Ciabatta bread

October 31st, 2010

I made my first loaf of bread the other day without the breadmaker! And it was a success! Thanks to America’s Test Kitchen. My dad records their show (of course I was already a fan, but haven’t had the chance to set my recorder as well) and showed me the episode they made ciabatta bread. It looked so easy, and it turns out it really was. I already had all the ingredients and equipment (pizza stone and stand mixer). So I went to their site to view the episode clip to make sure my dough was looking like hers. My dough wasn’t looking at wet as hers, most likely because I added a tad too much flour. The one piece of equipment I didn’t posses at the time was a scale (which I purchased a few hours after finishing the bread to use the next time), and the recipe called for 5 oz all-purpose flour for the starter (biga). After searching online to figure out an equivalent in cups, there was an array of answers, simply because 1 cup of loosely cupped flour is going to be different than a slightly packed 1 cup of flour. And it’s easy to slightly pack it as you’re scooping to measure. So I just settled on 1 cup of flour and see how it goes. Again my dough wasn’t looking quite as wet/loose as hers, but I just stuck with it. The same thing happened when I was kneading the dough in my stand mixer. I apparently put a little too much flour and it had too much structure than it should have. The video shows the dough barely holding onto the dough hook, while mine was slapping the sides of the bowl. Mine was still sticky and looked fairly similar to hers once I stopped the stand mixer.

After I split the dough in half, I stuck the second half in the bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and kept it in the fridge for 2 days. I continued with the first half and it baked beautifully. The crust was a beautiful brown color and slightly chewy while the crumb was moist and chewy. It tasted a little yeasty/alcoholic to me, but not noticeable. Jeh didn’t notice. It still tasted really good. The holes inside were perfect, not too big and not too small.

When it came time to bake the second half 2 days later, I took it out of the fridge and onto a well floured surface. Shaped it into 12×6″, added peeled raw garlic cloves between the layers as I folded it like a business letter. Then I had let it rest for 1 hour (double the amount of time you’d normally let it rest, because it was cold). I continued with the recipe as she describes and it came out perfectly again! There were slight differences, but still great. The loaf was slightly flatter than the first loaf, but not by much. The inside looked the same (holes were the same size as the first loaf). But this time, I think it actually tastes better. I didn’t taste or smell the yeasty/alcoholic part that I smelled from the first loaf. I was reading a different America’s Test Kitchen recipe and they mentioned during testing  that chilling the dough while letting it rise actually provided the best results and didn’t give that yeasty/alcoholic smell/taste. I’m thinking that’s what happened, although I can’t say that’s a general rule. They mentioned that for only one type of bread they were testing. I’m only guessing.

Anyway, the bread tasted great the first day and even better baked 2 days later. I’ll definitely be making this again. Simple. Easy. Time-consuming, but worth it. It took about 5-10 mins the night before to make the biga (starter). Then about 4 hours from start (making the dough) to finish (out of the oven, not counting the 30-60 mins to cool).

Oh and about the garlic cloves. I LOVE Costco’s Artisan Garlic Bread (it has whole roasted garlic cloves within the bread). I think Costco’s garlic bread is sourdough, but aside from that I wanted to add garlic cloves to this bread and see how it turned out. After being baked, the cloves tasted cooked, but they weren’t browned like Costco’s. I’m thinking they roast the cloves first before adding them to the dough. Which is what I’ll be trying the next time I make this wonderful Ciabatta bread!

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