Friday, December 30, 2016

A Beginner's Ciabatta

The thought of baking ciabatta ran across my mind recently so I gathered up my current favorite bread books to search for recipes and learn about the necessary techniques involved. I also spent a lot of time viewing Youtube videos. None of them agreed with the previous video so I went back on my old favorite, "Bread" by J Hamelman to borrow as much as I could .

After changing his work into metric measure and cutting it down to a small test batch size, I proceeded with my usual naivete that if I follow the instructions I couldn't go too far wrong.

I don't think I did too bad, the loaves were better than just edible and I should be able to duplicate the results in the future. This time around, I used my smaller mixer and used KAF AP as dictated in the book.

136 g KAF AP flour
136 g water, room temperature
1/8 tsp IDY

The IDY quantity is a larger than what the book would suggest for a batch this size  but I went bigger since I started the poolish in the evening when our inside temperature on the thermostat drops from 70F down to 65F for about eight hours. It worked out.

Mr Hamelman directs readers to add all the remaining or main dough ingredients and the poolish into the mixer bowl and start mixing at a slow speed. I went along using the paddle attachment at first speed for three minutes. Then I switched to the dough hook and revved up to second speed for four minutes. The dough cleared to side of the bowl but stayed connected to the bottom. The hydration of this dough is around 73% so it's sticky but in my effort, it wasn't so loose as to fall back into a blob. Mr Hamelman refers to the dough having some strength or muscle.

Main Dough
318 g KAF AP
198 g water at 85F
8 g kosher salt
5/8 tsp IDY
All of the poolish

The bulk fermentation took about three hours. After mixing, I shaped the dough as best I could on a floured surface. From there, it went into a oiled- EVOO, container and after one hour, I gave it a fold. A second fold followed at two hours. The bulk fermentation ended and the dough, now puffed up, went onto a well floured surface.

After a gentle shaping into a rectangular form and patting out the largest bubbles, the top of the dough was lightly floured to facilitate dividing. A metal bladed bench knife is a good tool to use in this situation because a fast, strong cut with a quick twist at the bottom is called for to divide the dough. Check out the Cyril Hitz video showing him trimming the edges for a well defined edge and placing the trimmings on the bottom of the dough to give it some height. I chose the "rustic" or unfinished look and just stretched out the two pieces before placing them on my floured couche. I just eyeballed the dough but scaling the dough is doable if you choose. Moving the dough will probably call for the use of the bench knife to help keep the amount of handling to a minimum. It worked for me.

Proofing took about 1 1/4 hours for me. YMMV since the dough rises to an almost cartoon like  height and it will spread if there isn't a fold in the couche. Once the proofing is done or when you get concerned that you may be overdoing things, transfer the dough to a floured bread board or some floured  parchment paper that is well supported. An inverted sheet pan or a cookie sheet pan will do. Slide the dough onto your baking stone which has been sitting in your preheated oven, 450F, and utilize some steam if your situated for doing so. Otherwise, mist the tops of the dough, close the oven, and peak through the window in the door as the bake progresses. They do rise. After fifteen minutes, turn the loaves around and remove the parchment paper if your using it. Another twenty to twenty five minutes of baking should reward you with nicely colored loaves. As always, let the loaves cool on a wire rack before serving.

That's it in brief. I would suggest that everyone take a look at Mr Hamelman's book. His instructions are far more explanatory and an excellent tutorial but if you just want to have fun, I think that this will get you through the basics and you can make up the rest as you go along.

Outside the window, the temperatures have been unseasonably warm for a few days and there's no snow on the ground. While my family back East in Massachusetts is dealing with snow, today I mowed the last of the leaves in my backyard into mulch. There haven't been any unusual birds at the feeders but I have seen a lot of red tailed hawks in the area, perched on light poles, near the tops of trees, or on wires and looking for their next snack.

This obscure corner of the internet has gotten a lot of visits from Poland over the last couple of weeks. I wonder if my father has been spreading the word about my follies here to relatives over there.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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