I'm about six or seven years behind on this trend, but I just recently received a beautiful Le Creuset dutch oven for Christmas and the first thing I wanted to do was make this bread. I've always wanted to make really good bread at home but I have no room (and no interest, really) in a bread machine. So when I first heard about this method, I really wanted to try it.
There are a lot of ways to do this--some take less time--but after a few tries, I've decided I like this bread so much that this is my preferred method.
Easy No-Knead Bread
adapted from the recipe of Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery
1½ cups warm water
¼ teaspoon yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoon salt
additional flour for dusting
5 to 8 quart pot with lid (Le Creuset enamel cast iron dutch oven, Pyrex glass, or ceramic) that can withstand 500°F (if you have a Le Creuset or similar dutch oven, you will need to get a stainless steel replacement knob; the cool-touch knob will not work).
Dissolve yeast in the water in large bowl (preferably glass or metal). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon (about a minute). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12-18 hours (overnight) at room temperature (at least 65°F). The dough will have bubbles on the top and be stringy when ready.
Generously flour your work surface and hands and pour the dough from the bowl and fold twice (add flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the surface or hands). Let the dough rest 15 minutes. Then shape the dough into ball by folding side to side and end to end and place on a cotton towel (not terry cloth or waffle weave) that is generously covered in flour with the seam side down. Dust with flour, cover with another towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. It must rise to the desired level during this stage as it will not rise much further during cooking. If necessary, place in a toaster/convection/traditional oven that has been heated to "proof" the dough during this time.
When your dough is ready (or shortly beforehand), preheat oven to 500°F (remove dough if you're proofing it in your large oven) for 30 minutes with the dutch oven inside. Remove the pot from the oven and flip the dough from the towel into the pot with the seam side up. Cover and bake for 30 minutes and then 15 minutes (or longer) uncovered until the loaf is golden brown.
The result of all this time is a really nice, thick crust that is not too hard, but still toothy and satisfying. And the inside is light and airy. It really is fantastic. I've tried to use whole wheat flour and I have to say it's just not as good. Just plain ol' white flour is the way to go. It's quite a treat!