Just when I was wondering how I was going to transition from something nicely spring-y like veggie burgers into a reason to make posts from my photos leftover from the winter, a storm comes along and dumps 3 inches of snow on us in April. I guess I should be used to this kind of thing and even thankful for it making this and my next post relevant, still, I hate the goddamn snow. Fuck it.
Anyway, I made this ciabatta bread way back at the beginning of February from the recipe for “rustic ciabatta bread” in Cook’s Illustrated no. 97. If you get this magazine, go back to that issue and look at the pictures of this. It looked so damn good that I could not resist making it. I love ciabatta bread, it’s so chewy and crusty and slightly sour, and it’s got so many great applications from sandwiches to panzanella to just dipping it in some olive oil or marinara sauce, the bread is great and it entirely deserves it’s own theme song.
Unfortunately, mine didn’t come out so wonderfully. While ciabatta is supposed to be kind of flat and rectangular/ovoid, mine didn’t achieve quite the rise that I wanted. If I remember correctly, I wasn’t paying very close attention to this bread as I was making it, especially during the rise times, so that may have contributed to the lackluster results. It was pretty dense and just kind of meh all around; in other words: destined to become breadcrumbs. One great result of all the recent baking is that huge stockpile of homemade breadcrumbs I’ve got building up in the freezer. The veggie burgers from Sunday were made from these bread crumbs and those from the leftover challah. Also, this ciabatta served well in the French onion soup I made just a couple days later and that I will post up either tomorrow or Thursday.
From Cook’s Illustrated no. 97, March & April 2009
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water, room temperature
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water, room temperature
1/3 cup milk, room temperature
Combine all the biga ingredients in a bowl and stir them until they just make a shaggy ball. The biga is your starter, or your mother sponge, or whatever the French call it. You want to just let this thing sit in the bowl overnight, at least 8 hours anyway, and ferment and get big and sour.
Next, put the biga and the rest of your dough ingredents into your mixer bowl (you’re using a mixer, right?) and mix it on the lowest speed with the white paddle thing for about a minute, scaping down the sides as needed, until it’s roughly combined. Then crank it up to medium-low and mix it until it sticks to the paddle and is pulling off of the bowl and generally slapping all around. Then switch the paddle out for your dough hook and mix it on medium for about 10 minutes until the dough isn’t shaggy any more and instead is smooth and kind of shiny and super sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until it doubles.
Spray a rubber spatula and fold the dough over itself “by gently lifting and folding [the] edge of [the] dough toward [the] middle” (Cook’s Illustrated hates using articles). Turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold the dough again. Turn the bowl and fold the dough six more times for a total of eight turns, then re-cover it and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
Repeat that last turning and folding step and let it rise again until it doubles (Cook’s Illustrated says about 30 more minutes). In the meantime, put your oven rack in the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 450 with a pizza stone in there so it gets good and hot too.
Pull off two 12″x6″ pieces of parchment paper and dust them with flour, then dump your dough out onto the counter or your slab of marble or whatever you want to work with dough on.
Flour the dough liberally and cut it in half. Then take each piece and press it into a rough 12″x6″ shape and then kind of fold the pieces like you would a letter that you’re going to stuff into an envelope. The magazine says your loaves should be 7″x4″, so kind of imagine them that size. Put them seam-side down on the parchment paper sheets and let them rise another half hour.
Slide the parchment with the bread onto your pizza peel or whatever you’re using to get the bread onto the baking stone. Press the dough out into 10″x6″ rectangles/ovals (ciabatta is Italian for slipper I hear, so you know make it look like a slipper whydoncha?) and spritz them with water. Slide the parchment and everything onto your hot baking stone and bake the bread, re-spritzing twice more during the first 5 minutes. They’ll be done after about 22 – 27 minutes total. Pull them out and put them on a wire rack to cool to room temperature (about an hour) before slicing and serving. Makes 2 loaves.