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The Best Ciabatta I've Ever Had!

Jan 1, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

SHERRY QUESTION

Feedback: I heard you have the best ciabatta bread recipe to be had but I can't find it, can you help? Thanks either way.

ROSE REPLY

thanks for asking--it will be on the blog by wed. night. i'm waiting to get back to my home computer to retrieve the photo to go along with it!

P.S. Just realized you wrote ciabatta. and it's a focaccia that i've posted! i do have a terrific ciabatta i worked very hard on in my "bread bible" on page 355.

Comments

yuki--i'm so glad it came out well for you as i adore this bread.

the written instructions are correct. i suspect the food stylist dimpled it again after inverting it but that wouldn't hurt either.

REPLY

Hi Rose,

I tried your ciabatta recipe and it came out great, but I have one question. Your recipe says to dimple and invert the dough to a baking sheet before the final fermentation. However, the ready-to-bake ciabatta picture in "the bread bible" p.354 seems to have been dimpled and not yet inverted AFTER the final fermentation. Which is correct? Thank you!

REPLY

wade, thank you for your lovely note. the key to the large holes is the high degree of water--i hope you are weighing the ingredients and that way you'll be sure you're using the right amount. also you need to be very gently with the shaping and finally, the dimpling is key to pushing together the holes to coalesce and form larger holes.

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Ms. Berenbaum,

I bought the Bread Bible for its sourdough recipes and techiques. I have been working on perfecting sourdough for about 2 years. Then I got a Kitchenaid 620 for Christmas, and decided to try your Ciabatta recipe today. First time out, my wife declared it a success. Crispy crust, wide open crumb. I wanted big holes, but they came out smaller and more uniform than you show in the book. So, I will keep trying.

Anyway, wanted you to know that I think your book is one of the best out there. Thanks for writing it.

Wade

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Ciabatta is one of those mystery breads that is incredible easy to do at home in Italy (with Italian flour, water, never wet, never spongy) and a bit of a challenge in the USA (too wet, hard to deal with). I don't think there is much more to say as what Rose has written on Bread Bible, try follow exactly the recipe, the recommended type of flour, etc.

REPLY

To The Ever Generous Rose,

I made your Ciabtta yestday.. Hello! YUM! peanut butter and strawberry jam at 11:30pm.. HEAVEN!

Two Questions Please:
1- why don't to give your dough the 20 min rest you do in other recipes? Wouldnt the moisture being soaked up my the flour make it easier to knead requiring less mixing time - hense less oxidation?

2- Sadly my dough was so wet it didnt have the strength to grow upward when in the final proofing - shold I cut back on the water? Should have used a cloth and floded up the sides?

A Thankful Student
Charlie

REPLY

hi beth! i love maggie glezer and her recipes so it's absolutely fine to post about them. i've never made her ciabatta so now i'm inclined to do so!

i know eactly how you feel about restaurant bread. here in ny many restaurants have either amy's bread of tom cat, both of which are fantastic. restaurant daniel still has the magnificent mark fiorentino as bread baker and restaurant gilt has david carmichael who is a brilliant bread baker and pastry chef. but it's relatively rare to find a restaurant that bakes its own bread.
we are spoiled to be able to do it ourselves.

REPLY

It's odd posting here and reading my old emails. Soon I'll be back for some months in rented apartments with only a bowl and a spoon, experimenting with bread dough; it's helpful to read exactly what I did last summer!

But this time, I'm writing in about a new ciabatta recipe that I tried. I hope that's OK, Rose!!!! It's Ponsford's ciabatta recipe that's in Maggie Glezers Artisan Bread book (you can also read about it and see the recipe on thefreshloaf.com; I already owned the book). Anyway, it's a recipe that has a very different kind of biga, one that is unsimilar to any I've used before. It uses a minimal amount of rye and whole wheat flours, but most importantly, it uses almost no yeast. One lets the biga sit for 24 hours, and mine didn't look all that different than it did in the beginning, in the sense that it wasn't liquidy or bubbly. It makes a wonderful loaf. It worked great, even though I didn't seem to get much "tension" after my folding sessions. Luckily, it's quite forgiving. I made it for a potluck, and it was gobbled up (helped by the fact that the host did not have dinner ready until 2 hours after I had arrived with the bread).

I just want to add that my addiction to bread baking has led to new disappointments when eating bread at supposedly good restaurants. We just returned from a meeting, so I had occasion to eat at Panera's for the first time, as well as 3 good restaurants. Actually, the bread at Panera was probably better than the bread at the restaurants. I wish the managers at upscale restaurants realized that eating bread can be a sensual experience just as pleasurable as sampling a complex, well thought-out appetizer or entree. Sometimes I feel that restaurants are simply clueless about bread!

Happy baking. Beth

REPLY

Does anyone know if it's okay to refrigerate the ciabatta dough after step #3 in the BB? If so, would I take it out an hour before starting step #4 in the morning? This will be my first time to make it. Thanks!

REPLY

Does anyone know if it's okay to refrigerate the ciabatta dough after step #3 in the BB? If so, would I take it out an hour before starting step #4 in the morning? This will be my first time to make it. Thanks!

REPLY

Oh Beth, and you will notice that the flours from Italy, 0 or 00 never gives you a sticky bread. THAT is something I haven't been able to replicate in the USA even when carefully measuring amount of liquid, etc.

I was told that Italy treasures their wheat seed with pride. They are banned to importing any form of wheat that can contaminate genetically their crops. GMO on wheat is banned in Italy, too. Crops have been reported to have been incinerated when GMO or foreign seeds are detected.

REPLY

Beth, happy bread baking, and YES the best artisan bread comes form a no equipment kitchen!

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I just wanted to thank Rose again for encouraging me to experiment with my "no equipment" kitchen, i.e., making Italian bread with a bowl and a spoon. I found a market that had farina di grano duro (semolina flour), and made two loaves mixing that and the "manitoba" flour type 0. The one I was brave enough to make for company on Sunday turned out wonderfully. It was a very loose dough, so I played with it a little bit, but didn't do much else. I'll be making one more loaf (at my husband's request) for some other company. I hope it will succeed, and also hope we won't get a sudden heat wave. Most years I would not even think of turning on the oven. By the way, I made some "5-minute artisan dough" last week on Monday, and added a little to Sunday's loaf. I hope it will be OK to still use it on Thursday, again putting a little into the final dough. I made the "5-minute artisan" loaf on day 3 and day five of the dough mixture. Still couldn't hold a candle to my other loafs with the sponge and flour blanket.

Beth

REPLY

I second Rose's "Brava!" I'm so impressed at what you have accomplished with such minimal eqipment.

Sounds like you are really getting a feel for how the bread wants to work. My husband has that, too -- when he makes his two "standard" bread recipes he measures the yeast with a measuring spoon and the water with a measuring cup, but everything else is done by eye. They turn out a little different each time, but always delicious!

REPLY

Just an update. I made another bread today, and it turned out even better. Again, just eyeballing everything as there is no scale and no measuring spoons. I followed Rose's suggestions as to the sponge posted yesterday in that I put much less in at the beginning and added more later on(I wasn't measuring yeast anyway, and have a feeling both days I've used much less than normal). No baking stone, and no ice cubes in the oven. I did a sponge for about 5 hours, then came home for lunch and moved the wet dough around a few times. Came back an hour-and-a-half later and formed it into a loose shape. The reason I'm telling all this is that it is wonderful to know that bread "wants" to work. Of course, if I had never made "artisanal" bread before, things would have been hopeless. The thing is, I'm far from "advanced," but made a wonderful mini-loaf today that equals or surpasses what I'm having in the typical bakeries here.Oh, I did add the old dough at the end, but forgot to save any for the next loaf, as I was hurrying to get back to work.
Happy baking, everyone!

Beth

REPLY

Just an update. I made another bread today, and it turned out even better. Again, just eyeballing everything as there is no scale and no measuring spoons. I followed Rose's suggestions as to the sponge posted yesterday in that I put much less in at the beginning and added more later on(I wasn't measuring yeast anyway, and have a feeling both days I've used much less than normal). No baking stone, and no ice cubes in the oven. I did a sponge for about 5 hours, then came home for lunch and moved the wet dough around a few times. Came back an hour-and-a-half later and formed it into a loose shape. The reason I'm telling all this is that it is wonderful to know that bread "wants" to work. Of course, if I had never made "artisanal" bread before, things would have been hopeless. The thing is, I'm far from "advanced," but made a wonderful mini-loaf today that equals or surpasses what I'm having in the typical bakeries here.Oh, I did add the old dough at the end, but forgot to save any for the next loaf, as I was hurrying to get back to work.
Happy baking, everyone!

Beth

REPLY

you ARE a brave soul!
since old dough has already been developed best to add it toward the end of mixing especially since you don't want to add too much extra structure which would prevent the big holes!
old dough keeps at room tempt about 6 hours, refrig. 48 hours or freezer for several months.
brava beth!

REPLY

Well, I bought some yeast today and some 0 flour. I mixed a little yeast and a little sugar with some water to make a sponge. Later, I mixed in more flour, a very little bit of olive oil, did a 25 min autolyze, let it go through a few turns, then let it rise a little more, and put it in the oven. I hadn't really given it enough time to "rest," and couldn't slash it. It was quite slack, so I got some pretty good holes, esp at the ends. Basically, this was entirely by feel, as I have neither measuring devices, nor a scale here in Italy. It did need more salt. As I said, the ends esp are quite good, and I got my "bread fix" satisfied. I don't know how much of a window I have here. Once it gets hot we don't want to cook, let alone turn the oven on. By the way, I saved some of the dough to use in the next loaf. I'll also read Rose's new post more carefully on sponges, etc. I've never tried adding old dough, just old sourdough. should I be dissolving the old dough into the sponge mixture or adding it later? I'm doing all of this just with a glass bowl and a wooden spoon.

Ciao, Beth

REPLY

Roger--one more thing you can do is to pour the dough onto a floured towel or piece of parchment and use that to help flip the dough over. It is easier, but I find it leaves more flour than I would like on top of the dough.

REPLY

Here are a couple of pictures. This is the regular ciabatta made by hand kneading--it still has the characteristic holes and wrinkled top.

This is the no-knead version. Not the best picture, but you can see the large holes this method creates.

REPLY

I've made Rose's ciabatta several times by hand and it works just fine. I recommend wearing powder-free latex gloves for best results. I find you can lose a good amount of dough with bare hands, plus I find it a bit too messy, but wetting your hands it a good tip if you can't find the gloves.

I have also made this using the no-knead method and that works well too--it will make the largest holes, but the flavor isn't quite as good. I would also suggest the Tuscan bread if you are working by hand--it is very similar to ciabatta, but easier to deal with, plus I find it a bit more moist.

Roger, I usually just firmly grab both ends and quickly flip it over with the baking sheet very close to the dough. It works best if you can avoid lifting it too high. After you flip, you can neaten the sides gently with a dough scraper to get it back into the characteristic slipper shape.

REPLY

Hi, Rose. I'm a big fan of The Bread Bible. I really like the Ciabatta recipe but I'm having a difficult time inverting the ciabatta dough. As you know it's a wet dough and I can't seem to invert it carefully. Any suggestions would be extremely helpful. Thanks.

Roger

REPLY

We are loving Venice, even if working long hours (but the work is going great!). Had the BEST asparagus the other day. I can see how I can mix dough. I'm not sure about having something to bake in. As is usual in rental apartments, the pots are always very thin. I do have a few with metal handles, so perhaps I can put them in a moderate oven, but wouldn't try the high heat I usually use. I think I have a bowl I can do some mixing in, too. Cooking in an understocked kitchen is always challenging! I think I'll pick up some yeast on Monday and do some experiments! No time to try to build a starter, though I'm tempted to ask at the local bakery!

Thanks for writing back. Beth.
p.s. Now I can't wait to get home and make THE ciabatta.

REPLY

beth, this could be THE ideal time to experiment with making super sticky holey bread by hand! use the bend scraper and don't mind that your hands will be totally sticky with dough. you'll FEEL how it starts developing and absorbing the water under your fingers and hands. don't add more flour until the very end and then just to dust on the outside before you put it in the oiled container. also remember that wetting your hands also helps to keep it from sticking as much!
and enjoy venice--i haven't been there since i was 16 on the experiment in international living!

REPLY

Hi everyone. I'm in Venice for a month working in the archive. It's been great so far! I just wanted to write in to say that, in general, baking great bread at home has ruined me for the bread here. Haven't had anything to swoon over yet. Also, I can't find much good whole grain. One bakery I am going to has semolina bread, which I don't usually buy here, but decided to try it after hearing so much about it on the site (hadn't had a chance to make it yet). Anyway, it seems very odd to long to get back to making my own bread. Hector: I don't know if I should try making any here; without a mixer I don't know what I would come up that would have "holes." Also, no baking equipment of any type in the apartment. Any suggestions, Hector? My apt is only 5 minutes from the archive, so technically I could come home to babysit bread!
Beth

REPLY

order on-line. it's worth it.

REPLY

You recipe for pugliese bread in the Bread Bible calls for duram flour in addition to the all-purpose. I have been unable to find duram flour as such. I've checked all our local supermarkets and the natural-food store,too. Any suggestions?
Thank you

REPLY

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