Ciabatta bread is a rustic Italian bread with a moist textured crumb and crackly crust. I will start my bread with a pre-fermented dough called Biga. Peter Reinhart author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice explains in great detail the art of bread making as well as the different versions of fermentation. Denise and I recently attended the Decatur Book Festival where Peter Reinhart was a speaker. We’ve enjoyed The Bread Baker’s Apprentice book for years. It was so exciting listening to him share his love of bread making and the beautiful bread designs in the book are amazing. About ten years ago I made my first starter and have been intrigued and mystified by the artistry of bread making ever since.
Prep: 6 – 8 hours Cook: 15 minutes Yield: 1 large loaf Difficulty: moderate
Ingredients for Biga:
2 1/2 cups of flour ( I used King Arthur all purpose wheat bread flour)
3 /4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of water
1/2 teaspoon of yeast ( I used Active Dry yeast)
Instructions for Biga:
Add yeast to 2 tablespoons of warm water ( about 100° to 110° F) until soaked then combine yeast, flour and remaining water in bowl and stir with a whisk or use the paddle attachment on low speed. Next, knead dough on a lightly floured counter for 4 to 6 minutes (can use a food processor with the dough hook on medium speed for 4 minutes) until dough is soft and pliable not sticky, lightly add flour if needed. Internal temperature of dough should be 77° to 81° F. Lightly oil bowl and roll dough in bowl then cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 2 to 4 hours or until doubled in size. Knead dough lightly to degas then divide into numerous medium size balls. Dough can be refrigerated overnight or place in an airtight freezer bag up to 3 months.
Ingredients for Ciabatta:
3 balls of biga
3 cups of King Arthur all purpose wheat bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
1/4 cup of water ( I used buttermilk / may also add additional tablespoons of water if needed)
Instructions for Ciabatta:
Combine flour, yeast, salt and buttermilk with a large wooden spoon ( electric mixer can be used) then add 2 to 3 balls of biga with additional water (if needed). At this point I used my hands to knead the dough for 5 to 7 minutes. This allows me to distribute the ingredients evenly and determine when the dough is smooth and the gluten is developed. Gluten gives dough elasticity, produces that chewy texture we all love and causes dough to rise.Your dough should clear from the sides of the bowl and be soft and sticky. If dough is too sticky lightly add flour.
Use a floured rolling pin and roll dough on a lightly floured counter and shape into a rectangle. Proceed with a stretch and fold pattern similar to an envelop. Using a pastry scraper dipped lightly in flour lift dough from the end corners ( furthest from you) and fold dough mid way of rectangle. Then pull dough from the top corners (closest to you) and fold over rested dough. Lightly spray with oil and dust with flour then loosely cover with plastic wrap allowing dough to rest for 30 minutes. Then repeat the stretch and fold pattern and place dough in a large bowl covered with plastic wrap ( I used a medium size plastic cap) to allow fermentation for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
The ability required to make good bread is really not difficult but it does require patience and time. You will be speechless when you pull your loaf of bread out of the oven and see the beautiful golden brown crust and honeycombed shaped holes that gives it that light soft texture and great taste, believe me you will be so proud to share this moment your family and friends.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart author of: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.
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