The Process of Baking Ciabatta

It’s a bit of a running joke in our family how much I don’t like shopping.  I find it a frustrating experience.  Mainly trying to find things that fit.  It’s annoying how many things out there are standardized like the FDA trying to ban cheese aged on wood.  Which will make the cheese even more blah.  I find that type of stuff a huge overreach.  But a size 10 should be a size 10 regardless of where you go.  So imagine my shock when we did a family shop day and everything but one fit!  Including jeans which is my nemesis.  I was waiting for the other foot to fall and I was afraid to press my luck.  But press I did!  Albeit I was waiting for lightening to strike me down if I stepped wrong.  🙂  I survived though.

The other challenge I faced this weekend was baking a new bread.  I thought I’d try ciabatta bread and I once again turned to our Local Breads by Daniel Leader for the recipe.  I found this to be an interesting process as it didn’t quite go as the book said.  It still turned out delicious but I will be trying this again to see how the results come out.

This does take time to make and it needs to be started the day before.  The biga needs to be made up 9 to 17 hours ahead of time.  I follow the metric weights for the recipe as we’ve found that works the best for us.  Mix 65 grams of tepid water, 2 grams of instant yeast, and 100 grams of unbleached flour.  If available use high gluten flour.  Mix together in a small bowl and then knead for a minute or two.  Cover with cling film and leave in room temperature for an hour then refrigerate for 8-16 hours.  About an hour before you prepare the full dough take the biga out of the fridge.  It will be nice and bubbly.

Ciabatta 1 2014

In the mixer add the biga with 425 grams of tepid water and break it up into small clumps.

Ciabatta 2 2014 Ciabatta 3 2014

Add 10 grams of instant yeast, 500 grams of the flour, and 10 grams of sea salt.  Mix with the dough hook until all the ingredients are incorporated.  This will be a very wet dough.

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At this point grab a book or something.  If you are using a kitchen aid put it on 8 to knead the dough for 13-15 minutes.  Keep a hold of the mixer as it will walk otherwise.  Periodically scrap the bowl and dough hook as it will climb up.  Then turn the mixer up to 10 for about 3 minutes.  At this time check the dough to make sure it can be opaque without tearing.  If it tears mix for 3 minutes more.

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The directions say that the dough needs to rise triple the size.  So pick a container that can handle that.  Spray with oil and then cover with cling film.

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It was at this point things got a bit weird.  It said it would take 3- 4 hours to triple in size.  I happened to check it after an hour and I’m glad I did because this is what I saw.

Ciabatta 7 2014

This was insane!  And I was flummoxed.  Usually the times given for the risings are set to help the yeast do it’s thing.  But this was over the top.  So I decided to divide the dough into two containers and let it continue the rising.

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About an hour and a half later I had this:

Ciabatta 9 2014

Dust parchment paper and divide the dough into two rectangles.  Actually I divided the first container.  Dimple the dough and let rise for another 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 475F/250C.

Ciabatta 10 2014

It didn’t really rise for me on the last bit but I bake it and it did bubble up.  For the second container I didn’t divide the dough to see what difference there was.  That bubbled up much more for me.  I baked the bread using convection for 20 minutes on a pizza stone.  When the dough is put into the oven add 1/2 a cup of ice to a cast iron skillet below the stone to add steam.

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I have to say though, despite the whacky bread rising, I got the best crumb I’ve ever done.

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And oh was it good with butter.  And fabulous with the cheese that we had for dinner.  The next time I try this I will stop the rising when it is triple the size and see what happens then.



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