Friday, June 12, 2009

Bread Baker's Apprentice: Ciabatta

Moving right along with the BBA challenge (my carb-hungry household needs bread), I made ciabatta the other night. I had made ciabatta at least once before, using Daniel Leader's method, with middling results. In the BBA book, there are two versions, poolish and biga. Both are pre-ferments, with different proportions and methods, but according to Reinhardt, create similar results. The poolish fermented for a few hours in the open air, then hung out in the refrigerator for a few days until I was ready to make dough.

Ciabatta is one of those breads that most cookbook writers advise making in a mixer, because it should be as wet as possible, and is hard to handle. My mixer can't even begin to handle bread dough, so that was out. Instead, I used a new method, suggested by Reinhardt, that involved using my hands as if they were a mixer--squeezing with one and rotating the bowl with the other. It was messy, and I feared for my ceramic bowl on my faux-marble countertop, but it was successful.The dough is then stretched and folded up, and left to rest for a while. After that, it is cut, folded again, and put to proof in an improvised couche.
At this point, I slipped the dough into the refrigerator and went to dinner. When I came back, I gave it a little time to warm up, then dimpled and stretched it as advised, and baked.
It came out beautiful, if a little wiggly, but I wasn't entirely satisfied with the inner crumb. Ciabatta is supposed to be almost non-existant inside, full of huge, glossy holes, and mine achieved more the texture of soft flatbread. I think this was due to all the temperature fluctuations, possibly also to my failure to stretch it out enough, and definitely to the lower hydration caused by using a cup of whole wheat flour (although I did add a lot of extra water to balance).

Has anyone else doing the BBA project noticed that they are routinely adding more water than Reinhardt suggests, even after compensating for flour substitutions? I wonder if I just have really dehydrated flour.

When I took this loaf out of the oven, Sophie said, 'Oh, it looks like Batman.'


Susie said...

Ok I have to confess I'm afraid to make the Ciabatta. I'm a flour adder big time and especially since I started with the BBA book. I "SHOULD" start weighing into scooping the flour and see how it goes.
I got by the dough feel.
You did great. Wish I could see the inside.

Arundathi said...

would love to have seen an inside shot. it looks lovely though.

Cindy Feingold said...

Love your "Batman" cibatta! Very artisnal.

misterrios said...

Awesome Batman shape!

I am actually adding more flour on occasion, but just about 100g or so. But then, I have an Electrolux DLX, so I really can't adjust the water, and I am also baking with German flour, so that changes stuff a bit.

Katya said...

Sorry about the lack of interior shot. I was embarrassed, and now I've been away from my computer for a few days, and so can't load photos. Suffice it to say I've seen much better on the BBA bakers blogroll.