RSS

Bread Baking Basics: Ciabatta!

20 Feb
Bread Baking Basics: Ciabatta!

I absolutely love a ciabatta loaf. It has a great open and airy crumb, perfect chewy texture, and a thin and crispy crust. It’s a perfect dinner or soup bread. Not really meant for making sandwiches or slicing for toast. It’s definitely a grab-a-hunk-and-stuff-it-in-your-mouth kind of bread.

And it’s incredibly simple to make at home. Ciabatta, by nature, is a very wet dough, which is why it has that revered open crumb. The hydration for ciabatta ranges from 75% to 80%, though I’ve seen some crazy people use 85% hydration. It is almost impossible to fully develop the gluten, especially in a home kitchenaid style mixer. Our countertop mixers, although versatile and fantastic, just aren’t optimized for bread mixing, and this is an example where that shows. A stiff preferment is necessary to help out with developing the gluten structure.

This dough benefits from extra folding. Which is good, because it also benefits from an extra hour of bulk fermentation. Ciabatta is such a simple bread to make, that it even skips some of the twelve steps of baking. It goes straight from the dividing step into the final proof, eliminating the pre-shape, bench rest, and final shape, as this rustic loaf is ready to rise as is.

This particular ciabatta recipe adds a small amount of whole wheat flour, which helps give it just a bit of extra complexity in the flavor, as well as a small amount of texture in the crumb. I stole the idea from a bakery I used to work at. Actually, this is pretty much the exact formulation. That being said, even with their formulation, it is virtually impossible to get a home ciabatta to match the magnificence of theirs, simply due to the lack of the right equipment.

For most of my bread making, I use King Arthur’s all-purpose flour. However, because of the hydration level of this dough, I would recommend stepping it up and getting their bread flour, which is a good and strong flour for this kind of application. In my bake, I had to settle for Gold Medal’s bread flour because the commissary didn’t have King Arthur’s. The result, while still a very nice loaf, was a flatter loaf that I was hoping for. Either way, I’m gonna devour the hell out of it.

So, here you will see one of my exceptions for autolysing. Technically speaking, only the water and flour should be combined. However, because of the limited capabilities of a home stand mixer, I always add my pre-ferment in with the autolyse. The reason I do this is because it can sometimes be difficult to add the pre-ferment after the initial incorporation, resulting in more time spent trying the mix it in. This negates the whole reason for an autolyse in the first place. In most cases, the yeast activity in a pre-ferment is minimal, as it has already reached peak activity, so it won’t affect the dough while it rests.

When the ciabiatta is in its final proof stage, I utilize the couche method for keeping its shape. Although a true couche is made from a type of linen, I easily achieve the same result by taking a large, thin dish towel and tossing it around in a bowl of flour. This gets the flour in the fibers of the cloth so that the ciabatta dough won’t stick to it. Just make sure to shake it off outside when you’re finished before you try to throw it in the washer ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ciabatta

Makes one loaf of bread

Baker’s Formula:

here comes the formula

Total Dough Pre-Ferment Final Dough
Ingredient % Weight (lbs) % Weight (lbs) Weight (lbs)
Total Flour 100 1.33 0.70
Bread Flour 95 1.07 100 .43 0.64
Whole Wheat 5 0.06 0.06
Water 74 0.84 65 .28 0.56
Salt 2 0.02 0.02
Yeast 1 0.01 0.01
Pre-ferment 0.71
Total 177% 2 lbs 165% .71 2 lbs

For the Pre-ferment

Ingredients:

  • 6.87 ounces of bread flour
  • 4.47 ounces of water
  • small pinch of yeast

Directions:

  1. Combine the ingredients thoroughly.
  2. Store in a sealed container big enough for the pre-ferment to double for 8 to 12 hours

The amount of flavor that develops in the bread is kind of mind boggling

For Ciabatta

Ingredients:

  • 11.21 ounces of bread flour
  • 0.90 ounces of whole wheat flour
  • 8.91 ounces of water
  • 10.25 grams of salt
  • 5.13 grams of active dry yeast
  • All of the pre-ferment

Directions:

  1. Scale the ingredients.

    Scale your ingredients

    Scale your ingredients

  2. Activate the yeast by combining it with a small splash of the scaled out water and swirling it around. Set it aside.

    Activate the yeast

    Activate the yeast

  3. Combine the water, pre-ferment, bread flour and whole wheat flour in the bowl of a kitchenaid style mixer. Mix on speed one to fully incorporate. Autolyse the mixture for 20 minutes.

    Water, pre-ferment, and flour

    Water, pre-ferment, and flour

  4. Add the yeast and salt. Mix on speed one to fully incorporate.

    After the autolyse, add the salt and yeast paste

    After the autolyse, add the salt and yeast paste

  5. Set the mixer speed to two or three and mix to develop for about 4 more minutes. The dough will pull completely away from the bowl while mixing and will start to slap against the sides.

    Still developing

    Still developing

  6. Transfer the dough to a large, clean bowl. Don’t oil or flour the bowl. When working with this dough, make sure that any tools (bowl scrapers, spatulas) are a little wet, as well as your hands, otherwise the dough will stick to you and anything it touches. Cover the bowl with a plastic grocery bag, but don’t let the bag touch the dough.

    Transfer to a bowl

    Transfer to a bowl

  7. This is going to bulk ferment for three hours total. So set the timer for an hour, to start.
  8. Once the timer goes off, remove the bag that is covering the bowl. Flour the dough in the bowl and use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape down the sides. Flip the bowl over and carefully remove the dough from the bowl, minimizing any tearing.

    After first hour of fermentation

    After first hour of fermentation

  9. You know the drill, perform the standard folding procedure, brushing away excess flour as you go. Place the dough, folded side down. Bulk ferment for another hour.

    Fold and place back into the bowl

    Fold and place back into the bowl

  10. Do the same as above and fold it for a second time. Ferment for a third hour.

    Folded again

    Folded again

  11. After the third hour, flour the top again, but a little more heavily than before. Again, very carefully plop it out on the counter. Don’t fold it!

    Be very careful with this dough, it is fragile!

    Be very careful with this dough, it is fragile!

  12. Now, you have a choice. This beautiful round can be your shape, if you want it that way. I, however, decided to very carefullyelongate my round a bit, and then trimmed the sides to get more of a rectangular shape. It’s completely up to you. Whichever you choose, however, this is your final shape. No pre-shaping. No bench rest. Do not pass go or collect $200.

    I trimmed off my ends

    I trimmed off my ends

  13. Now, very carefully move your dough to the improvised couche that you no doubt read how to make make from above. Sprinkle extra flour on the couche beforehand if you think you need to.
    My dish towel "couche"

    My dish towel "couche"

    Fold the sides up against the dough. If desired, use cereal or cracker boxes to keep the dough from flattening out too much as it proofs.

    The couche and boxes help keep it's shape

    The couche and boxes help keep it's shape

  14. This is a good time to pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F, as it will take at least 45 minutes to get a rise out of the dough. Ciabatta is a hard dough to gauge. Feel it before you start proofing. Go from there and touch it occasionally to check the progress. Use your best judgment, and err on the side of under proofed rather than over proofed, if you must.
  15. Another good tool to have, that I haven’t mentioned, is a “bread board”, for lack of better terminology. This is essentially a long, thin board used for picking up delicate proofed bread and moving it to a peel or other means of placing it in the oven. I donโ€™t have one. I made one by cutting out a rectangular piece of a Papa John’s pizza box. Open up the couche and hold the board next to the dough. By holding the couche on the other side, lift the dough onto the bread board very carefully. Move the dough and roll it onto a floured pizza peel.

    My Papa John impromptu bread board. I'm keeping it ;)

    My Papa John impromptu bread board. I'm keeping it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. Slide the dough onto your bread stone in the oven. Spray the hell out of the oven with your water bottle and set a timer for three minutes. Spray the oven again when the timer goes off.
  17. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the crust is a beautiful golden color.
  18. Remove, cool, store, eat, etc. They say you can hear a perfectly baked loaf of bread crackle after it’s been taken from the oven.
Final baked loaf!

Final baked loaf!

Hey, look! You have another awesome loaf of bread!

Appreciate it. Cut it open. Look at the crumb. Smell it. Place it against your tongue. Chew it. Now, that’s a nice bread!

Oh, and if you’re like me and cut off the ends to make the dough rectangular, you probably baked those little end pieces while you were waiting for your dough to rise. Also delicious ๐Ÿ˜‰

The dough scraps are tasty, too

The dough scraps are tasty, too

When at the stage where you must transfer the ciabatta loaf from the couche to the oven peel to the stone in the oven, it is crucial to work quickly and gently. If you’re too rough or you take your time, it is easy to traumatize the dough and the air will escape, resulting in a flatter loaf. This is the reason why I don’t have any pictures detailing this particular process.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Baking, Bread, Food

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: