Like many of you, I don't always have time to bake my own bread and I buy artisan bread where I can find it; sometimes from chain deli-bakeries and sometimes from independents. This is the first in a series of retail bakery artisan bread reviews I will be publishing. I'm most interested in hearing your comments and learning where folks who appreciate good bread buy there loaves. First up is Whole Foods Market Ciabatta. The bread you get from Whole Foods will vary according to your region. Each region has a bakehouse that supports several stores. The stores I visit are in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina. I have found that most of the breads here are excellent and the Ciabatta is one of my favorites.
The crust on this bread is nice and crispy. The crumb is semi-chewy, almost creamy. I can tell the dough is a proper 100% hydration by the awesome open whole structure. This is a lean Ciabatta (no olive oil) and I actually prefer mine this way. I buy this bread about once a week and will continue to do so. Usually, I will bring it home, cut it into thick slices, and freeze it. I take out a few slices at a time, thaw them, and pop them in the oven at 425 for about 12 minutes. I have found that I can keep it for weeks using this method and it tastes as fresh as day one out of the oven. The Whole Foods Ciabatta is one of those retail loaves that I find not only edible, but downright excellent!