Sunday, October 4, 2009


I already made a post about kalamata olive ciabatta, but I don't think I really made it properly that time. I used bread flour instead of all-purpose, and I added too much flour when kneading the dough. This really makes it a different kind of bread.

Today I attempted ciabatta because I borrowed my friend Rachel's beautiful Kitchen Aid with dough hook attachment. This allowed me to really knead the dough without adding more flour, which is really hard to do by hand.

I've attempted to make this recipe many times and it never works out. The dough is always too wet. When I'm done kneading the dough doesn't look like the picture in the magazine and it is impossible to fold over like they ask you to. This time it worked, I think because I kneaded for longer and got a silky dough before rising. Yes... I think that is the trick...


For the Biga
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup water, at room temperature

For the Dough
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp table salt
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature

1. FOR THE BIGA: Combine flour, yeast, and water in medium bowl and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms, about 1 miut. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (about 70 F) overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).

2. FOR THE DOUGH: Place biga and dough ingredients in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed until roughly combined and shaggy dough forms, about 1 minute; scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. Continue mixing on medium-low speed until dough becomes uniform mass that collects on paddle and pulls away from the sides of bowl, 4 to 6 minutes. Change to dough hook and knead bread on medium speed until smooth and shiny (dough will be very sticky), about 10 minutes.

This is the part I had done wrong before. You really have to knead it on the machine for about 10 minutes until you get a silky dough that collects on the hook.

Transfer dough to large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

3. Spray rubber spatula or bowl scraper with non-stick cooking spray; fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough six more times (total of eight turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 30 minutes. Repeat folding, replace plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 450 F at least 30 minutes before baking.

4. Cut two 12- by 6-inch pieces of parchment paper and liberally dust with flour. Transfer dough to liberally floured counter, being careful not to deflate completely. Divide dough in two with a bench scraper. Press each half into rough 12- by 6-inch rectangles. Shape each dough half like a business letter into 7- by 14-inch loaf and let rest 30 minutes. Gently transfer each loaf seam-side down to parchment sheets, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let loaves sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (surfaces of loaves will develop small bubbles).

5. Slide parchment with loaves onto inverted rimmed backing sheet or pizza peel. Using flour on fingertips, evenly poke entire surface of each loaf to form a 10- by 16-inch rectangle; spray loaves lightly with water.

My advice here is that you sprinkle some cornmeal on the hot, preheated baking sheet, and flip the risen loaves directly onto the sheet. Put them in the oven, toss a cup of water in the oven (just the water) and close it quickly. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. This picture shows the two options: when you flip the bread over before baking it (left), and when you don't (right). I like the left one, personally. This is what they recommend:

Omit this if you took my advice: Carefully slide parchment with loaves onto baking stone using jerking motion. Bake spraying loaves with water twice more during first minutes of baking time, until crust is deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted in centers of loaves registers 210 F, about 20 minutes.

Transfer to wire rack, discard parchment and cool loaves to room temperature, about 1 hour before slicing and serving. This will help the crust solidify properly.

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

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