Ciabatta

Ciabatta is about the most perfect bread in the world. A creamy, soft, springy crumb, surrounded by a thin, crisp crust. It's worth the work, and work it is!


Schedule
12:00 (noon) start the biga
6:00 p.m. start the final dough
7:30 p.m. refrigerate dough
7:30 a.m. remove dough from refrigerator and finish


dry

Combine all ingredients.

 

biga

 Knead for 5 minutes.  The dough will be very stiff. Place in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment 6 hours at room temperature.

bigarise

This is how the biga should look after fermenting.


4 loaves
4 c (1 lb 4.8 oz) all purpose flour

1 T (.4 oz) gluten
1/3 c (2 oz) coarsely wheat flour
1/2 t instant yeast
1 2/3 c (13 oz) cold water

8 loaves
8 c (2 lbs 9.6 oz)
2 T (.8 oz) gluten
2/3 c (4 oz) coarsely ground wheat
1 t instant yeast
3 1/3 c (1 lb 10 oz) cold water

dry

craggy

break 

With the paddle attachment of a stand mixer combine flour, yeast, and salt on low. Add water in a steady stream.   Break the biga apart in about eight pieces and add to the dough one at a time a few seconds apart.  Turn the speed to medium and mix five minutes.

4 loaves
4 1/2 - 4 2/3 c (1 lb 7 oz) all purpose flour

2 t instant yeast
4 1/2 t salt
3 c (1 lb 8.2 oz) cold water
fermented biga (all of it)

8 loaves
9 - 9 1/2 c ( 2 lb 14 oz) all purpose flour
4 t instant yeast
9 t salt
6 c (3 lb .4 oz) cold water
fermented biga (all of it)
If the water is warm the bread will rise too quickly the first day and deflate when it is shaped the next day.

knead

The dough should now be smooth and gloppy (very sticky and unable to hold it's shape).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and wait 20 minutes. 

 

 

 



counter

Handle the dough very gently to preserve the air pockets.
Gently scoop the dough onto a countertop. You are going to fold the dough into a bundle.

1

Gently fold the top quarter to the middle.

2

Overlap the first fold by folding the right in.


3

Overlap the first two folds by folding the bottom over them.

4

Overlap the first three folds by folding the left over them.

Gently place back in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit another 20 minutes.  Repeat this 3 more times. You will turn the dough at 20, 40, 60 and 80 minutes. The last turn will be after you quarter the dough.

Right before the last turn, prepare 4 medium bowls, at least 3 times the size of the dough, for an overnight refrigeration.  Grease the inside of the bowls with cooking spray.  Make sure you grease the entire inside, so when you scoop it out the next day it will not stick to the bowl and deflate the dough.

Cut the dough into four equal pieces for the small recipe, eight pieces for the large. Do the final turn with each piece. Place each piece in its prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 


A soft dough like this needs to be handled delicately.  Folding or turning the dough is a gentler way to develope the gluten than kneading it.

 I used to refrigerate all of the dough in one bowl, but it was difficult to cut, weigh, and not deflate when working with it the next day. Refrigerating it in seperate bowls works so much better. It is easier to divide into equal pieces, and most importantly the dough is much less likely to deflate. I have tried forming the loaves then refrigerating overnight like I do with french bread, but it doesn't work with the ciabatta. The airpockets rose to the top, so there was a big airpocket in the top and dense bread underneath. Refrigerating in seperate bowls, then shaping as described has been a fool-proof method for me.

     

Prepare the work surface by lightly spraying the counter with cooking spray and coating thouroughly with flour. Set 1/2 c of flour next to you in case you need more.

 

towel

Prepare two paper towels by thoroughly covering them with flour.

Remove two bowls from the refrigerator and sprinkle the tops with flour. Loosen the sides, then gently release the dough from the bowl onto the prepared counter.


fold

Fold the top third down and the bottom third up lengthwise, like a business letter except lengthwise.

seal

Gently seal by pressing the bottom fold onto the new top with your fingertips.

 

 

 


If the dough is folded like a business letter widthwise, it is too heavy for the dough and deflates the air pockets.

sprinkle

Coat lightly with flour.

 

Place seam side down on prepared paper towels.

Place loaves side by side leaving room for them to expand. Bring the sides of the paper towel upright by the loaves.


Cover loosely with another paper towel or plastic wrap and proof 1-2 hours.

Remove the second two loaves from the refrigerator 40-50 minutes after shaping the first two. Repeat the shaping process with these loaves.

oven

Prepare the oven 30-60 minutes after shaping the first loaves.  Place one oven rack second to the top and another on the bottom setting.  Place a baking stone on the top rack and a steam pan on the bottom.  Preheat to 500 degrees.


The proofing time depends on the temperature of your house. In a cold house, the dough may take twice as long to rise.

Heat the oven 50 degrees higher than the final baking temperature. Heat is lost when sliding the loaves in.  Don't forget to set the timer for 3 minutes so you don't forget to turn the temperature down.

Most ovens take about 30 minutes to get to 500 degrees, it will probably tell you it's ready after 15, but mine is sometimes 150 degrees too cold at that point.

proof

The bread is ready when it looks fully expanded. Touch is gently, it should feel light and soft.

Place 2 cups hot water next to the oven. 

Quickly and carefully lift one paper towel onto a floured peel and lift to roll the dough seam side up on the peel.  Stretch the loaves a bit shorter than the length of your baking stone. If the loaves are too short the holes will not develop properly because it will be too heavy.

 

dimple

Dimple the dough by pressing with your first and second fingers all the way down the loaf.  Press to the bottom but don’t break the skin.  This distributes the air pockets and prevents huge pockets from taking over. 




Make sure it is not stuck to the peel.  If it is slide more flour under it.

Slide onto the stone and shut the oven.  

Quickly repeat with a second loaf (it only takes 10 seconds or so) and slide onto the stone.


Pour 1-2 cups hot water into the hot steam pan.  Close the oven.

turn

Bake 3 minutes then lower the temperature to 450. Bake 12 more minutes then rotate the loaves 180 degrees and move the loaf in the back to the front. 

Bake another 15-20 minutes.  Check them. They should be golden brown.  Turn the oven down to 350 and let them sit on the stone an additional 8-10 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack. Reheat the oven to 500 and repeat with the remaining two loaves.

The steam pan provides adequate steam. I used to spray the loaves with water at 1 minute intervals the first few minutes of baking.  I found that the loss of heat wasn't worth the extra steam.  

Most baked goods are baked until they are just done. Bread is different, it should be baked until just before it starts to burn. Underbaked bread is gummy. Leaving it on the hot stone at a lower temperature helps it bake a little longer without burning it.

don

Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. About 2 hours.

 

Slice and enjoy!

 

 

 
Cool the bread completely before slicing. The bread continues to bake as it cools. Cutting it early stops this process by releasing steam. It will also gum up the loaf.

Storage tips

Store it the day it's made- Let cool completely. Cover with cloth or in paper lunch bags. It usually fits in two bags. (One on one end the other on the other end.) Slice right before serving.

Directions for freezing and thawing
Wrap a whole loaf or sliced pieces tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze.

To thaw a whole loaf- remove from the freezer several hours before using. Remove the plastic wrap and set at room temperature. 30 minutes before slicing place in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes to crisp the crust. Remove and let cool 20 minutes or until cooled. Slice and serve.

To quickly thaw a whole loaf- preheat the oven to 350. Remove from the freezer and take off the plastic wrap. Thaw in the microwave 1-2 minutes until thawed through. Place in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp the crust. Remove and let cool 20 minutes or until cooled. Slice and serve.

To thaw slices- remove from the freezer and let sit covered at room temperature 1-2 hours.
To quick thaw slices of bread: Place in microwave 30 seconds or until thawed.
The crust will not be crisp on the presliced frozen pieces, but the bread will still be great!


Problems

No air pockets- The main problem with ciabatta deflating the dough. The bread still tastes good, but it isn't as light and airy. It isn't as pretty either.

Be sure to shape the dough as directed
- Folding it like a business letter width-wise as opposed to length-wise can deflate airpockets because the dough gets too heavy to hold the shape..
- Forming the loaves before refrigerating will ruin the air pockets because they will rise to the top.
- Not folding the dough into thirds before the final rise will make the air pockets rise to the surface as well.
- Not dimpling the dough before baking can also ruin the hole structure because large air pockets may take over.
- If the dough rises too much in the refrigerator it will deflate when you tranfer the dough to the work surface to be shaped. Be sure to use cold water when making the final dough.
-Cut the dough into four equal parts and refrigerate in seperate bowls. It is much easier to work with and much less likely to deflate the next day. It also chills more evenly then a large bowl of dough does.


Too much flour- the bread and hole structure will not be light or airy with too much flour.

Too little flour- the bread will not hold a proper shape or will be gummy with too little flour.


Ciabatta

This bread is a lot of work, but well worth it. It is so so good. Most of the work can be done the day before baking. The most important thing in working with the dough is to handle it gently but meaningfully.

Schedule
The dough should not be refrigerated for more than 12 hours or it is more likely to deflate when it's removed from the bowl.

A good schedule is:
12:00 (noon) start the biga
6:00 p.m. start the final dough
7:30 p.m. refrigerate dough
7:30 a.m. remove dough from refrigerator and finish

Biga
4 loaves

4 c (1 lb 4.8 oz) unbleached all purpose flour
1 T (.4 oz) gluten
1/3 c (2 oz) course ground wheat flour
1/2 t instant yeast
1 1/2 c (13 oz) cold water
Biga
8 loaves

8 c (2 lbs 9.6 oz)
2 T (.8 oz) gluten
2/3 c (4 oz) coarsely ground wheat
1 t instant yeast
3 1/3 c (1 lb 10 oz) cold water
 

Combine all ingredients and knead for 5 minutes.  The dough will be very stiff.  Cover with plastic wrap and ferment 6 hours at room temperature. 

Final Dough
4 loaves

4 1/2 - 4 2/3 c (23 oz) all purpose flour
2 t (.2 oz) instant yeast
4 1/2 t salt
3 c (24.2 oz) cold water.
fermented biga (all of it)
Final Dough
8 loaves

9 - 9 1/2 c ( 2 lb 14 oz) all purpose flour
4 t instant yeast
9 t salt
6 c (3 lb .4 oz) cold water
fermented biga (all of it)
 


1. With the paddle attachment of a stand mixer combine flour, yeast, and salt on low.  Add (1)cold water in a steady stream.  Break the biga apart in about 8 pieces and add to the dough one at a time a few seconds apart.  Turn the speed to medium and mix 5 min.  The dough should now be smooth and gloppy (very sticky and unable to hold it's shape).  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and wait 20 minutes. 

2. Handle the dough very gently to preserve the air pockets. Gently scrape the dough onto a lightly floured countertop. You are going to (2)fold the dough into a bundle. Gently fold the top quarter to the middle. Gently fold the top quarter to the middle. Overlap the first fold by folding the right it. Overlap the first two folds by folding the bottom over them. Overlap the first three folds by folding the left over them.

3. Gently place back in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit another 20 minutes.  Repeat this 3 more times. You will turn the dough at 20, 40, 60 and 80 minutes. The last turn will be after you quarter the dough (read on for explanation).  

4. Right before the last turn, prepare (2)four medium bowls, at least three times the size of the dough, for an overnight refrigeration.  Grease the inside of the bowls with cooking spray.  Make sure you grease the entire inside, so when you scoop it out the next day it will not stick to the bowl and deflate the dough. Cut the dough into (3)four equal pieces for the small recipe, 8 for the large. Do the final turn with each piece. Place each piece in its prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 


5.
Prepare the work surface by lightly spraying the counter with cooking spray and coating thouroughly with flour. Set 1/2 c of flour next to you in case you need more. Prepare two paper towels by thoroughly covering them with flour. Remove two bowls from the refrigerator and sprinkle the tops with flour. Loosen the sides, then gently release the dough from the bowl onto the prepared counter.   It will be cold.  With each piece, fold the top third down and the bottom third up lengthwise, (4)like a business letter except lengthwise, and gently seal by pressing the bottom fold onto the new top with your fingertips.  Coat lightly with flour and place seam side down on the prepared paper towels. Place loaves side by side leaving room for them to expand. Bring the sides of the paper towel upright by the loaves. Cover loosely with another paper towel or plastic wrap and proof (5)1-2 hours.

6. Remove the second two loaves from the refrigerator 40-50 minutes after shaping the first two. Repeat the shaping process with these loaves.

7. Prepare the oven (6)30-60 minutes after shaping the first loaves.  Place one oven rack second to the top and another on the bottom setting.  Place a baking stone on the top rack and a steam pan on the bottom.  Preheat to (7)500 degrees.

8.
The bread is ready when it looks fully expanded. Touch is gently, it should feel light and soft. Place 2 cups hot water next to the oven. Quickly and carefully lift one paper towel onto a floured peel and lift to roll the dough seam side up on the peel.  Stretch the loaves a bit shorter than the length of your baking stone. If the loaves are too short the holes will not develop well because it is too heavy. Dimple the dough by pressing with your first and second fingers all the way down the loaf.  Press to the bottom but don’t break the skin.  This distributes the air pockets.  Make sure it is not stuck to the peel.  If it is slide more flour under it.  Slide onto stone and shut the oven.  Quickly repeat with a second loaf (it only takes 10 seconds or so) and slide onto the stone.  Pour 1-2 cups hot water into the (8)hot steam pan.  Close the oven. Bake 3 minutes then lower the temperature to 450. Bake 12 more minutes then rotate the loaves 180 degrees and move the loaf in the back to the front.  Bake another 15-20 minutes.  Check them, they should be golden brown.  Turn the oven down to (9)350 and let them sit on the stone an additional 8-10 minutes.

9. Remove to a cooling rack. Reheat the oven to 500 and repeat with the remaining two loaves. They will proof longer than the first two, but I haven't had a problem with this. (10)Cool the loaves completely before slicing, about 2 hours.


Notes

1. If the water is warm the bread will rise too quickly the first day and deflate when it is shaped the next day.

2. 
A soft dough like this needs to be handled delicately.  Folding or turning the dough is a gentler way to develope the gluten than kneading it.  

3
. I used to refrigerate all of the dough in one bowl, but it was difficult to cut, weigh, and not deflate when working with it the next day. Refrigerating it in seperate bowls works so much better. It is easier to divide into equal pieces, and most importantly the dough is much less likely to deflate. I have tried forming the loaves then refrigerating overnight like I do with french bread, but it doesn't work with the ciabatta. The airpockets rose to the top, so there was a big airpocket in the top and dense bread underneath. Refrigerating in seperate bowls, then shaping as described has been a fool-proof method for me.

4
. If the dough is folded like a business letter widthwise, it is too heavy for the dough and deflates the air pockets.

5
. The proofing time depends on the temperature of your house. In a cold house, the dough may take twice as long to rise.

6
. Heat the oven 50 degrees higher than the final baking temperature. Heat is lost when sliding the loaves in.  Don't forget to set the timer for 3 minutes so you don’t forget to turn the temperature down.

7
. Most ovens take about 30 minutes to get to 500 degrees, it will probably tell you it's ready after 15, but mine is sometimes 150 degrees too cold at that point.

8. The steam pan provides adequate steam. I used to spray the loaves with water at 1 minute intervals the first few minutes of baking.  I found that the loss of heat wasn’t worth the extra steam.  

9
. Most baked goods are baked until they are just done. Bread is different, it should be baked until just before it starts to burn. Underbaked bread is gummy. Leaving it on the hot stone at a lower temperature helps it bake a little longer without burning it.

10. Cool the bread completely before slicing. The bread continues to bake as it cools. Cutting it early stops this process by releasing steam. It will also gum up the loaf.


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