Totally Frustrated Jason's Quick Ciabatta
After drooling with envy over Jason's quick ciabatta (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2984/jasons-quick-coccodrillo-ciabatta-bread) it's incredible crust and open airy texture I am compelled to ask for help.
Long time lurker, ten year hobbyist bread baker - and supremely frustrated.
If anyone has the expert knowledge and hands on skill to actually crack this problem, I will be eternally grateful.
My doughs all slump, are all so sticky as to be near impossible to work with and never hold the intended shape.
Here's the set-up, the Back Story. First, I live at 5,000 in high desert, average humidity usually under 15%. Every dough I make slumps. Whole wheat, white, bleached AP, unbleached bread flour you name it. I've got a Log with over 18 variations of flour listed. Once my dough is formed, it slumps. And doesn't rise. New yeast, old yeast, even proven sourdough starters from Sourdough International out of Idaho. Quality flours from King Arthur, or a high end bread flour from Italy, or store bought God knows what kind of flour from Wal-Mart and everything in between. Spring water, tap water, even tried distilled water. Salt in at the beginning or salt later after the yeast is working. Sugar added to the yeast water or not added. Makes no difference. Slump. Not enough of whatever to stand up and hold any kind of form.
Hand kneaded, no kneading (5 Minute Artisan Bread), Danielle Forstier's 800 slaps against a counter top or Kitchen Aid and dough hook still my doughs slump to a flattened flat bread. I make a decent foccacia by now, but the interior is so dense I consider it the zenith of failure. If I proof the dough in a proper banneton, after turning it out on a peel, it slumps, then sticks. (yes, not only does everything slump but no matter what hydration level EVERYTHING sticks) If I form it for a baguette in a wicker basket lined with parchment paper to get the proper elongated shape, then ever so gently turn it out it slumps. If I get a half way decent rise occasionally for a boule, on parchment and slip it into a cast iron dutch oven, that rise collapses into a squat and it bakes in a squat.
And forget the lame and slash. The few times I dared the bread sighed and gave up the ghost. What resulted was like making crackers.
If I decrease moisture so I can firm up a dough enough to form a ball, it will slump. If I make a dough with that little moisture (approaching less than 50% hydration), it will stay formed but no oven rise at all and the crumb is as dense as can be. If I increase moisture (to nearly 90%) expecting escaping steam to aerate the crumb, no joy. It is so sticky and loose it cannot be handled at all. And does not rise. No holes. I've turned out a 90% hydration dough repeatedly on parchment, slid it onto my bricks and no airy crumb. Pretty much nothing but just flat condensed bread. If I proof the yeast and it foams beautifully, if I don't proof and add it into the mix (5 Minute Artisan method) it doesn't matter. If I use fresh dated packets or Red Star from a jar doesn't matter.
My 2 year old oven is perfectly fine, a sealed all metal bottom which I lined with half-thickness firebricks. When the oven thermometer reads 500 (separate from the built in thermometer), in goes dough. 500 degree bricks make a great caramelization on the bottom, but the rest just lies there like a boneless drunk after a binge. (tossing in boiling water is a snap in this oven, since it's sealed).
I'm stumped and significantly frustrated. I've kept logs so I know what works and what doesn't and so far I have 238 pages of what doesn't work. Jason's Quick Ciabatta was the last straw. That's the most beautiful bread I've seen. That's the crumb and oven spring I'm looking for and six months of precisely following his directions has produced nothing but flat tasteless bread.
One loaf, just one success is all I'm asking. Anybody with enough experience know what's preventing my succeeding? Your help will be sincerely appreciated.