Ciabatta

I’ve never really been that into baking.  Maybe it’s the dependence upon some other organism and the relative slow pace at which it does its thing.

Sure, I’ve baked bread in the past, the occasional baguette, some brioche, but not consistently and not enough to where I don’t have to be glued to a recipe.

Last week I was invited to my friend’s house who had baked two loaves of ciabatta that day, apparently inspired by Michael Ruhlman’s mission to get people to bake more bread.  Someone later in the evening said that if they stayed home they’d bake tons of bread.  Which all got me to thinking:  I stay home, why don’t I bake a lot of bread and at least become mildly proficient in something I currently don’t know a lot about?

It turns out that baking bread is the perfect thing for a stay-at-home parent to do.  There’s a lot of down time in the process.  Plus Nate loves bread, loves helping, and it’s far easier to have him help me when knives (and for the most part heat) aren’t involved.  Not to mention it’s cheap – some flour, yeast and water aren’t the most expensive ingredients.

Fortunately I’ve got Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, so I decided I’ll do my best over time to make every recipe in it.

I decided to start with ciabatta for obvious reasons.

To begin I made my pre-ferment, I chose to make poolish over biga the day before and stored it in the fridge overnight.  If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what the fuck poolish and biga are.  All I can say is that they are two different types of pre-ferments, the poolish variety dating back to Polish bakers and the biga variety having an Italian ancestry.  One has more water than the other, and biga has salt whereas poolish does not.

Poolish after a night in the fridge

Anyway.  My house is kind of cold, probably colder than yeast would like to work in, so my poolish took longer to get going than it should have.

As for the final product, two things went mildly wrong, even though I still ended up with some tasty bread. 

The first is that I’m pretty sure my dough wasn’t slack enough, which I’m assuming is due to the complete absence of humidity in the atmosphere.  Maybe another quarter to half cup of water would have helped me out, and upon further reading and investigation, Reinhart even recommends adding more liquid as you feel more comfortable working with slack doughs.

Ciabatta

The other problem occurred in shaping the dough the way Reinhart says to.  Not that it’s a huge issue when it comes to a pretty rustic bread, but mine was perhaps more rustic in appearance than I’d have liked.

At any rate I ended up with two tasty loaves of bread that we’ve been enjoying for a couple of days now.

I’m not sure what I’m going to make next, though I might just make another couple of loaves of ciabatta to see if I can improve upon what I did this week.  If I do I’ll be certain to use more water and maybe even add some milk to it.    But even if I make something else it will probably still be something rustic and hearty to go with some braises or stews seeing as it’s supposed to be cold for the next several days.

Nate enjoying some ciabatta

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3 thoughts on “Ciabatta

  1. Pingback: The next logical step: ciabatta rolls « Red Devil in the Kitchen

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