The first of my “learning” to make bread posts…Thanks to my dad for an really awesome baking stone and two great bread books, I am well on my way to even better bread. Ciabatta bread is one of my favorites so I chose to start with that (actually I made brioche a month ago but it was a LONG process and I didn’t photo document it.) This first attempt at Ciabatta was very successful. I will be making this again…
I would highly recommend the two books I’m reading. Both detail the bread making process from the science of fermenting all the way through the baking process step by step. (Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz – this one has a DVD showing you how things should look and how to shape and mix; the other book is Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day).
After reading these two books I have learned that measuring ingredients by weight (with a digital or spring scale) is the best way so my measurements will include weight.
POOLISH – this is the beginning of the fermentation process which helps create flavor:
Bread Flour – 11.6 oz (2 1/2 cups)
Water – 11.6 oz (1 1/2 cups)
pinch of instant yeast (1/8 tsp)
Add water to the bowl then yeast and flour. Mix until smoth with no lumps. This is the “starter.” It is the equivelant of the sourdough starter, when you hear people talking about the friendship bread and they pass around “starters.” Same concept.
This should sit on a container covered overnight at room temp – about 16 hours but no more than 24 hours!! After 24 hours it’s over fermented and no good!
Bread flour 1lb + 5.6oz (this is where the digital scale is so much better) (4 1/2 cups + 2T.)
Water 102 degrees F 14.3 oz (1 3/4 cups)
Instant yeast .09oz (3/4 tsp)
Salt .6 oz (3 1/2 tsp)
Poolish (all of it)
In a stand mixer, mix all ingredients at together for 6 minutes. Stop the mixer every 2 min to scrape down the dough in the bowl. Spray a proofing pan with cooking spray. Pour the final dough in the pan, cover with a lid or towel and allow to relax for 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold: This part was so amazing to me. The dough is so wet, and never having made this before I was really worried. I didn’t think I would even be able to handle it because it was so wet. But after the first “stretch and fold” it already started to come together. Weird and cool!
After the first 30 minutes pull one side of the bread toward you and fold over the other half of the dough. On the side opposite pull and stretch the dough away from you and fold over . Repeat for the sides and kinda tuck the last fold under to keep the surface of the bread tight. Repeat this until you have done 3-4 stretch and fold sequences.
Now with this wet dough you will need a good amount of flour on your shaping surface to avoid sticking plus it helps with the baking. On a floured surface lay the dough out and gently shape into a rectangle. Try not to handle the dough too much or the gases will excape and your bread will fall and be flat. You want to keep the bubbles in the dough – you know how the ciabatta in the store is full of holes – that’s good. Cut the rectangle into 4 medium-sized loafs. Lay the loaves on a floured towel with the towel raised in between the loaves to separate the loaves and to help keep their shape. Allow to sit for 30 minutes and preheat the oven.
Meanwhile heat the oven to 480°, with the baking stone and a steam pan in the oven. When adding the bread to the oven, pour 1cup water in the steam pan (PROTECT your arms and hands!!). You only want steam for the first 10 minutes of cooking, after that the steam does benefit the baking process. Steam helps the crust to stay moist longer to let the inside of the bread cook through. Lay bread on baking stone allow to cook 35-40 minutes. If the bread begins to get too dark before the cook time is up, cover with foil. In the last 3 minutes of cooking prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon to allow steam to release.