I have debated sharing this or not.
I should preface this by saying I am NOT a bread baker. That has strictly been Nathan’s realm. I tackled and love the easy artisan bread that requires no kneeding or really any skill. And some hamburger buns. But that’s IT.
Somehow last weekend I got a wild hair and decided that making ciabatta sounded like fun. Well, it was fun but it was ALOT of work. I didn’t notice that much because it was lots of little short steps sprinkled throughout the day but by the time it was done I felt like I had been working on it for four years.
It was incredibly delicious. I found some short cuts, made a couple of “no way am I going through all that” modifications, and they still turned out lovely. Not the big huge holes in the dough I was hoping for but they were tender, a bit chewy, and certainly nice and crispy.
Instead of making loaves I made mine in to little buns which we used for hamburgers that night. My brother-in-law didn’t realize I had made the bread and, when I informed him that I had in fact slaved away all day, he said he has just assumed it came from the store.
So here you go. Tread with caution as this is a monster. Leave me comments if it is completely screwy should you attempt it.
Ciabatta Bread (makes 12 rolls or 2 large loaves)
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Day 1- Make poolish
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (11.25 oz)
1 1/2 cups room temp water
1/4 tsp instant yeast
Stir together all the ingredients in a bowl till well mixed. The dough should be soft and sticky like thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 3-4 hours till bubbly and foamy. Refrigerate up to three days.
Day 2- Make the bread
1 poolish (see above)
3 cups unbleached bread flour (13.5 oz)
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
6 tablespoons to 3/4 cup water
Remove the poolish from the fridge 1 hour before making the bread.
Stir together the flour salt and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of water. Mix on low speed till the ingredients make a sticky ball. Add water as necessary. You want the dough to clear the sides of the bowl but not necessarily the bottom. Mix with the paddle attachment till well mixed then switch to the dough hook for 5-7 minutes of kneading. The dough should still be soft and sticky.
Sprinkle the counter generously with flour and scrape out the sticky dough onto it. Pat the dough into a rectangle. Let it rest for two minutes. Gently stretch both sides of the rectangle out till the dough is double the size. Fold the dough over itself in thirds, like a letter, returning it to the original rectangular shape. Mist with spray oil, sprinkle with flour, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest on the counter for 30 minutes. Repeat stretch and fold, re mist, sprinkle, and cover and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It will swell but not necessarily double in size.
Find a tea towel and mist with oil then sprinkle liberally with flour and rub it in (this is called setting up a couche). Gently remove the plastic wrap and cup the dough with a pastry cutter into either two loaves or smaller rolls. Be careful to not degass it by handling it too much. Gently lift each piece, lay on the floured cloth, then bunch the cloth between the rolls to create little walls. Cover with a towel. Proof for 45-60 minutes.
Meanwhile place your pizza stone in the oven on the bottom rack and a heavy duty baking pan on the top rack. Preheat oven to 500 F or as hot as your oven will go. Gently transfer the dough to the pizza stone (I did this by hand but you can use a well floured pizza peel) either six rolls at a time or one loaf at a time. Before shutting the oven door carefully (don’t get water on your oven door or stone as they might crack) pour 2-3 cups of water in the baking pan. Shut the door quickly. Bake for 10-15 minutes or to an internal temp of 205 F. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Allow to cool for 45 minutes before slicing.
Enjoy. Cause that was a ton of work.