"In the pot" as important as "no knead"
Yesterday I wanted bread but hadn't thought ahead 20 hours :) so I decided to make my standard recipe and cook it in my cast iron dutch oven like I've been doing with the no-knead. I just dropped my little ball of dough into the pot seam side down (no "pouring" it into the pot, as it wasn't nearly as wet). It was the most beautiful loaf I've ever made; I'd slashed it in a crosshatch and it was a perfect little ball with perfect diamonds on it (sorry no picture). I think the nice moist hot environment of the cast iron pot is at least as important to getting a nice loaf as the long, wet, rising. I used the same temperature of 450; next time I might lower it a bit after taking the lid off as it was starting to get a little *too* dark 12 minutes later or so.
Any enclosed container that provides a lot of radiant heat will give a superb loaf. The ideal scenario is a retained-heat wood oven, as in Wing and Scott's book "The Bread Builders" or in Kiko Denzer's book. The ancient Egyptians baked bread in pots. The bread bell or "La Cloche" from Sassafras Industries works spectacularly well. But a flower pot (bulb pan) with a large saucer--both unglazed 100% terra cotta--works just as well and costs about a fifth of the price. I've posted information about that several other places.
I totally agree, the container is what makes Bittman's bread work. I posted in an earlier thread that I just didn't get the slow, wet rising process since it took longer, had more steps and makes an awful mess compared with traditional kneaded methods.
I like using a cast iron pot, and spray some water on the crust just before it goes in the oven.
Has anyone tried that technique that Alton Brown used on a recent showing of his bread episode--brushing the loaf just before putting it in the oven with a wash made with cornstarch and water? Looked interesting.
I've been using an unglazed clay pot (about 3.5 qts) and it has turned out fantastic, even better than when I used my cast iron skillet. I'll definitely try it with other round loaves I make.