Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cheater's Ciabatta

Normally, ciabatta, the delicious, porous, Italian bread, takes hours and hours of waiting. The gluten strands that make those nice, big, ready-for-butter holes take time to develop. You can cheat a bit, though.

The reason all those no-knead breads work is that if you give bread dough enough time, the gluten strands will develop on their own. They just need 18-24 hours to do so. Usually we knead bread to speed up the development of the gluten so that a loaf of French bread might only take 8-10 hours. It's kind of logical that if you leave a dough for a long time and don't have to knead it, you'd be able to knead the dough a lot and not have to wait, right?

This ciabatta recipe only takes 4-5 hours because you knead this dough within an inch of its life. Once again, The Fresh Loaf has come to the rescue and made last-minute fresh bread possible.


You need:
500g bread flour (I used all-purpose and added a few tbs of vital wheat gluten - kind of an experiment)
475g water
15 g salt
2 tsp yeast

Directions (from the above link):

1. In Kitchen Aid style mixer: Mix all ingredients roughly till combined with paddle, let it rest for 10 minutes.

2. With the paddle , beat the living hell out of the batter; it will start out like pancake batter but in anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes it will set up and work like a very sticky dough. if it starts climbing too soon, then switch to the hook. You'll know it's done when it separates from the side of the bowl and starts to climb up your hook/paddle and just coming off the bottom of the bowl. I mean this literally about the climbing, i once didn't pay attention and it climbed up my paddle into the greasy inner workings of the mixer. It was not pretty! Anyway, it will definetely pass the windowpane test. (Note: See a great picture tutorial on what it's supposed to look like here.)

3. Place into a well oiled container and let it triple! it must triple! For me this took about 2.5 hours

4. Empty on to a floured counter, cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Spray with oil and dust with lots o' flour. Let them proof for about 45 minutes, which gives you enough time to crank that oven up to 500F.

5. After 45 minutes or so the loaves should be puffy and wobbly. Now it's iron fist, velvet glove time. Pick up and stretch into your final ciabatta shape (~10" oblong rectangle) and flip them upside down (this redistributes the bubbles, so you get even bubbles throughout), and onto parchment or a heavily floured peel. Try to do it in one motion and be gentle, it might look like you've ruined them completely, but the oven spring is immense on these things.

6. Bake at 500F , rotating 180 degrees half way through.


The crumb in this bread is great - big and porous - and the crust is delicious - golden and chewy. I usually make a few loaves of french bread the long way every two weeks or so and freeze extra, but I think this way will enable me to have fresh bread every day if I wanted to!

I'm pretty sure I didn't stretch mine out enough - it looked so flat when I put it in the oven, but the recipe is right - big oven spring! I think "real" ciabatta is supposed to be a bit flatter.

Also, if you don't have a kitchen aid or something like that, you can, of course, beat the living daylights out of your dough by hand - it'll just take a bit longer and your arm may fall off.

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  1. OH MAAAN! All those pores and holes and the nice, crispy-looking crust. Kudos to you!

  2. This is one awesome looking piece o'ciabatta. I do have a question tho...you did not give a baking time, only that you should rotate half way through. What should the total baking time be?

    (I am soooo making this in the morning!! Wish I didnt have to work tonight...I'd be on it now! You Rock, Darling!!)

  3. I believe the total baking time was about 20 minutes, but I usually eyeball it! When the crust is nicely browned and they sound hollow when you tap on the bottom, I say they're done. :) Hope yours turn out well! :)