Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CIABATTA (my 2nd attempt) - Bread Baker's Apprentice #9

Another week spent in the Caribbean, it must be my day to post my bread baking adventures for the week. I promised myself on New Year's Eve that I would be trying to learn more as a bread baker, and if possible to cook through the"The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread" book. I brought three cookbooks with me to my island adventure. The "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" book was one. I am badly behind in posting my efforts from the book.  Several excuses, company for a week, shrimp week, lazy... It also took a couple of efforts to make this formula before I hot on a loaf I was happy with.

But a ciabatta bread is very good, useful for several things and (on paper) would be worth the effort.  You may recall the photo to the right.  Back on April 29th, I posted my first attempt and my first failure from the book.  A nice enough loaf of bread, but it was not even a little close to the way it should have looked.

And this shot on the left is how it should have looked.

Lots of texture, wonderful holes and a flat loaf that makes a great sandwich.  And my new loaf of bread did indeed make a great sandwich.  After all, this is still "The side dishes of Shrimp Week - Week".  This loaf was so much a part of my "Shrimp Remoulade Sandwich", it counts as a side dish.

And here is the finished loaf in it's most useful position...

As a wonderful sandwich (click HERE for the link to the Shrimp Remoulade sammy recipe).  OK, enough back story.  I tried this recipe once, failed, and here is my second effort...

I did do a bit of research, and read several other attempts to make this loaf of bread from people who have accepted the BBA Challenge.  I was not alone in not getting a match for the photos in the book and my final product.

So, armed with the things I learned from reading other attempts, as well as using a bit of intuition on my part and upgrading a couple of ingredients (best bread flour I could find and buttermilk in place of water), I came close enough to a good loaf that I am claiming victory and leaving the field.

Close enough for government work(ers) anyway.

We were given the option of making a wet Poolish version for the starter (as I did in the original failed attempt), or a more familiar biga version.  Many people had better success with the Biga, so who am I to argue...

So, first we make a Biga...
  1. 2 1/2 cups Bread Flour
    1/2 teaspoon instant Yeast
    1/4 cup plus 2 TBS room temperature Water
  2. Mix the dry ingredients and then add the water.
  3. Knead for a few minutes till you reach the dough ball stage, evenly hydrated and dough is tacky without being sticky.
  4. Lightly oil a mixing bowl, plop the dough ball into the bowl and roll to coat.  Cover and allow to ferment at room temp for 2-4 hours.
  5. Remove the dough, knead a second time to degass and return to bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.

OK, right away, compared to the poolish I made first time, this is more familiar territory.  So, cut to next day and we are ready to make bread...

  1. The pre-made Biga (remove from fridge and allow to reach room temperature, about 2 hours)
    2 cups Bread Flour
    1 tsp Salt
    1 1/2 tsp Yeast
    3/4 cup plus 2 TBS room temperature Buttermilk
    1/4 cup Olive Oil
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together, add the biga and water and oil and mix to form the new dough ball.  The dough should be soft, but stickier than "normal" dough.  If you are mixing in a bowl, the dough will clear the sides, but stick to the bottom of the bowl.  Continue kneading till well mixed, by hand, it took about 10 minutes.
  3. I cut the dough in half at this stage.  I had a special purpose for half the dough which I will post tomorrow...
  4. Now it is time to shape the loaf, and it is also time for me to cook by intuition, and leave the book...
    On a bed of flour, begin stretching and flouring the dough.  stretch the dough to 6 inches wide, and 18 inches long.  When done right, the bread stays stretched, without contracting back into smaller shape.
  5. Form an envelope fold... fold into thirds, left third over the middle, right side over the left side and middle
  6. Spray with oil and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Do a second envelope stretch and fold, spray with oil again and allow a 2 hour rise.  it should expand, but not double in size.
  8. At this stage, the book says to forma couche for the bread to sit in while baking.  In my original loafs, the couche made the bread rise up, and formed a more standard "Wonder Bread" type loaf shape.  So, I just put the loaf on parchment paper to bake.  No forms.  Also, when I transferred the dough to the baking paper, I stretched the envelope shape to a 12X6 inch size to make a flatter loaf.
  9. Allow a final rest of 45 minutes
  10. And a final change from the book... The book says to bale at 500 degrees.  In my original effort, the top was charred, but not burnt.  Not pleasing looking.  I lowered the temp to 400 degrees, and used a temperature prob to tell when the bread is done.  Internal temperature of 205 degrees.
  11. Allow to cool before cutting.

I did rub the still hot loaf with a bit of butter to add some sheen and richer color.

And the final verdict... 

the bread was wonderful.  I made a sandwich, I dipped in oil and balsamic.  It looked and worked as I wanted.

The holes were still not as big as I wanted.  But, as the say, close enough for my government worker.  Like I said...

Victory is mine...

If I can do it, you can too...

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  1. OK, You've convinced me. I haven't been baking my own bread, but your ciabatta looks wonderful. I will have to get the book.

  2. There it is, holey bread (in a non come to Jesus kind of way, of course)

    Good job this time around!

  3. Your ciabatta looks great! That's one of my favorite kinds, although I've never braved making it on my own. I'll have to look for that book.

  4. I'm so glad you stuck to it and tried again! looks like the bread came out wonderfully...now about those sandwiches...I highly recommend you send them over to NY for taste-testing. Pronto.

  5. Now that is some gorgeous bread!!!

  6. Practice makes perfect and your Ciabatta Bread is sheer perfection! Beautiful and I'm sure, so delicious! Kudos, cher!

  7. Very nice-I've used this one and just picked up his new book, Artisan bread everyday. I get frustrated sometimes making bread, but when you get it right, it feels (and tastes!) great.

  8. Dave, Did you really make this gorgeous bread? Or did Mags ship it to you.

  9. Good for you! You're my bread-making role model (but I'm still staying clear of it for the time being). I can't even roll out dough. But I'll get there.

    I left an award for you on my blog along with a link. Hope it will bring some new faces to your blog. Cheers!


  10. Number two is looking good and tasting delicious. I hear the third attempt at ciabaitta is perfect.

  11. Congrats on the victory. It is always good to put one in the win column, even if it takes a couple tries.

  12. I wanna lick my computer screen Dave. How's that for a comment? You gotta warn me when you are doing a bread post! Its my weakness!

    Have a wonderful week!

  13. Hooray! Congratulations! It looks sooo good - ciabatta is probably my favorite.

  14. Looks great! I love ciabatta!

  15. You did much better than I could have. Ciabatta works so great for so many sandwiches, I love the texture.

  16. My absolute favorite bread - hard to find in Montana.