Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kitchen Adventure: Ciabatta

There's something magic about making your own bread.

It's simple and rewarding to create something delicious from just four ingredients.   And yet with the ready availability of sliced, preservative-laden bread, we grow further from the true essence of bread.

One of my favorite types is ciabatta. Ciabatta is a tradional white Italian bread, which literally translated means "carpet slipper" (no, not the delicate and lovely kind) and is commonly a sandwich bread.  I used the Ciabatta recipe in my copy of Baking Illustrated.

Ciabatta, like sourdough, is made through a two-step baking process known as the sponge and dough method.  Sponge (a simplistic dough usually consisting of water, flour and yeast) is allowed to ferment for a lengthy period of time. In the case of the ciabatta, the sponge was allowed to ferment overnight.
Prepped and ready to...sit overnight!
12 - 14 hours later...

The yeast has gone to work and done it's job, making
our dough all bubbly.
Once the sponge has risen sufficiently, add the remaining flour, yeast, water and salt and mix it up. This particular Ciabatta recipe is extremely sticky and cannot be kneaded by hand so the use of my trusty KitchenAid Mixer was necessary.

Kneaded & ready go through two sets of hour long rises

Once the dough has roughly doubled in size, it can be shaped into two separate loaves and baked on a preheated baking stone. The baking time noted in the Baking Illustrated recipe was a little too long for my oven (I think it's hotter than it says it is!) so I had to watch it like a hawk, or a squirrel in my case.

The final product!
For my first attempt at Ciabatta, I think I got it relatively close to what it should look like.

Bread fresh out of the oven is one of life's little pleasures!

All in all, I declare my first attempt at making Ciabatta a success. It truly was a day long task, however the result provided me with almost two weeks worth of bread. I'm currently storing all of my bread, which I have conveniently presliced, in my freezer.  It can be reheated in a microwave for approximately 20 seconds and then lightly toasted to restore it to it's original deliciousness.

The coolest part about making my own bread for me was the ability to use it in other recipes or even to make sandwiches.  I tried it out in the Ciabatta French Toast with Marmalade Drizzle I reviewed in 2010.

Eric even enjoyed the bread as french toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, so that's total success right there!

Mark one of the multitude of Baking Illustrated recipes I have to tackle this year complete!

What's your take on bread making? Too much of a hassle? Leave a comment! :)