Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ciabatta Bread

I LOVE Ciabatta bread, at Cutler's we use it in our B-Town Club, or you can have any other sandwich on it too! At home, I use it for all kinds of hot sandwiches that I make. I have a recipe coming up for you next week to try it on too! It's a really versatile type of bread that is really yummy. I know this recipe looks really involved. It takes several hours of raising time, it's not really quite as hard as it looks!

Ciabatta Bread
from Cook's Illustrated 


1 cup unbleached all purpose flour 
1/8 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water, at room temperature


2 cups unbleached all purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup water, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature (I just measured and allowed to rest for a few minutes)

Biga - right after I made it
Start your biga 8 to 24 hours before you want the Ciabatta bread. Combine flour, yeast and water in a medium bowl and stir using a wooden spoon until it's all combined into one mass, this takes about a minute.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours.

Biga - after it raised
When you're ready to make your dough, place the biga, flour, yeast, salt, water and milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix on lowest speed until a shaggy dough forms, this should take about a minute, make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix on medium-low speed until the dough collects on the paddle and pulls away from the side of the bowl, this takes around 6 minutes. At this point you want to change from the paddle attachment to the dough hook. Knead on medium speed about 10 minutes. The dough should look smooth and shiny and still be very sticky. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic. Let rise at room temperature for about an hour, the dough should double in this time.

Spray a rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray. Fold partially risen dough over itself. You want to stick the spatula under one side of the dough and fold over the top of itself, turn the bowl 90 degrees, then do it again. You want to turn this a total of 8 times. Allow to sit for another half hour, covered with plastic wrap. Then repeat the folding process. Cover and allow to rise for another half hour. For me, the dough didn't raise as much during the first hour as it did during the last hour, I think that's because the folding process produces more gluten, allowing the dough to rise better.

Cut two 12 by six inches of parchment paper and dust with plenty of flour, set aside. Flour your counter top or work space you want to form the bread loaves on too, I used a silicone mat. Transfer the dough from the bowl as gently as possible, so as not to deflate very much. Flour the top of the dough, cut in half. The recipe calls to just cut it in half, but I wanted loaves that were roughly the same size as the ones we have at Cutler's, so I cut into quarters. Before working with the dough, you want to flour the cut side so it's not quite so sticky. Flour your hands well, then take a quarter, press it out thin and then fold it as you would a letter you would stick in an envelope. Place on the prepared parchment paper, flour again, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven and baking stone. You want your oven rack to be in the lower middle portion of the oven. Place a baking stone or a cookie sheet pan upside down into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

After the loaves have finished rising, slide the parchment they are resting on onto either an upside down cookie sheet or a pizza peel. Remove the stone or cookie sheet from the oven and use the cool one to transfer the dough and parchment to the hot one. Spray the top of the dough with water, and place in the oven. Bake, making sure to spray the top of the loaves two more times during the first five minutes of baking, for 22-27 minutes. They should be golden brown. Place loaves on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature, before slicing. For the bigger loaves that will take around an hour. My smaller loaves seemed to be cool enough after about a half hour.

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