Ciabatta


Yesterday, I was part of a fantastic class.  Artisinal breads.  7 breads in 6 hours.  It’s usually one I dread just a little, despite my bread obsession. It’s long.  There’s a lot to do before lunch break.  Hungry students can get cranky.  Patience strains.  Attention wanes.

But yesterday we had 4 great students, all very interested in learning about the process. They followed instruction, asked intelligent questions, and gosh darn it, they were just nice people.  I liked them.  It struck me, as it always does after such classes, that it’s not just content that matters.  People matter more.  We each have the ability to make someone’s day or make someone miserable.  How lucky I was yesterday to encounter such a lovely group, and receive a reminder that it’s my responsibility to carry my joy, enthusiasm, humility, and care with me into each day.  It makes more difference than I sometimes allow myself to remember.  Here’s the blogpost one of our students wrote about the experience http://www.feltlikeafoodie.com/?p=412.  I rarely feel so energized and delighted as I did last night returning home.

This doesn’t mean I had the energy to cook after 11 hours away from home.  It did mean that I had some leftover ciabatta.

I’m on a freezer challenge – more on that in my next post – so I could not purchase anything new to put on the ciabatta.  I had to find something in the confines of my own fridge/freezer.  Hello, chili.

Ciabatta Recipe – from professional Baking, 5th edition
*scale is preferred but I will put cup estimates next to measurements*
makes 3 1lb loaves

Sponge

1 lb 1 oz warm water (2 cups 1 oz)
1 oz fresh yeast** (2 tablespoons) or 1 1/2 tablespoon dry active
1 lb bread flour (3 1/4 cups)
6 oz olive oil (3/4 cup)

Dough

1/2 oz fine salt (1 tablespoon)
8 oz bread flour (1 1/2 cups)

Sponge:

The water should be warm without hot.  Think baby bottle. Add the yeast to the water and stir until dissolved.  Add flour and oil.  Mix well to form a dough, and beat well for about 5 minutes until the sponge begins to be smooth. Cover and let proof until doubled in size, about an hour.

Dough:

Stir the starter and then add flour.  Sprinkle the salt on top of the flour.  Stir (I used my hands) for 5 minutes, until the dough is completely smooth.  It will be colossally sticky. That is what you want.  High water content in bread result in a gorgeous large open structure inside.  Like this.

Cover dough and allow to proof until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

It’s now important to handle the dough as little as you can. Flour your counter and some sheet pans liberally.  Turn dough out of the bowl onto the counter, using a spatula to release it, if necessary. Divide the dough in thirds.  Just approximate, it’s a rustic bread.   Place each section of dough onto a sheet pan and stretch the dough slightly into rough rectangles.  Don’t pat. You don’t want the flour to absorb into the bread.  It’s just there to prevent sticking. Don’t pull very hard, or you will deflate your dough.  Cover top completely in flour.  Do not press in. Cover with a dry towel and let rise another hour, or until the top coating of flour starts to crack.  They will still look pretty flat.  They will puff in the oven, but it is a flatter bread.

Bake at 425 about 30 minutes or until the spaces between the flour look golden.  Don’t judge by the flour coating.  Once the bread is cooled, brush off the excess flour.

Freezes well. Makes insanely good sandwiches.

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