After the dough has gone through that first rise, generously flour a surface (like a cutting board or counter top, use white flour for this) and your hands, and remove all the dough from the bowl. It might stick to the bowl, but be sure you get it all out in one piece. You can also use a plastic bowl scraper, but you want to remove all the dough in one piece. With your well-floured hands (to keep them from sticking to the dough), shape the dough by folding and refolding (a few times) and then forming it into a round form (it will be around 6 inches in diameter in a nice round ball form). Gently move the dough unto a well-floured tea towel (do NOT use terry cloth, and you can use cornmeal, or bran instead of flour), cover with either another tea towel or the edges of the towel. Let the dough rest for 1 to 2 hours in a draft free spot. The dough is ready for baking when, after a gentle poke with your finger, it leaves a slight impression. It if doesn’t, wait another 15 minutes and test it again.
Here’s the important part of what makes the magic of this simple baking method work—Lahey’s “oven within an oven” discovery. You will be baking the bread in either a heavy covered 4 ½ quart to 5 ½ quart pot, like an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, or a 5-quart Lodge cast-iron pot. I like the clay ware La Cloche cooking bell best because I find it easier to place the dough loaf onto it, instead of “flinging” the loaf into a higher sided pot. It is very important that whatever pot you use, that pot stays covered during the preheating and the first part of the baking process. This is the "oven within the oven" trick created by Lahey and, as he describes it, “It accomplishes what classic domed brick ovens do: it completely seals in the baking process so the steam escaping from the bread can do its work to ensure a good crust and a most crumb.”
Half way through this second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. To accommodate a large pot or a La Cloche you will probably need to remove all the racks from the over, except for one on the lower third portion that you’ll be using. I start the preheating ½ hour after the loaf was shaped, so even if it does take 2 hours for the dough to be ready, at least the oven and the pot are nice and hot.
When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven, making sure not to place the pot on a cool surface (especially if using a La Cloche), remove the cover, then working quickly, gently flip the loaf over into the pot, so the “bottom” of the dough becomes the top of the loaf. You might have to flour your hands to do this, to avoid the dough sticking to your hands. Don't worry if the “bread,” at this point, looks flat and blob-like. Cover the pot, and again, working quickly, place it on the middle of the oven rack.
Bake for 30 mins., at 475 degrees, the first blast of heat causes the fermenting dough to become “bread” in what is called “over spring.” After 30 mins. remove the lid from the pot and bake the bread for another 10 to 20 minutes. At this point it will definitely look like a loaf of bread. The time depends on how hot your oven is, and how dark you like your crust. By this time your kitchen will be drenched in that lovely, fresh bread aroma, savor it as your loaf cooks.
Remove the loaf from the pot and cool on a rack—while it should be easy to remove it from the hot pot, you might need to use a spatula to gently pry it up from the bottom. I know it is irresistible, but do not cut into the loaf until it is fully cooled, it is still “finishing” the baking process even out of the oven. The bread is said to “sing” at this cooling period, but the “singing” is evidence of the last phase of cooking.
A couple of things to note about storing bread, never ever store it in plastic, it is best just to place the loaf, once you slice it, on the cut side down on an enamel plate. You can store it in a paper bag but do NOT seal it. Or you can use wax paper too.