Sunday, 28 June 2009

No Knead Ciabatta

This week in the Bread Experience Bread Baking Blog, we made No Knead Ciabatta. We're continuing our comparison of the Kneadlessly Simple no knead method versus the traditional kneaded method found in the Bread Baker's Apprentice. So far, I like both methods. Both methods utilize a similar steaming technique to simulate hearth baking, the difference is that one uses hot water and the other utilizes ice water. Very interesting indeed!

Although this is a no knead bread, it does require a little bit of hand-shaping but that's the fun part.

This recipe is also from Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. I really like the Kneadlessly Simple technique but it's a little bit confusing going back and forth between the two methods. I think I'll get the hang of it pretty soon.
Ciabatta means "slipper" and Nancy Baggett says that "a tidy shape is not all that important...the defining characteristic of the loaf is a noticeably holey, puffy interior, which requires a softer than normal dough."

Well, that's a good thing because mine ended up being a flat slipper although it tasted really good even after a couple of days.

No Knead Ciabatta
Makes: 2 Ciabatta loaves


  • 3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose white flour, plus more as needed
  • Scant 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups ice water, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing loaf top


Mixing the dough:

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and yeast. Vigorously stir in the water, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix the dough until it is thoroughly blended.

Next, vigorously stir in the olive oil. Stir in extra water if the mixture is too stiff or add extra flour if necessary to stiffen the dough a bit. I think my dough was too soft. I was trying not to add too much flour so I think I ended up not adding enough.

First Rise:

Brush the top of the dough with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 15 hours.

Second Rise:

Spray two 9 x 12-inch sheets of baking parchment with nonstick spray, then dust each with 1/4 cup flour, making a slight mound in the center. Line a large rimless baking sheet or the back of a baking sheet with another sheet of parchment paper and dust the parchment with flour.

Loosen the dough from the bowl all the way around using a well-oiled rubber spatula trying not to deflate the dough. Cut the dough in half using kitchen shears being careful not to deflate the dough. I think this is where I messed up as well. It was pretty flat.

Turn out each portion onto the prepared sheets of parchment. Dust the tops of the dough with flour.

Oil your fingertips, then gently push and pat each portion out into an oblong, or "slipper," about 9 x 5 1/2 inches. Push the sides in so that the middle is narrower than its heel and toe.

These loaves don't look too much like slippers to me, more like the Planters' Peanut Guy as Nancy Baggett describes it.

Use a flour-dusted spatula to loosen the slippers from the parchment.

Lift up the loaves, one at a time and place them as far apart as possible onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Reform the dough as necessary into the slipper shapes.

Press deep indentations into the slippers all over with flour-dusted fingertips.

Tent the baking sheet with nonstick spray-coated oil.

For a regular rise, let the dough rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Continue the rise until the dough has doubled from the deflated size, removing the foil as the dough nears it. Unfortunately, my dough never did rise and I got impatient after several hours. So I just decided to bake it anyway.

Preparing the oven for hearth baking:

Place a rack in the lowest position in the oven 20 minutes before baking time and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Set a broiler or other steam pan on the oven floor.

Baking the loaves:

Add a cup of ice water to the steam pan.  Reduce the temperature to 475 degrees F and bake on the lowest rack for 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaves are golden and crusty.  Bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out almost clean on the tip.

Then place the pan on the floor of the oven for 2 to 4 minutes to brown the bottom of the loaves.

I didn't do this part because of the way my oven is made it wouldn't work.
I just let the loaves cook for an additional few minutes on the lowest rack of the oven. Let the loaves stand for 10 minutes on the pan.

Cooling the loaves:

Transfer the loaves to a wire rack, and let them rest until completely cooled.

Here are the flat slippers. I guess I could say that these are ballet slippers.

These loaves slice better once they are cooled.

I actually waited a day before I sliced the bread.
I just covered the loaves with a tea towel and let them rest on the counter all night. Mainly because it was late and I wanted to go to bed.

Serving and storing the loaves:

You can serve this bread for sandwich bread or grilling. Or just eat it for a snack like I did. Mine didn't rise very well so it worked out just fine as a snack bread.

The bread was really good at room temperature. The holes aren't huge and airy but it does have holes!

It will keep for 2 to 3 days on the counter draped in a tea towel. It can be frozen in an airtight bag for up to 2 months; however, it should be crisped in a preheated 400 degrees F oven.

This bread actually kept a little longer than 3 days. It still tasted good with olive oil and seasonings.

Thanks for visiting The Bread Experience Bread-Baking Blog.

Happy Baking!

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Ciabatta: BBA Challenge

For Day 7 of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, we made Ciabatta. Ciabatta is an Italian bread made in the shape of a slipper.

The bread baker's challenge just keeps getting better and better. I've enjoyed making every bread in the challenge. However, I think Ciabatta is my favorite so far. I love this bread. My taste tester said "Those Italians know what they're doing, don't they?" I felt like a real Artisan baker making this bread. And the results...delicious! I'm hooked! It's so chewy and wonderful - even at room temperature with just olive oil.

According to Peter Reinhart, "This bread hails from an age-old tradition of rustic, slackdough breads, however, the name ciabatta was not applied to the loaf until the mid-twentieth century by an enterprising baker in the Lake Como region of northern Italy. He observed that the bread resembled a slipper worn by dancers of the region and thus dubbed his loaf ciabatta di Como (slipper bread of the Como)." I love dance and Italian bread so I was really excited about making this bread.

The book presents several different methods for making this bread: Ciabatta, Poolish Version; Ciabatta, Biga Version; Wild Mushroom Ciabatta (Ciabatta al Funghi); Ciabatta with Cheese (Ciabatta al Formaggio); or Caramelized Onion and Herb Ciabatta. I decided to make the poolish version. Next time I'll try the biga version.

Updated 7/11/09:

Ciabatta: Take Two

Here is my second try at Ciabatta. I think this one looks much better.

Ciabatta: First Try

This one kind of looks like an old shoe rather than a slipper.

Ciabatta, Poolish Version

Making the Poolish
  • 2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (.03 ounce) instant yeast
Stir together the flour, water, and yeast. The dough should be soft and sticky and look like pancake batter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, or until the sponge becomes bubbly and foamy. Refrigerate it immediately. It will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. I made the poolish on Wednesday night and put in the refrigerator for 2 days to give it an overnight retarding and to fit it in my schedule.

This is the poolish after sitting on the counter for 4 hours. Now it's ready to go in the fridge.

I removed the dough from the refrigerator Friday afternoon to take the chill off so I could bake the bread Friday night. That worked out really well!

The dough after sitting on the counter for an hour to get the chill off.

Making the dough
  • 3 1/4 cups (22.75 ounces) poolish
  • 3 cups (13.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons (.44 ounce) salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 ounce) instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons to 3/4 cup (3 to 6 ounces) water, lukewarm

Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of the water. Then mix on low speed of the mixer until the ingredients form a sticky ball.

Add additional water as needed and continue to mix. Mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until you have a smooth, sticky dough.

Then switch to the dough hook for the final 2 minutes of mixing. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but will stick to the bottom of the bowl. Add additional flour if necessary to firm up the dough to clear the sides of the bowl, but it should still be soft and sticky.

First Rise:

Make a bed of flour about 8 inches square on the counter. Use a bowl scraper or spatula dipped in water to transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour on the counter.

Stretch and fold the dough as show below or View a video of the stretch and fold method

Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Then stretch and fold the dough again. Mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover.

Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It will swell, but not necessarily double in size. I ended up leaving my dough to ferment for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours while I was shopping. I was surprised (and happy) that it didn't swell too much.

Shaping the Loaves

Set up a couche. This part was fun! I used a thick pastry cloth dusted with flour.

Remove the plastic from the dough and shape the loaves as shown below. (Refer to page 138)

Carefully cut the dough into 2 or 3 pieces trying not to degas it.

Separate the pieces.

Sprinkle the dough pieces with flour.  Carefully lift these pieces using a dough scraper if necessary.

One more to go...

Lift the dough carefully

Place the loaves on the couche and leave enough room to bring up the folds.

Bring up the folds on the couche to help the loaves keep their shape.

Spritz the loaves with cooking spray.  Dust the loaves with flour.

Cover the loaves with a towel.  Then proof the loaves for 45 to 60 minutes at room temperature, or until the dough has swelled a bunch.

Preparing the oven for hearth baking

Here is a video on how to prepare your oven for hearth baking

Place a baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven. Then place an empty steam pan on the middle rack. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Baking the Bread

Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the dough pieces to the peel or pan. Use a pastry scraper if you need support.

Lift the dough from each end and tug the dough out to a length of 9 to 12 inches. If the dough bulges too high in the middle, you can dimple it down with your fingertips to even out the height of the loaf. This part was fun! Sorry I couldn't take a photo and stretch the dough at the same time. You'll have to try it for yourself.

Slide the 2 doughs onto the baking stone.

Here is the 3rd loaf on the stone ready to be baked.

Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the door. After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the side walls of the oven with water, and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals. After the final spray, turn the oven setting down to 450 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes.

Rotate the loaves 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until done. The bread should be golden in color. The loaves will feel hard and crusty but will soften as they cool.

Cooling the bread

Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and allow it to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving.

Eating the bread

I made this bread several days ago and although it's a lean bread, it still tastes pretty good with olive oil and seasonings. Yummy!

This bread tastes good! Look at those holes!

Updated 7/11/09: Ciabatta Take Two:

The holes aren't quite as big on this loaf, but it rose better than the first try.

Thanks for joining us this week in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. Stay tuned for Day 8 of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge:

Next time, we'll be making cinnamon rolls. I don't know about you, but my family is waiting with baited breath for this one!

Happy Baking!