The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ciabatta with Biga- Hamelman's 'Bread'

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Franko's picture

 Ciabatta is another one of those breads that falls into the category of ones I seldom make, much like the baguettes I made recently and posted on in the [last entry] to this blog. Having had varying degrees of success and failure over the years, along with the fact Ciabatta isn't a particularly useful bread for my day to day sandwiches, I tend to give it a pass when deciding what to bake next. The baguette making I've been doing over the last few weeks however has given me some insight into working with our higher protein (13.3%) Canadian AP flour to achieve results similar to Ciabatta made with softer US AP or European flours. A very gentle hand in mixing, using a scant amount of yeast and a lengthy (22-24 hour) overnight cold fermentation have produced some good results so far. 

When I say “a very gentle hand in mixing” I mean almost a no knead type of mixing, combining the ingredients just enough to form a loose dough, with a few stretch and folds in the bowl during the doughs initial 1.5 hour 76F fermentation, and finally a light S&F on the bench before going in the fridge for the retarded fermentation. The dough was extremely slack after mixing, gaining some slight but noticeable strength during the S&F sessions. After the dough's 23 hour session in the fridge it was tipped out onto a well floured counter and allowed to warm up for an hour before scaling and shaping. From here on the procedure used for shaping and final proof were much the same as per Hamelman's or Suas directions, the dough placed in floured linen and left to rise for 90 minutes in the B&T proofer at 76F-78F/24.4C-25.5C . In the past I've always used silicone paper to transfer the loaves to before peeling them onto the stone, deciding this time instead to dust the peel with cornmeal in order to have as little as possible come between the sole of the loaf and the 485F stone. After the first 10 minutes of baking the oven was vented and steaming apparatus removed. The loaves had jumped nicely as hoped and looked well on their way to becoming decent Ciabatta. The oven temperature was lowered to 465F and the loaves rotated periodically for even colouring over the next 25 minutes before removing to a rack for cooling. The great thing about these types of breads is they're ready to eat just hours after baking, unlike sourdough/levain style breads or rye breads that often need a minimum of 24-30 hours cooling to properly set the crumb before slicing and allow flavours to develop. The volume of these loaves is deceiving compared to it's weight, which started out at roughly 550 grams and ended up at 348 grams, resulting in what I'd describe as air, contained within a bubble of gelatinized starch and coagulated gluten. This particular mix of ciabatta literally steamed itself from the inside out, creating a shiny open crumb to a degree I've never managed in the past. The flavour of the bread is good, quite good in fact, considering that I normally prefer breads with a more assertive flavour than an all white wheat mix can offer. The biga preferment used in this mix, along with the extended cold ferment contribute a faint sour background note to the overall flavour profile, without which I don't think the bread would be nearly as enjoyable to eat as it is. The texture of the bread I feel is it's strong point. With a crunchy, fly away crust and chewy crumb from the gelatinized starch, it's ideal for layering other flavours on top of. A good olive oil, ripe tomatoes, sharp cheese and salami are some obvious choices that come to mind, but good with so many types of food it's not surprising Ciabatta has become as popular as it is over the last twenty years or more. 

Additional photos and links to formula and procedure below.

Note: We'll be away for a few days visiting the wild West Coast of Vancouver Island and unable to respond to any comments after tomorrow and until we return on Thursday.




Link to working spreadsheet for Ciabatta with Biga Formula [here]


Link to procedure text for Ciabatta with Biga [here]

Franko's picture

We don't see a lot of posts on sandwiches on this forum, which I'm sure is what most of use our daily bread for. I thought it'd be fun to do something a little different by including a procedure on the meat that went into this particular favourite sandwich of mine.

Yesterday morning I mixed ciabatta dough for ciabatta buns or ciabattini in order to make one of my all time favourite sandwiches, the porchetta sandwich. Ciabatta is a bread I seldom make for sandwiches but when I've have the time to make porchetta I can't think of another bread I'd rather put it on. Hamelman's Ciabatta with Biga was the formula used, scaling it out to make about a kilo of dough to work with. It's the first time I've used this formula for Ciabatta but certainly not the last as it makes a very nice dough that's relatively easy to handle, and has an excellent aroma and flavour once baked. The ciabattini were scaled at 105 grams per, the remainder of the dough was used for a smallish loaf that I'll use for a sub sandwich.

The crumb is soft and moist, with no large holes, perfect for soaking up the flavours of the lightly smoked porchetta and any other condiments I might add, which is usually a peperoncini or two, some thin slices of provolone and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Although this version of porchetta is not close to an authentic one where the pork shoulder is stuffed with a sausage type filling from other parts of the animal along with various other ingredients, it is quick and easy to prepare and has plenty of flavour.

The recipe I used as a reference point is Mario Battali's which can be found here , but I just made a blend of olive oil and the herbs and spices he suggests (and some he doesn't) in a food processor, rather than make the sausage type filling this time. The herb and oil paste is then spread over the pork that's been cut in such a way that it can laid flat and then be rolled up and tied.

Once rolled and tied it was rubbed with sea salt and a generous amount of black pepper, placed in a zip-lock bag and liberally doused with white wine. It marinated in the fridge for four days, being turned once a day to ensure all of it was exposed to the wine over the course of marination. The day before cooking it was removed from the marinade and dried off, then wrapped in a double layer of cheese cloth and put back in the fridge to dry overnight. The next day the meat was cooked in a hot smoker for two hours at 220F using a very light smoke of oak wood. It's not essential that the meat be smoked. It can be made with just a conventional oven, but a bit of smoke adds a lot to the overall flavour.

Before going to the oven after initial 2 hour smoking

After that it went into the oven for 2 more hours at 250F or until the internal temperature read 170F. After 5-10 minutes out of the oven it was wrapped in saran and allowed to cool down slowly before being placed in the fridge overnight. The meat is savoury and succulent with a bit of crunch from the fat that has turned to cracklings over the long cooking time. Redolent of garlic, fennel seed and rosemary, with some heat from the black pepper and a few chili flakes that were included in the seasoning, it packs an incredible amount of flavour into the 2 or 3 slices I used to make the sandwich in the photos below.

The sandwich is best if the meat and bread are warmed first before it's eaten and I'll usually put the cheese on the meat while its warming to melt it slightly. While it's not a true porchetta or porchetta sandwich in the authentic sense , it does make a very satisfying lunchtime snack.

Happy eating,



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