There’s something so bad-ass about knowing you can bake bread. From scratch. It sounds so impressive to the people around you, and no one seems to realize that it’s pretty easy (maybe I shouldn’t have spilled that secret). The other great thing about homemade bread is that is very inexpensive, particularly per serving. I will admit, I’m just getting started in the world of bread baking, and there are a lot of different kinds of bread I’ve been eying lately. Ciabatta was up there on the list because it’s such a good sandwich bread and that’s where I started.
Ciabatta is an italian bread (pronounced Chah-bah-ta) and generally starts with a starter made from flour, water, yeast and sugar. The starter is called a poolish and is supposed to give the bread a richer flavor as it ferments for over 18 hours. I was under some time restraints and I skipped the poolish. Next time I’m definitely going to make it, but the moral of the story is you can have delicious ciabatta, and quickly.
Ciabatta Bread (recipe adapted from La Petit Brioche)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 package yeast
Mix water, sugar and yeast in a bowl to proof. This should take around 15-20 minutes. Once the mixture is foamy, add olive oil.
Apparently, the dough is supposed to be really wet. It is. Original directions said not to add any flour, but I could not get it to come together with my hands as it should. First I tried to oil my hands to mix, then I caved and added more flour. And then I thought the dough was too dry so I added more water. If anyone has any tips for kneading wet doughs sans mixer, please share. I would be very interested in learning.
From here, I oiled the dough and covered to rise. The dough should double in size, and this will take around 2 hours.
My dough looks lumpy. I don’t remember it actually feeling lumpy, so I’m going to plead “optical illusion”.
Divide the dough into 2 equal sized loaves.
Be very careful not to deflate the dough. I could have done better with this, I’ll admit. I saw a rivaling recipe that recommended dimpling the dough to creat air pockets. See the picture below? I did that. Air pockets were conspicuously absent. In retrospect I would have let it be.
Place each loaf on a baking sheet and cover to rise.
The ciabatta will rise slightly as you bake, but not by much. Generally speaking, this is not a tall bread. If you have a baking stone, use it! If not, cookie sheets are the answer. The bread should bake for 25-30 minutes or until browned and crusty.
And oh was it delicious. I think I lasted 10 minutes before cutting into it, and only lasted that long because I didn’t want to burn my fingers. Technically I think you’re supposed to let it cool before cutting. Good luck with that.
Bread. I feel like such a baker. Everyone have a lovely weekend!