4/5/08

Ciabatta

About 8 years ago I had my first taste of Ciabatta (bread) at a restaurant when my husband ordered an Italian sandwich and this is the bread used to make it. It was a chewy, delicious bread - rustic and warm and just wonderful. I fell in love.

Since then I've always purchased our ciabatta although I kept my eyes open for good sounding recipes for it. I found this one about a year and a half ago but I have never made it. I'm not sure why, other than the fact that I'm just positive I could never reproduce the awesome ciabatta I buy? I don't know. That is silly since I've had no qualms about making my own pizza crust (which is the ONLY WAY I EAT PIZZA NOW) and my own bagels too! But it's on my list to 'do' and here is one of the recipes I've collected to do do.



Sponge:

1 tsp. dry yeast

250ml/1 cup warm water

350g/1½ cup sifted flour


Dough:

1½ tsp. dry yeast

5 tbs. warm milk

1 tbs. olive oil

250ml/1 cup warm water

600g/3 cups flour

2-3 tsp. salt

(2-3 tbs. warm water additional if needed)

Sponge: In a mixer bowl, add the yeast to the water, allow to stand for 3-4 minutes, stirring gently. Sift the flour and add to the yeast. Combine ingredients well, cover and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours.

Dough: Add the yeast to the milk, stir and let it stand 3-4 minutes to be sure the yeast is working.

Add the yeast mixture, water and oil to the sponge and mix with a dough hook.

Add 2 cups of flour and the salt and knead for 2 minutes at low speed, 3 minutes at middle speed, adding the remaining flour slowly, or more water, until the dough begins to pull from the sides of the bowl.

The dough should be quite soft; firm enough to handle without sticking to the hands, but still very soft. Add the last of the flour slowly. Or, add water if necessary.

Cover or place in a large, oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until tripled in size and bubbly.

Place the dough on floured baking paper or other surface and divide into 4 pieces, but do not punch down. Form in rectangles about 10” x 4”/25 x 10 cm in size and press down lightly with the fingers. Cover the dough and let rise for 90 minutes. The dough will rise only slightly.

The flour on the surface where the bread makes its final rise is what remains on the top of the loaf after baking. With practice you can adjust the amount to get a pleasing appearance. You can also form them into about 6 to 8 rolls.

Heat two baking sheets in the oven for about 15 minutes. Pick up the loaves, turn them over and lay them upside down on the sheets, being careful not to press out the air. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until bread just begins to turn golden. During the first 10 minutes, paint or spray the bread with water 3 times.

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