This was busy weekend. Searching Christmas gifts may be overwhelming. Yet I finally found some time to try a recipe from recently bought Peter Reinhart‘s book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice“. This book is I awesome by the way, worth buying for its every page but ”Deconstructing bread: The Tutorial” chapter especially. Finally I was able to go through theory of the whole bread making process and learn a little bit of chemistry behind it. I highly recommend this book.
Back to the topic though. For the first bread formula I’ve chosen poolish based Ciabatta. Poolish is kind of dough pre-ferment, which enriches the taste and helps the final dough to develop better. Worth noting it is named is after Polish bakers, who are supposed to discover it around 1840. The formula for poolish is very simple (I’ve converted all units from ounces to grams and Fahrenheit degrees to Celsius ones for your convenience or inconvenience depending on where you live):
- 319g unbleached bread flour (I used Manitoba)
- 340g water at room temperature
- 8.5g instant yeast
Mix all the ingredients until dough is smooth (it should be like thick pancake batter). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 3-4h until bubbly and foamy. It can be used immediately (and this is how I proceeded) but it is recommended to refrigerate overnight to develop even more flavor.
Once you have the above accomplished, you can proceed to Ciabatta dough preparation.
You will need:
- poolish from the above
- 383g unbleached bread flour
- 12.5g salt
- 4.8g instant yeast
- 85g – 170g of lukewarm water
If you refrigerated poolish keep it in room temperature for 1h before proceeding. Mix all the ingredients one by one starting with lower bound for water. Mix by hand for 5-7 minutes until smooth. If there is some flour left add some more water. Dough should be soft but remain sticky. Then move dough to the flour sprinkled counter. Stretch each one from both sides to double in length and then fold like letter to form initial rectangle again. Mist with some olive oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap (while still on the counter). Let it rest for half and hour and then apply the above procedure once more (including mist with an olive oil). Ferment on the counter for 1.5h – 2h. After that remove the wrap and divide the dough into 2-3 or more loaves depending on your bread size expectations. I used the half of the recipe ingredients and made 3 small loaves (or rather buns). Stretch and fold each one envelope style and sprinkle generously each one with left-over flour. Place on linen cloth folded in the way it provides some walls limiting dough from spreading. Mist top of the dough with olive oil. Keep at room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 260 Celsius degrees with baking stone if you have one (if you don’t go buy one or use top-down flipped baking pan). Tug the dough a little bit and flatten it a bit if it is too high. Place the dough onto the baking stone. Pour 237g of hot water into steaming pan and close door immediately. After 30 seconds open the door and spray the walls of the oven with water (I am still looking for food-grade spay utility, so I just used hands dipped in cold water to mimic that, but of course this is not perfect, not even close). Repeat spraying twice more in 30 seconds intervals. After that lower oven temperature to 232 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate loaves 180 degrees and bake for another 5 minutes (recipe suggest 5-10 minutes, I used the upper boundary but it was to much in my case, loaves registered over 115 degrees inside, while 96 would be enough up to the recipe). Transfer the bread to the cooling rack (an improvised cooling rack as in my case would work as well). Let it cool and rest at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.
I must say – the end result was above my expectations (I tried to bake bread a couple of times in the past but never managed to get proper crust and expected flavor). I couldn’t help myself from eating most of the first (small!) loaf by simply dipping it in some extra-virgin olive oil. I kept second one for the next day and refrigerated the last one. Instead refrigerating, once they feel a little stale, cut into thick slices, mist each one, both sides, with olive oil and then brown on grill pan. After that rub with garlic clove cut in half.
On the side note the above garlic grilled ciabatta reminds me of the great recipe for a tomato soup. I discovered a while ago after I ate similar (or even the same) soup in T.G.I. Friday’s. The recipe is thick and full of flavor from tomatoes and herbs. Feta is being used in this recipe instead of cream, which is brilliant combination. I strongly encourage you to try the recipe even if you don’t have much time for own ciabbata baking.