The first recipe I tried to make a loaf of ciabatta, it tanked hard. It was dense, not light and airy inside, not particularly crusty on the outside. The only ciabatta-like thing about it was that it was slipper shaped. It was like eating a regular loaf of bread, which is fine because bread is awesome in any form really, but it was not ciabatta. Awhile back The Kitchn posted a wonderful (and slightly time consuming) recipe that made beautiful bread. I opted to make individual rolls/mini loaves rather than full sized loaves. They’re more versatile that way for me. I’m using some for lunch sandwiches and some to serve with Italian butter for a dinner this week. This is a two day recipe starting with mixing up a biga the night before, letting it sit at room temp overnight, then mixing your dough and letting it rise the next day for at least 2 to 3 hours. That and using a light touch when handling the dough results in a bread with large, airy holes (a perfect crumb for ciabatta) and a super crusty outside. Ciabatta perfection, truly.
recipe from The Kitchn
for the biga:
1/2 cup barely warm water (4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon of yeast (I used my usual instant yeast)
1 cup flour
Mix the yeast and water together then stir in the flour mixing until it forms a paste-like substance. Stir it briskly to build up gluten, then cover and let it sit at room temperature overnight (at least 8 hours). It’s going to turn itself into a liquidy substance, soup and full of bubbles the next day.
For the bread:
2 cups and 2 Tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon yeast
all of the biga
about 4 cups of flour
2 teaspoons salt
Put the water and yeast together in a stand mixer bowl. Scrape in all of the biga. With a spatula, gently stir the biga, breaking it up into smaller clumps. Add in the flour and the salt and stir it together until it forms a thick, gloppy paste. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
Fit your dough hook in and start kneading. This is going to have to knead for about 15 minutes (possibly more) on speed 4-6. I started mine out on speed 4 and after 7 minutes or so put it on 6 to finish out the kneading time. Somewhere in the middle of the kneading, the dough should start to come together and slap the sides of the bowl. It will go from being liquidy and looking like loose batter to looking a little more cohesive. Mine wasn’t looking the way I thought it should so I added a tiny bit more flour a little at a time until it became cohesive. It should look like this after the 15-18 minutes are up:
It won’t be solid dough – it really will puddle into the bowl when you remove the dough hook. It’s supposed to be that way. Also, watch your mixer while it’s mixing on that high speed. It will “walk” on your counter. Mine turned itself all the way around completely.
Cover the bowl of dough and let it sit until the dough has tripled in size, about 2-3 hours (in a warm room, I guess I should mention. I usually sit mine on the stove or inside the oven if it’s not in use. You can also achieve a quicker rise by heating the oven – without the dough inside – to about 300, then shutting it off and then putting your dough inside the warm oven. I didn’t only because Sundays are my leisurely cooking days. I didn’t mind waiting the three hours for the dough to triple.)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. After the dough has risen, flour your counter VERY WELL. Gently scrape the dough out onto the counter with a spatula. Try not to de-gas the dough too much while handling it. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Gently shape the dough into a rectangle shape, then using a pizza cutter or a bench scraper, cut your dough either into two loaves, or into rolls. The recipe says you can get 16 rolls out of this dough, but they looked like they might be too small for what I wanted. I ended up with 12 different sized pieces of dough.
this is only 4 of the 12 and I meant for those bottom two pieces to be large, just FYI
Gently scoop your cut up dough pieces (or loaves) onto your baking sheets. Let the dough rise until very puffy, about 30-40 minutes. While it’s rising, preheat the oven to 475. After everything’s risen and preheated, slide the sheets into the oven and bake until the bread is golden on the outside (took me about 20 minutes). Let them cool completely and store in paper sacks to keep them crisp or in plastic bags if you don’t mind the crust getting a bit softer.
of course they’re delicious warm with butter