I used the formula for Ciabatta with Stiff Biga. There are a couple of other varieties of ciabatta in the book as well, and I’m thinking of trying those next to see if my luck continues. The biga was mixed about fourteen hours before I planned to make the bread dough. Bread flour (6.4 ounces), water (3.8 ounces), and an eighth of a teaspoon of instant dry yeast were mixed, covered with plastic, and left to grow overnight. It is a rather dry mix, but the biga grew into a domed shape by the next morning and was ready to go. In the bowl of a stand mixer, bread flour (1 lb. and 9.6 ounces), water (1 lb. and 3.6 ounces), salt (.6 ounce), and .13 ounce instant dry yeast were combined. After mixing on low for a few minutes, the biga was added in chunks. The recipe is written for a spiral mixer which is common in commercial kitchens, so I referenced the handy chart which converted the mixing time for a standard KithenAid stand mixer. I mixed on second speed for five minutes. It’s worth noting that wetter doughs like ciabatta develop more slowly than drier ones, and extra mixing helps in creating dough structure. I transferred the dough to a big, oiled bowl for the three hour bulk fermentation. During that time, the dough needed to be folded twice, and the folding is another thing that helps in creating dough structure. And then, I veered from the instructions. Rather than pouring the dough onto a floured board to do the folds, I just folded the dough in the big, wide bowl. If you remove the dough from the bowl for folding, you should try to avoid working in extra flour. Extra flour can appear as white lines in the bread when it’s cut. So by folding in the bowl, no flour is even needed. After fermenting, the dough was active and bubbly. I turned it out on a well-floured surface. I prepped three sheet pans with parchment dusted with semolina. I divided the dough into three portions and placed them on the parchment-lined pans. Wet dough like this isn’t shaped other than being carefully pulled into a rough rectangle while hoping none of the gas bubbles deflate. The loaves were left for a final fermentation of one and a half hours, and the oven was heated to 460 degrees F. I left the loaves on the parchment pieces and loaded them onto the baking stone with a peel. They baked for about 36 minutes with steam added in the first five minutes.
As promised in the book, the loaves had a “thin, blistered crust” that “splintered” when cut. The crumb was delightfully chewy and holey and everything that my previous failed ciabatta attempts were not. Now that I’ve finally found success with ciabatta, I’m excited about bread baking again. Maybe now some other kind of bread will become my new nemesis.
I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.
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