PiP’s Hybrid Ciabatta … mkI
I have baked the ciabatta formula from Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Baking many times. For me it’s a reference point of what an ideal ciabatta should taste, look and feel like … oh and the aroma of the fermented biga is pretty special too.
In contrast, I have eaten naturally leavened ciabattas and find I am a little disappointed with the texture. I enjoy the taste … but the chewiness and tougher crust feel out of place. For me a ciabatta should be almost weightless, brittle and singling loudly when removed from the oven. Its crumb translucent and fine … and yes holes … lots of holes :)
I decided it was time to try and get the best of both worlds in a ciabatta – the delicate crust and crumb from the commercial yeast and the flavour and strength from a stiff levain - a hybrid ciabatta.
I expanded my levain with the standard mix of AP flour and freshly milled grains with the plan of using it fairly young thus keeping the acidity reasonably low.
Next the hydration … now this is something that I think I can push further very easily.
I set the hydration for 85%, but with a twist in the mix. Instead of building strength with plenty of stretch and folds as per Craig Ponsford’s ciabatta formula I planned to use a double hydration method.
The double hydration method I used was this … add enough water in the autolyse and initial mixing to bring the hydration to 75% while holding back the remaining water and salt. After a thorough kneading (15 min) add the remaining water and salt then mix until dough combines again. The mixed dough felt strong even before the bulk ferment and even stronger after two stretch and folds. In hindsight I think only one stretch-and-fold would have been necessary (if at all)
It bulk fermented for 2.5 hrs before I divided and shaped the puffy dough. By this time the dough had gained so much strength that I probably could have shaped into batards if I was feeling game.
After proofing I baked them in a very hot oven and managed to get a nice little steam burn on my thumb from cracking a bubble as I turned the loaves half way through the bake.
Pip’s Hybrid Ciabatta mkI
Formula (makes 4 x 500g ciabattas)
Total dough weight
Desired dough temperature 24°C
Levain build – 4-5 hrs 24°C
Starter (not included in final dough)
Flour (I use a flour mix of 70% AP flour, 18% fresh milled wheat, 9% fresh milled spelt and 3% fresh milled rye)
Final dough 24°C
- Autolyse flour and water 45 mins (hold back 100 grams of water)
- Add levain, instant yeast and knead until well developed, roughly 15-20 mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and 100 grams of water and squeeze through bread to incorporate (dough will separate then come back together smoothly)
- Bulk ferment 2.5 hours with two stretch-and-folds in the first hour. This could be taken back to one stretch-and-fold as the dough had gained considerable strength by 2nd set of folds.
- Divide and shape. I did a letterfold and placed seam side down. With less stretch-and-folds this may work better. Dough was a little to tense. Maybe even just cut and prove with no shaping.
- Flip the dough off the couche and transfer to peel. Dimple by pressing fingers into dough. Peel into a very hot oven with steam and bake for 35 mins at 250°C until very well browned.
They had amazing ovenspring and sang proudly when removed from the oven to cool. The crust is a dark red with expansion cracks running along the top from the letter fold seam. I then summoned all my self control and allowed it to cool before slicing into it. Whew … exhausting!
The crust cracked and shattered as the knife descended through it before revealing a open and opaque crumb. The kind of crumb I love in a ciabatta. Delicate! The flavour of the levain brought a much cleaner and lighter taste to the bread than the biga … a taste I think I prefer.
Were there holes? … well yes, but not quite as large and random as the glezer formula, but I think that has more to do with the extra handling I gave the dough during the bulk ferment.
But will I bake these again? Yep, very happy, but I will change a few things. I like the double hydration method and will use it again but I think I can increase the hydration to 90% easily while doing away with one of the stretch-and-folds. Perhaps even a tad more whole grains next time … I do like to see flecks in the crumb.
I would love to say we built gourmet sandwiches with fresh basil, plump sun ripened tomatoes and the finest olive oil … but in reality we made toasted cheese soldiers for the kids.
…and what do Aussie kids have on there toasted cheese soldiers?
… and do you know what?… they tasted awesome!
All the best,