Ciabatta


I was planning on making Kalamata Olive Ciabatta, because I’ve had it from a bakery before and I think it’s divine. However, I had some distractions while I was making the bread (there is a lot of folding – waiting – folding – waiting – shaping – waiting…so I didn’t stay totally focused the entire time) and I completely forgot to put them in. Next time, I guess! 

You will need to plan in advance when you want to make this bread.  The poolish must sit out for 3 or 4 hours, then in the refrigerator overnight.  Baking day, as I mentioned before, requires little work but sporadic attention.  The recipe looks long and complicated, so it helps to read through the whole thing a few times before baking so you know what is coming next.  I ended up with a denser crumb than I was hoping for, and I’m not sure why that is, but it still tasted great.
(from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart)
Poolish:
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
1/4 tsp instant yeast
Stir together the flour, water, and yeast in a mixing bowl until all of the flour is hydrated.  The dough should be soft and sticky and look like very thick pancake batter.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, or until the sponge becomes bubbly and foamy.  Immediately refrigerate it.  It will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Bread:
3 1/4 cups poolish
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
6 tbsp to 3/4 cup water, lukewarm (90-100 F)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
1. Remove the poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill.
2. To make the dough, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl.  Ad the poolish and 6 tbsp of the water.  With a large metal spoon, or on low speed with the paddle attachment, mix until the ingredients form a sticky ball.  If there is still some loose flour, add the additional water as needed and continue to mix.  Mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough.  Switch to the dough hood for the final 2 minutes of mixing.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.  You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky.
3. Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 8 inches square.  Using a bowl scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and proceed with the stretch-and-fold method. (Dust the top of the dough with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle.  Wait 2 minutes for the dough to relax.  Coat your hands with flour and lift the dough from each end, stretching it to twice its size.  Fold the dough over itself, letter style, to return it to a rectangular shape.)  Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
4. Let rest for 30 minutes.  Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover.  Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  It should swell but not necessarily double in size.
5. Set up a couche. (Mist the surface of a heavy cloth with spray oil and dust with flour.) Carefully remove the plastic from the dough and use a pastry scraper that has been dipped in water to divide the dough in 2 or 3 rectangles.  Sprinkle the dough generously with more flour, and, using the scraper to get under the dough, gently lift each piece from the counter and then roll it on both sides in the loose flour to coat.  Lay the loaves on the cloth and gently fold each piece of dough, from left to right, letter style, into an oblong about 6 inches long.  Bunch the cloth between the pieces to provide a wall, the cover the cloth with a towel.
6. Proof for 45 to to 60 minutes at room temperature, or until the dough has noticeably swelled.
7.  Preheat the oven to 500 F.  While the oven is preheating, place an empty heavy-duty sheet pan or cast-iron frying pan on the top shelf of the oven.  Before putting the bread in the oven, have hot water standing by, the hotter the better.  Fill a mister or sprayer with room temperature water.
8. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the dough pieces to the peel or pan, using the pastry scraper if you need support.  Lift the dough from each end and tug the dough out to a length of 9 to 12 inches.  If the dough bulges too high in the middle, gently dimple it down with your fingertips to even out the height of the loaf.  Pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan and close the door.  After 30 seconds, open the door and spray the back and sides of the oven with water and close the door.  Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals.  After the final spray, turn the oven setting down to 450 F and bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the loaves 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until done.  The bread should register 205 F in the center and should be golden in color (but the flour streaks will also give it a dusty look).  The loaves will feel quite hard and crusty at first but will soften as they cool.
9. Transfer the bread from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving.
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5 comments to Ciabatta

  • Joelen

    Nicely done and I’m sitting here with bread envy :)

  • Liz

    Looks wonderful! I am attempting to teach myself to bake yeast breads by reading that book! I am about 80 pages into it.

    Your bread looks delicious. I like the photos of the individual steps– thanks!

  • ~Amber~

    This looks amazing! Ciabatta was the very first yeast bread that I made. Delicious!

  • Brooke

    I have never attempted to make bread, but I might after this post. Great cookbooks — looking for some new ones.

  • That Girl

    I love the fact that bread takes forever to make. I like the kneading process, the waiting process all of it. And of course, the smell of cooking bread is the best.

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