Thursday, October 15, 2009

Recipe for Ciabatta Bread

I promised to post this recipe last week and never got there so here it is.  You really do need a mixer for this one.  It can be done by hand but it is tough to do (this can be translated into much work and be ready for blisters).  Be aware that the temperature used and the baking time is approximate.  With the oven I am currently using at home I leave it at the prescribed temperature for approximately 12 minutes or so.  Then I have to open the door and cool the oven down some and allow the bread to finish cooking.  Use the color of the loaf and how fast it got that color to determine whether and when to turn your oven down and the heaviness/lightness of the loaf to determine when it is done.

I usually cut the loaves into three portions and freeze them, it freezes quite well.  Reheat, thawed, at 350 degrees for 4 - 5 minutes.  This bread is great by itself, with butter or cheese and makes a great sandwich.  It has great mouth feel and does not dissolve into nothingness. 

Yield: 2 (19.6 oz) loaves

2.3 oz              Water, room temp
0.1 oz              Instant yeast
3.5 oz              Bread flour

5.9 oz              Biga
15 oz               water, room temperature
0.4 oz              instant yeast
17.6 oz                        bread flour
0.4 oz              kosher salt

For the Biga:

9 – 17 hours before you want to bake, prepare the biga.
Add the dry ingredients to the water in a small bowl and stir to combine into a rough dough.
Scrape out the dough and knead on a lightly dusted surface for 1 – 2 minutes to get it somewhat smooth.
Oil mixing bowl lightly and put dough back in, turning to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap and set at room temp for 1 hour.
Refrigerate until ready to make dough.

For the dough:
Use an electric mixer with paddle or hook.
Take the biga and mix with water to soften and break into clumps.
Add the yeast, and salt.
Mix to dissolve.
Change to dough hook.
Add the bread flour and mix on medium speed for 13 – 15 minutes.  (Medium high with a kitchen aid, speed # 8, do not let it walk off the counter)
Dough will climb up hook and not clear sides.  Periodically stop the machine and scrape the dough down.
Turn machine to high (kitchen aid to 10) and knead until the dough starts to clean the side of the bowl and collect around the hook.  It will be glistening, creamy and extremely elastic.

Ferment in oiled container for 3 – 4 hours until triple in size.
Prepare ½  sheet pans by covering with parchment and making a pleat down the middle of the paper.  Dust the paper well with flour.
Turn out dough and divide in to two equal pieces.
Pick up one piece of dough holding one end in each hand and in one fluid motion transfer to the parchment lined pan.
Repeat with the second piece with the pleat dividing the two loaves.
Dimple the tops of the loaves with your fingers.
Dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap.
Proof for 30 – 40 minutes until you see bubbles under the surface of the bread.

Preheat oven to 475° one hour before baking, placing a pan for ice on the bottom of the oven.
When ready to bake, pull parchment so it lays flat.
Bake bread on the middle rack.
Add ½ cup – 1 cup of ice cubes to the hot pan on the bottom of the oven.
Bake 25 – 35 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack at room temperature before cutting.

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