You can knead the dough by hand or by machine. I kneaded this dough entirely by hand. If using a machine finish the kneading by hand because you will get a better feel for the dough.
Mix together, with a wooden spoon or dough whisk, the flour, yeast, salt and about 2/3 the water in a large bowl. Keep adding more water, a little at a time, and knead till you have a shaggy dough.
Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you, then press it away from you with the heels of your hands. Turn the dough and repeat this fold-press-rotate process. The dough will become smoother and less sticky. Shape into a ball and place the dough in an oiled bowl. Loosely cover and let it rise for about an hour and a half till double in volume.
Gently deflate the dough. You can divide the dough in half to make smaller loaves if you wish. Shape the dough into a tight ball or oval, as you prefer. If you have a banneton, you can proof the dough in that. Or you can proof it free form, like I did, on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the baking sheet with some coarse rice powder or cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to the baking sheet. It will also give the bread a crunchy bottom.
Lightly cover the dough with greased plastic wrap and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes. For the last 15 minutes or so refrigerate the risen dough. This is important for a hassle free scoring of the dough. Gently poke your index finger into the side of the dough. If the indentation remains, your bread is ready to bake.
Lightly dust the top of the risen loaf uniformly with flour, using a sieve. With a blade or lame, slash the top of your loaf decoratively. Bake the bread at 230 C (450 F) for about 25 minutes or so till the crust is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
For extra-crusty top on the bread, you can add steam to your oven. Place an empty cast iron pan on the lowest rack while pre-heating the oven. As soon as you put the bread in the oven to bake, pour a cup of boiling water in the pan. Immediately shut the oven door. Be careful while you do this.
Take the bread out when done. Let it cool completely on a rack. Do not slice the bread until completely cool. You can store the bread, well-wrapped, at room temperature for a couple of days.