My sourdough starter seems to be surviving. For this third bread adventure installment, it was used in rustic bread or ciabatta. Once again, this was from Nancy Silverton's Bread from the La Brea Bakery. It was a one-day bread, and the process seemed less frightening to me than the basic country white loaf. However, the very sticky, wet dough was not as lovely to work with as the bagel dough. Silverton explains that the wetter the dough, the bigger the holes. The finished loaf is intended to be flat and oval. Ciabatta takes very well to being dipped in olive oil or turned into garlic bread, and I had a feeling this wouldn’t last long once it was baked. The recipe makes enough dough for two large loaves, and I decided to follow the instructions for making one of them a rustic olive-herb loaf.
The starter was measured and combined with water, bread flour, and half a cake of fresh yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. After an initial mixing, it was left to rest for 20 minutes. Salt was added, it was mixed more, and then milk, olive oil, and more water were added. After the dough came together, it was left to ferment for two and a half hours. The big blob of wet stickiness was then turned out onto a well-floured board, sprinkled with more flour, covered, and left to sit a bit longer. At that point, the big blob was divided in two, and each was plopped onto parchment paper that had been heavily dusted with bread flour and semolina. Each loaf was dimpled by pressing my index finger all the way down to the parchment paper. More flour was sprinkled on top, they were covered and left to proof for two hours. Dough must get tired very easily as it requires more resting time than either of my cats. After that nap, the loaves were turned over, dimpled again and were finally ready to bake. The olive loaf was studded with pitted picholine olives in all of the dimples and little sprigs of fresh rosemary were tucked into the surface here and there.
The 500 degree oven was spritzed with water before the loaves were placed inside. Now, if you have no intention of baking this bread, just do this one part. Heat your oven to 500 degrees, spritz it with water, and then put something with fresh rosemary sprigs inside it. That immediate aroma of the rosemary hitting the hot steam is simply fantastic, and when it flavors a loaf of bread with some picholine olives, it’s quite a bonus. The temperature was reduced to 450, and the loaves baked for about 35 minutes. I was concerned that my blobs were a bit wide and didn’t seem quite as tall as most ciabatta loaves I’ve seen. I wasn’t sure I would get the nice porous interior that was the goal.
In the end, it worked fine. I think the dough would be easier to handle if there was less of it, so I’ll probably halve the recipe in the future. Now that I’ve experimented with the dough once, hopefully I can get a nicer ciabatta-looking shape and slightly taller loaves when I try again. What I did get this time was really wonderfully chewy, flavorful bread with a nice, crisp crust. When the loaves were cooled and ready to be tasted, we were kind of like kids in a candy store. We couldn’t stop eating this bread, and we didn’t take the time to dip it in olive oil. It was so fresh and so good. I may need to re-think that idea about halving the recipe next time.
I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.