices downward through the load. This bread is absolutely divine when fresh, but also makes perfect toast.
Almost No Knead Bread
Yield: one 8-9 inch boule
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup + 2 TBS room temperature water
1/4 cup + 2 TBS lager (I use Yuengling)
1 TBS white vinegar
Mix together all ingredients in a medium sized bowl until it forms a rough ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in. Set the bowl aside at room temperature for 8-18 hours.
When the dough is done with its pre-ferment, prepare a skillet or bowl with a large sheet of parchment and set aside. Liberally flour the counter and dump the dough out. Sprinkle the top with flour and then knead about ten times. Shape into a ball and place into the prepared vessel. Cover and set aside to rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled.
When the loaf is just about doubled, start preheating your oven and Dutch oven to 500 degrees. Slit the top of your loaf about a half-inch deep to help it expand quickly in its last spring of expansion in the oven. When the Dutch oven is hot, simply use the sheet of parchment to quickly transfer the loaf into the Dutch oven. Put the lid on and place in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425 degrees F and bake covered for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking another 20-30 minutes, until the loaf is golden and the bread has reached an internal temperature of 210 degrees. Transfer loaf onto a rack to cool completely.