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Mar 3, 2005 03:56 PM

ciabatta - my findings (looooong)

  • k

I've been desperately trying to replicate the ciabatta I can buy at home, so I've been trying three recipes over the last day and a half.

What I want:
ciabatta that's pale and with a soft crust. Inside, I want large air bubbles rather than lots of little ones, with a crumb that's moist and chewy, stretchy, elasticlike.

The recipes:
Two from epicurious, one from fellow chowhound Chilidude. All three had certain similarities; requiring a sponge which is left to rise overnight, stickiness (this is not the bread for pummeling and releasing tension!). I used tipo '0' flour (white, 11g protein per 100g) in place of bread/strong flour. I used instant dry yeast for all recipes, and a fresh yeast cube I had in the fridge for the sponge of recipe 2. My oven is a small, wonky gas oven. All yielded two loaves.

First recipe: Chilidude's ciabatta. Kindly donated by CD, this was probably the most enjoyable to make. The dough was the least sticky of the three, and therefore the easiest to handle. The sponge used an interesting mixture of whole wheat, semolina and bread (strong) flour. I liked how it required no blender, dough hook, etc. It did not rise enourmously during various resting stages, but it did surprisingly so in the oven. I took his advice, and baked one in the traditional freeform shape, and the other in a bread tin (good for sandwiches). The small amount put in bread tin yielded a large loaf. It required 45 min cooking time - the longest of the three. The bread was soft flavourful and chewy, but with a finer crumb and less moisture than what I was looking for. The tin loaf was great for sandwiches.

Second recipe: Epicurious, which I nicknamed EPI 'biga' (Italian term for sponge) to differentiate from the second EPI recipe, nicknamed EPI 'sponge'. EPI biga had the most complicated recipe in terms of dough mixing. You had to blend yeast and water and flour together, which, using the herb chopping attachment on my braun handstick took three batches and was messy. As reviews mentioned, the biga was stiff and difficult to work into the dough, but the lumpiness didn't seem to affect the bread negatively. This recipe also used semolina (durum wheat) flour. I wasn't aware of a graininess to the finished loaf. The bread was moister than the first recipe, with more, larger bubbles.

Third recipe: This one required the most resting periods. The loaves didn't rise at all, so after two hours I just baked them anyway. These are harder to eat, as slices are smaller (1.5 inches high). Yielded a moist crumb. The texture was quite well developed (prob a result of the longer rising time), but the crumb was too tight, and the air bubbles too small to be close to what I wanted. This, if it were higher, would be a great, tasty country-style loaf. If I make it again, I would put it in loaf tins to encourage height.

Second recipe:
Third recipe:

In summary: All the recipes produced lovely breadsm but still tending towards what I would consider a great farmhouse loaf. the second, 'biga' recipe is the one I am most likely to repeat; it had the most 'dough-y' texture and was therefore most like the ciabatta I want.

If anyone has any other recipes to share, I'd love to have them! Alternatively, any idea what makes my ideal ciabatta so pourous and elastic?

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  1. Great summary, Kate. Glad that you had some success with my adapted recipe. As you know from our intercontinental emails, my dough recipe is still evolving. I am trying to achieve an end result that can be used for panini.

    I found a clipping from a magazine after we started the exchange of emails which I squirreled away almost 3 years ago. The article suggests using a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid to bake artisanal bread by emulating the brick ovens used in Italian bakeries. The lid is necessary to contain the steam given off by the baking dough needed to create a crunchy crust. I may give that a try next time I bake bread using the ciabatta recipe.

    Keep up the good work and keep us informed of your progress in achieving the loaves you desire.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ChiliDude

      I forgot to answer your question about what is needed to achieve the airy bread. It's the amount of water used in the dough. In the past, I would make dough that was easily kneaded due to it being elastic and firm. The resulting bread was dense with tiny holes.

      1. re: ChiliDude

        ChiliDude, I recently took a bread baking class and they use Jim Lahey's Sullivan Street Bakery recipe. It is a no-knead bread, cooked in a dutch oven and it is so close to the bread I used to be able to buy hot and fresh at the bakeries in Germany. It's fabulous. Nice and dense. Just go to the his web page and the recipe is there. Enjoy!!

      2. i use the Carol Field receipe, and I have a Magic Mill. Works great and I bake one a week.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Kitchenette

          Excuse my ignorance, but what is a Magic Mill?

          I don't use any mechanical devices when preparing the ciabatta dough, so I'm not aware of what devices are out there in the modern world. When I prepare dough I use one large mixing bowl, a table fork, and measuring utensils. The rest is done by hand until the stuff goes into the oven.

          1. re: ChiliDude

            I accessed Google and put the keywords 'Magic Mill' in the slot. Up came the homepage of the mfr. and a hefty list price of $499. Just give me a mixing bowl and a table fork. Even at age 68, I can still stir and knead dough by hand.

        2. Or CD, if you are still around on this thread, would love to try the recipe Kate is referring to. Thanks!

          1. Kate, Can you share CD's ciabatta recipe?