Home Cooking 8

ciabatta - my findings (looooong)

kate | Mar 3, 2005 03:56 PM

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: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...
Third recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

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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