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BBA Bread #7: Ciabatta - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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BBA Bread #7: Ciabatta [Feb. 3rd, 2012|05:00 pm]
Zoethe
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The bread baking continues, this time an Italian bread that I've experienced in restaurants but never at home.

Ciabatta starts with a preferment, like so many other breads in this book. As always, that means that starting the day before is the better choice. Of course, I didn't manage to do that. Still, I was able to give the preferment 5 hours to do its bubbly thing. After that, more flour, salt, and liquid is added. The recipe called for water, but the side comments said that buttermilk could be used for a more tender crumb, and since I had buttermilk available I thought, what the heck?

What results from the mixing of all the ingredients is, well, a wet, sloppy mess:



For 7 minutes or so, you mix this slop in the bowl, turning the bowl clockwise as you go along, dampening your hand to keep the dough from sticking, and then turning it counter-clockwise, all the time squishing the dough to form the gluten.

5-year-olds would love this.

You then take this wet mess, plop it onto a flour-covered counter, and engage in the "lift-and-fold" method of kneading. The idea is that dough too wet to be kneaded can be scooped, stretched, then folded in on itself. This dough was very wet, and the directions weren't really clear enough on how many times, or for how long. So I did it for...a while? The dough rested for half an hour, then I had to do it again. And again, I wasn't sure for how long. I think I probably should have done it for longer, in retrospect. But either way, the dough then rises on the counter, covered, for two hours.



Once it finishes rising, the dough is divided into two pieces, each of which will be a separate bread. The breads are to be set up in a couche, a cloth divider meant to hold the loaves in shape. Generally, this is done with a length of canvas impregnated with flour and used for this sole purpose.

I don't happen to own such a length of canvas, so I had to find some other piece of smooth cloth that I could flour. The obvious choice was a pillowcase:



(Okay, for demonstration purposes I probably shouldn't have chosen a black pillowcase.)

The dough was very sticky, so I sprinkled on lots of flour. The bread rose well, but then came the next step, which was getting the loaf onto the peel so that it could then be slipped onto the hearthstone where it would bake.

I must make a confession now: I've always used parchment paper on the peel and slid the whole shebang into the oven. But Reinhart makes it clear that while certain breads can be cooked with on parchment, others should not be. And ciabatta is one of the "should not be" breads. So I sprinkled the peel with cornmeal to give it a try.



This would have been easier if the loaf was a bit less like a non-Newtonian fluid. As it was, getting my hands under the loaf was like lifting a jellyfish. Not easy. Much swearing ensued. But I finally managed to get it there:



Then there was the setup for getting it into the oven:



The kettle was to fill a broiler pan with boiling water, the mister to further mist the bread in the first part of the baking. And the towel? To cover the glass door of the oven while pouring the water into the broiler. Because at 500 degrees, even tempered glass isn't immune to cracking if water is dribbled on it.

All this, and we finally had bread:



The measure of success in ciabatta is large holes, so the proof was in the cutting:



We got some very good holes, but the crumb didn't really taste like ciabatta -- very tasty, but not quite ciabatta. But then by this morning the flavor had matured and it was very much ciabatta.Very good dipped in olive oil.

There are several variations on the ciabatta, and I will make others in the future. It's not an easy bread, but it is very tasty.

Crossposting from Dreamwidth now. Sigh. If LJ won't let you comment, you can comment here: http://zoethe.dreamwidth.org/791495.html?mode=reply:
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: teaa
2012-02-03 10:24 pm (UTC)
That looks delicious!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-02-04 01:02 am (UTC)
It is! More people should come to my house and eat bread.
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From: anonymousalex
2012-02-04 12:31 am (UTC)
It sure looks like ciabatta, so much that I can almost taste it.

-Alex
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-02-04 01:02 am (UTC)
It was almost too soft and sweet at first, but it's yummy now!
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2012-02-04 01:21 am (UTC)
That's one of the few breads I can make. I stuck the recipe that worked on pinterest. Yours looks so YUMMY.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-02-04 02:06 am (UTC)
I fear pinterest. I might never escape if I went in.
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2012-02-04 02:14 am (UTC)
It's where I keep all my online recipes, mostly. So when it is time for dinner/shopping, I pop on there for something different. "Oooh what did I pin to try later on" and then I put notes. Never do again, more salt, less spinach, whatever.

It can be very very addictive.
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[User Picture]From: jfargo
2012-02-04 02:15 am (UTC)
That looks absolutely fantastic! I'll have to coerce you into baking me a loaf of bread next time I'm in town.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-02-04 03:10 am (UTC)
I will happily bake bread for you!
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[User Picture]From: kibbles
2012-02-04 02:15 am (UTC)
And my fave thing with cibiatta? Anything with roasted red peppers OR just plain butter. But a good butter, like a cultured butter or that Danish stuff or whatever. Not too cold so it has a really pure buttery TASTE. The holes just hold it so well...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-02-04 03:11 am (UTC)
I imagine that thickly slathered butter would be great!
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[User Picture]From: leeann_marie
2012-02-04 02:49 am (UTC)
Mmm, look at those holes! That looks so beautiful!

Another method for steaming is to throw ice cubes into the broiling pan instead of hot water -- that way the oven door is safely closed by the time it's really steamy, and the whole process is a lot less stressful. Rose Levy Beranbaum recommends that in The Bread Bible and I've found it to be a good way to go!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2012-02-04 03:12 am (UTC)
I will try that. Thanks!
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