Another glorious, sunny September day. It’s been a while since I’ve made any bread, and even longer since I’ve attempted ciabatta. I’d started making this recipe already before noticing I didn’t have enough yeast! Luckily our in-building convenience store actually carries yeast?! What?! Sadly it’s quick rise, which I’ve never used, but let’s see how she goes. Faster yeast multiplication and proofing of the bread = less flavor development, but I’m making this loaf same-day so I can eat it right away – thus I cannot complain much.
If you’re going to attempt this recipe the only thing I recommend is that you use a pizza stone/baking stone. This $20 investment changes all of your baked goods, but especially your breads. It’s nearly impossible to get a nice crispy crust and evenly baked loaf without dropping your dough straight onto a stone, without a baking sheet. The stone has the ability to absorb excess moisture, which leaves you with a crispier, higher quality crust in breads and pizza doughs. It also helps with even baking of other goods such as quick breads and cakes. I can’t speak highly enough of the baking stone.
The Ciabatta: yields 1 large oblong loaf.
450 g bread flour
340 g warm water (between 100 and 110 F is best for active dry yeast)
1+1/2 TB olive oil
3/4 TB active dry yeast
1+1/2 tsp fine salt
-The water temperature stated above is the ideal temperature for using the active dry yeast found in the grocery store. This temperature is warm enough to dissolve and activate the yeast, yet not hot enough to kill it. If you don’t have a thermometer: run water out of the tap with a mixture of warm and cold, but slightly more warm than cold. You’re looking for a temperature that feels warm but not hot. If you don’t trust your own judgement at this point – put a small pinch of dry yeast in a bowl, stir in 1 TB of the water to see if the yeast dissolves. You want to then watch it for about 3-5 minutes to see if it starts to become frothy. This is the yeast multiplying. If this works you can call yourself a successful amateur, and go ahead with your bread dough!
-In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, oil, and yeast, and whisk to combine.
-Pour the warm water over the flour and mix in with a wooden spoon (or if you’re me: a combination of spoon and hands). This is a sticky gloopy dough, but this is what you are looking for. Do not be tempted to add more flour to make it more manageable, just wet your hands with water constantly to keep the dough from sticking.
-Continue mixing the dough for about 5 minutes until it’s forming a sticky ball that holds together. Your dough will look slightly formed and smooth, and slightly chunky and lumpy. That’s okay at this point.
-Rest the dough for 10 minutes and then sprinkle the salt over, and again wetting your hands – grab the edge of the dough and fold it up over itself. Turn the bowl and continue folding the dough up and over itself at least 2 dozen times to incorporate the salt evenly. At this stage your dough will be a little more nicely formed, as it’s had a few minutes to rest and absorb moisture, and you’ve worked it a few times to develop some gluten strands.
-The dough will look more silky and fluffy than before, but will still be sticky and gloopy rather than smooth and bouncy. With your salt mixed in, lift the dough out of the bowl and brush a little oil onto the bowls surface to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the dough back into the greased bowl, dust the top liberally with flour and rest again until the dough has doubled in size.
-The time it takes for your dough to double in size varies depending on your environment, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to several hours. You can also place the dough in the fridge overnight at this point, to slower develop and build a better flavor profile. Today I am proofing this dough at room temperature, assisted with the warmth of my preheating oven, because my time is more limited (and I really want to eat it today!).
-Preheat your oven to 420 F, with an empty metal bowl or small skillet on the rack below your baking stone. This will be to create steam during baking.
-Once your dough has doubled in size it will look bubbly and fragile. What you want to do now is transfer it to a baking peel or sheet without deflating too much of this air. You will need to deflate it slightly, but you don’t want to pack it down and lose all of those lovely bubbles. These bubbles are what create the holey texture inside the loaf, and without this: you do not have ciabatta! This process is called degassing, in which the dough is partially deflated, but not completely. I’d say about half of the air will be released as you transfer it from the bowl and shape it into form.
-Gently remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floured piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel or the back of a flat sheetpan. (You want to be able to slide the parchment with the dough off of the baking sheet and onto your stone in the oven).
-Once the dough is safely on the parchment begin lifting it from the edges and carefully stretching it to resemble an oblong rectangle. Flour the dough and your hands often to ensure a nice thin coating on the loaf. The dough is still very sticky so you’ll need the flour coating to handle it.
-Flour your hands once again, and press your fingers gently down into the rectangle of dough, creating dimples across. You can press nearly all the way down through the dough as you do this. Set it aside to rise/rest a smidge more, about 15 minutes or so.
-Once the dough is ready to be baked toss a cup of cold water into the empty bowl or skillet to create steam, and pulling on the back side of the parchment paper – slide the ciabatta dough on the baking stone. Close the door immediately and bake for 12-15 minutes without opening the door.
-After the first 12-15 minutes the dough has formed enough of a crust that you can remove the pan of water, and pushing on the front of the loaf – pull the parchment paper out from underneath, and discard. Close the door and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes depending on your oven (times may vary).
-Remove the loaf from the oven once it’s golden brown all over and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. You’re looking for an internal temperature between 185 F to 210 F, but if you’re thermometerless you can follow the visual guidelines stated here. You’re looking for dark golden color and a hollow sound when tapped.
-Once the loaf is baked fully, turn off the oven, crack the door open, and allow to stay an additional 5 mins on the stone.
-Remove from the oven onto a wire rack and allow the loaf to rest for at least an hour before cutting into it. I know, I know, it’s really tempting to rip the thing open because of it’s nearly holy scent. I know. But resist. Seriously. The crumb needs time to set-up, and the cooling process isn’t just cooling, it’s still finishing the cooking process. If you want that nice moist interior crumb and crunchy crust: resist the urge! It’s best to let the loaf sit until there is no residual heat coming from within. If the loaf feels completely room temperature to the touch it’s ready to slice up.
-Keep the bread double wrapped in saran for two days at room temperature, 4-5 days in the fridge, or 2 weeks in the freezer. To fix up day old (or week old) bread: unwrap, preheat oven to 400F, and crisp up the crust for at least 7-8 mins. This bread is perfect for diving into a bowl of soup or stew, or stacking up a sandwich!
Ciao for now Guys!