i'm new to the list and, since i just baked ciabatta last night, amylynn's
question gives me a great opportunity to jump right in--
amylynn, i followed (more or less) nancy silverton's recipe in *breads from
la brea bakery* and was very pleased with the results. (note: silverton
calls this "rustic bread," but it is indeed ciabatta.) this recipe calls
for sourdough starter; if you don't have a starter on hand, do this:
early in the evening on the night before you want to bake, float a pinch
(like, 1/4 teaspoon or so) of yeast on 1/2 cup water (cool from the tap),
wait a few minutes for it soften, then stir in 1 cup of flour. cover it
with plastic and let it sit at room temperature until you're ready to go to
bed, then add another 1/2 cup of water and another cup of flour. stir it
vigorously, cover again, and let it sit overnight. this will give you a
sponge to use in place of the sourdough starter called for in the recipe.
i'm going to paraphrase the rest of the recipe, as silverton is quite
long-winded (i highly recommend her book, however, if you're serious about
baking). ***one caveat: ciabatta depends on an extremely wet dough for
its texture, and wet doughs virtually require machine kneading. think long
and hard about making this if you don't have something powerful with a
dough hook to take care of the kneading. you also need a baking stone, a
peel, and parchment paper.*** the next day, when you're ready to bake:
put 2 1/2 cups of cool water in a large bowl and sprinkle in 1 teaspoon (2
teaspoons if you're using a sponge instead of starter) of yeast. let it
dissolve, give it a stir, and then stir in around 6 cups of flour until
it's shaggy (it goes without saying: you may need to use more flour than
this). knead the fool out of it. it will be quite wet; if it isn't,
drizzle in a little more water. it should just clean the sides of the bowl
once the gluten has started to develop, but it should still be sticky and
taffyish to your hands (i.e., you wouldn't want to turn it out on the
counter and knead it by hand). give it about 5 minutes in a kitchenaid (or
switch off the machine and let it rest for 20 minutes (cover the bowl
loosely w/ plastic).
add 1 tablespoon of salt and knead for a couple of minutes. mix 3
tablespoons of olive oil, 3 of water, and 3 of milk, and drizzle into the
dough. knead on low speed (it'll want to slosh out) at first, then on
medium for another couple of minutes. the dough will be very wet and
stretchy. (if it's more a batter than a dough, add a bit more flour--you
want the dough on the verge of pourability, but it should have sufficient
gluten development to rescue it from becoming a batter). scrape down the
sides of the bowl if necessary, cover with plastic, and let it rise at
room temperature until doubled (2-3 hours).
thickly flour a tabletop or counter. turn the dough out onto the floured
surface in a rough oval. flour the top of the dough and cover it with a
towel to rest for 20 minutes.
cut two 12x16-inch pieces of parchment paper and sprinkle them with
semolina or cornmeal and then flour. use a dough cutter to cut the dough
oval crosswise into two pieces. slide the dough cutter under one end of a
piece of dough and lightly grasp the other end of the piece; then quickly
transfer the dough to one of the parchment sheets, stretching it slightly
as it falls. don't worry about looks (that's why silverton calls it
"rustic"), just try to get it to be no more than 1 1/2 inches thick. do
the same with the other piece of dough. dimple the loaves all over with
your fingers (poke down to the parchment). cover with a towel and let rise
for 2 hours.
have a baking stone in the oven, preheated to 500 degrees. spritz with
water. cut two more pieces of parchment, same size as before, and place on
top of the loaves. grasp opposite corners and flip the loaves over (a bit
tricky!), then peel off the 'old' parchment and redimple the loaves. use a
peel to load the loaves (still on the parchment paper) onto the stone.
spritz the oven, then spritz twice more during the first 5 minutes. reduce
the heat to 450 and leave the door closed for 15 minutes, then remove the
parchment and turn the loaves if necessary. bake for another 10 or 15
minutes, then remove and cool on a rack.
you might have to bake the loaves separately if your stone isn't large enough.
this bread was great when sliced crosswise into skinny rusk-like
slices--lots of holes and delicious flavor. wonderful brushed with olive
oil and grilled, then rubbed with garlic.
other books that have ciabatta recipes: the il fornaio bakery cookbook,
carol field's italian baker (i think), and joe ortiz's the village baker.
hope this works for you! and happy to be joining you all--