Time to begin another question for bread perfection improvement! By popular request/persuasion, I've decided to attempt a ciabatta quest, and leave off on perfecting crusty sourdough dinner rolls for another day.
For the next however-many-it-takes weeks, I will bake a batch of ciabatta dough, and post my results to this baker-blog. My goal: to reliably produce a ciabatta with a thin, crisp crust, open, moist crumb, delectable wheaty flavor, and which is tall enough to slice longitudinally for sandwiches.
A modest goal, I hope. We'll see how it goes!
I've not yet found a ciabatta formula that delivers the results I'm looking for, so for the first few weeks I'm going to experiment with different formulas. If one produces exceptional results, I'll stick with it. If they all seem about the same in my clumsy hands, I'll pick the one that's easiest and stick with that one. Either way, eventually I will settle down to baking one formula and tweaking/practicing it until I meet my goal.
Let the adventure begin! For week one, I tried SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta. Here's the formula, partly for my own future reference as I found Steve's writeup a little hard to read (call me old-fashioned, but I'm not crazy about recipes written in present perfect tense). I had a little trouble with his mixing instructions, as he refers to mixing speeds 1, 2 and 3, whereas my Kitchenaid has speeds "Stir" 2, 4, 6 etc. In the formula below I've reprinted his instructions, with the speed I actually used [in brackets].
- 500g King Arthur AP Flour (100%)
- 380g water (76%)
- 15g Olive Oil (3%)
- 10g Salt (2%)
- .7g instant yeast (1/4 teaspoon, .14%)
- 190g Flour
- 190g Water
- 1/8 tsp instant yeast
- 310g Flour, divided
- 190g water, divided
- 15g Olive Oil
- 1/8 tsp inseant yeast
- 10g salt
- The night before, mix poolish ingredients, cover and let sit for 12 hours
- On baking day, combine poolish, 150g water and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed using the whisk attachment until smooth.
- Add 30g flour and increase speed to speed 3 [4 on my Kitchenaid] for two minutes.
- Stop mixer, add remaining flour and yeast. Switch to the dough hook and mix 2 minutes more, just until the flour is hydrated.
- Cover bowl with plastic and autolyse for 30 minutes.
- Add salt, turn mixer to speed 3  and mix 10 minutes.
- With mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 40g water, dribbling in a few drops at a time and allowing each addition to be incorporated before adding more. Mix a total of 10 more minutes.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, ferment for 3 hours
- [I poured the dough out for a french fold at 1-1/2 hours, which Steve does not call for]
- Empty the dough onto a well floured work surface, divide in half, and place on a well-floured couche.
- Proof 1 hour [I proofed for 1-1/2, having forgotten to pre-heat the oven!]
- An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees
- Gently flip the dough from the couche onto a sheet pan or peel lined with parchment.
- Transfer loaves to a stone in the oven. Bake 35 minutes total, with steam for the first 15 minutes.
- Turn off oven, open oven door and leave the loaves in for 6 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
And the results:
Crust was a bit thick, but was crisp and had good flavor. Crumb was moist and flavorful but barely open at all, despite a decent rise.
I'm not sure what to make of the formula. There are a number of possible explanations for the poor crumb here, most of which can't be blamed on the formula: Poor mixing (mixer not turned up high enough), not enough stretch and folds, degassing from the added stretch and fold, clumsy handling, etc. Certainly the flavor was good, and I definitely liked using a well floured couche for proofing rather than a bread board as some other formulas suggest (less spreading, easier flipping). But the mixing proceedure is awfully fiddly, and 20 minutes of high-speed mixing after an autolyze seems excessive, even if it gets the job done.
Food for thought (and for dinner!).
Happy baking everyone,