As my husband and I were savoring some ciabatta from a local bakery this morning, he said, "If you could make bread like this, I'd kiss your feet". Can anyone help me?
re: Nancy Berry
Ah, your husband will no doubt understand my own motivation in learning how to make brioche for my wife several years ago. There can be such happiness in good baking.
I would suggest that you buy the Il Fornaio cookbook. When first learning how to bake bread, you really need recipes that are more designed to get you an accomplished product than one that includes enormous range or subtlety. After many attempts, I came across the Il Fornaio recipes and found them to be both fool proof and entirely satisfactory. When you are turning out a nice reliable product (and have very happy feet, I would imagine) you might want to turn to Nancy Silverton's recipes. She has a splendid one for this bread - I have found it in Julia Child's short book on Master Chef's, but it undoubtedly appears in Silverton's own books. Oh, and stay away from "bread flour" which is for those silly contraptions they call "bread machines". Use fresh yeast with a nice expiration date in the distant future. And remember, the more frequently and regularly you bake, the more those littley yeasty fellas hang around your kitchen and help their friends. As a consequence, your first loaf can never be your best one. But a little persistence yields great rewards. Buona fortuna, senora. E cari saluti!
Nancy's site link is awesome - but rather than trying to decide from all these options, one alternative is to simply grab a copy of Carol Field's the Italian Baker Cookbook. Im not a proficient bread baker, but I made excellent and very typical ciabatta from her recipe the first try (I had never had ciabatta at that time and I was amazed, when I later had a commercial version, that it tasted like mine). Its not particularly difficult. Good luck in your quest.
ps - I bake on quarry tiles and turn the oven up all the way for a good long while before baking. Steam in the oven (through one of the recommended methods) also seems to help with these italian breads. Just dont use bread flour - its inappropriate and too strong for the italian breads.