I’ve been craving bread lately, nice thick slabs of chewy and crusty bread, good old European style bread. I’ve looked through my books and nothing sparked my interest. By dumb luck, I happened across a recipe last night for a quick to make version of ciabatta. I love the texture of this bread and knew it could be fit into my schedule for today.
The recipe comes from a bread forum that I haven’t read before, but the photos looked fantastic. The only confusing part of the recipe was the type of yeast involved, since the recipe didn’t specify. Other recipes on the site utilized mostly instant yeast and based on how the ingredients were combined (yeast mixed with flour, not proofed), it seemed as though the recipe was using instant yeast. I wasn’t able to locate instant yeast at my store so opted to use active dry yeast.
I checked several reliable references who stated instant yeast and active yeast could be interchanged measure for measure, however typically active yeast needed to be proofed first. I worried and pondered for awhile. When I finally looked at my yeast package it stated that it could be used without proofing as long as the water temperature was increased. Perfect! Oddly, the original recipe didn’t many anything about water temperature.
The recipe measurements were in grams, so I converted to ounces and weighed everything accordingly. I’ve included both the original measurements and my conversions:
500g bread flour (17.6 ounces)
475g water (2 cups @ 120 degrees)
2 tsp. yeast (active dry)
15g salt (.5 ounces)
The ciabatta dough is noted as being extremely sticky and gooey due to its high water content. I followed the directions as stated, with the exception of using water warmed to 120 degrees. All of the ingredients are dumped into a mixing bowl and roughly combined, then allowed to rest for 10 minutes. After the resting period, turn on the mixer and beat for 10-30 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl. This took about 10 minutes using a medium speed on my mixer. Since the dough was so moist, I used the paddle attachment on my mixer instead of the dough hook. I don’t think a dough hook will work due to the softness of the dough.
Pour (yes, pour) the ciabatta dough into a greased bowl. The dough is the consistency of stringy pudding, pardon the expression but it’s kind of ‘snot-like’ and unlike any other dough I’ve worked with. Don’t add more flour, just go along with it.
I preheated my oven to 200 degrees and then turned it off. This creates a warm environment for the dough to rise. Place the covered bowl in a warm place (i.e. my warm oven) to triple in size, about 2.5 hours. I covered the bowl with a greased piece of tin foil.
After tripling in size, use a spatula to scrape the dough from the bowl onto a heavily floured surface. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces, spray with grease and dust with flour, and allow to sit for 45 minutes. When I removed the dough from the bowl, I tried not to punch it down too much but just let it fall onto the work surface, then cut in half and separated the two pieces. I gently rubbed with a bit of olive oil before dusting with flour.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees while the dough is resting. Place 1/2 cup or so of flour onto a half sheet pan so that it has a thick coating of flour. After the dough is done resting, pick up one piece of the dough and in a single motion turn it upside down on the sheet pan while also stretching it to about 10″ in length. Even though the dough rested on a heavily floured surface, it still stuck. I didn’t have a dough scraper, so used a big cleaver to scrape the dough off the work surface and turned it upside down on the baking sheet.
The dough will look as though you’ve damaged it — fear not. Just don’t fuss with it. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Turning the dough upside down will help to redistribute the bubbles inside the dough. You want to be gentle with the dough so you don’t knock all the bubbles out of it.
Place the baking sheet onto the center rack of your 500 degree oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 205 degrees. I’ve never used a thermometer on bread before, but did so. Mine took the full 20 minutes.
I removed the bread and it looked amazing. This is where my patience falters and I become anxious to dive into what I’ve made. I let the ciabatta set for 15 minutes before slicing the first piece. The bread was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. As you can see, it had the incredible bubbles throughout the dough. The texture is chewy, just the way it should be. I am in love.
The flavor is lightly yeasty and the texture is so chewy. I’ve read that due to the quick nature of this bread that it won’t be as flavorful as one requiring a sponge created overnight. I think it’s great, but will have to try a full-length version of this bread. I can hardly wait to make a panini out of it but will save that until tomorrow. I’ve already eaten too many slices and need to slow down for today. It wouldn’t be good to eat 2 loaves of bread in one day … or would it? :-)