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breadsong's picture

Ciabatta ... an attempt


I've seen so many beautiful loaves here on TFL, with beautiful open crumb. When making dough by hand I know I'm adding too much flour to overcome stickiness when kneading. Guess what? No holes. I have shied away from the really wet doughs not really knowing how to handle them.

I recently saw a video by Richard Bertinet where he demonstrates his method for working sticky dough:

I found this video very encouraging, and now want to give a wet Ciabatta dough another try.  I read through various formulae and methods, to see how they meet the following criteria (what produces big holes in the crumb, as written by Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Bread Bible):

a) acid dough (use of a dough starter and a long cool rising)
b) underdeveloped gluten (from less mixing time)
c) high water percentage, to create a very wet dough
d) a slow rise
e) gentle shaping
f) an overnight rise of the shaped dough in the refrigerator (not applicable to Ciabatta?)

I decided to try Eric Kastel's Ciabatta formula as I've liked some of his others, and because there are similarities to Hamelman's formula, which gives me comfort (any Hamelman formula I've tried, so far, has produced really good results for me).
Kastel also writes about a double-hydration mixing technique that sounded interesting (discussed below).
Instead of 100% bread flour as Mr. Kastel's recipe indicates, I substituted 50% bread flour and 50% Type 00 Italian flour, to mimic 'ciabatta' flour, as shown in Mr. Bertinet's Ciabatta formula.

I saw different methods in different books, and tried to take bits and pieces from a few, to try to address the conditions needed to create big holes in the crumb:

a) Kastel's Ciabatta uses a poolish that ferments for 12-14 hours prior to mixing the dough.

b), c) Kastel's Ciabatta uses a double-hydration mixing method, using only 80% of the final dough's water for the initial mix (in the bowl, by hand for 4 minutes), then adding the remaining 20% of the water in thirds, continuing to mix by hand until each addition of water is absorbed before adding the next. Kastel writes the purpose of this is to allow some gluten to develop, while the dough is firmer and before the dough is completely hydrated. (Water is ultimately 81% of flour weight in Kastel's formula). 
Kastel advises that Ciabatta is a delicate dough and shouldn't be worked too much; Bertinet instructs to work the dough until it is supple and elastic; Hamelman says after mixing there should be some 'muscle' to the dough. I decide to go with Bertinet's more vigorous working method, partly because I want to see if it works, partly because I'm using some lower-protein flour, and not 100% bread flour, and because I trust Hamelman and his mixing recommendation. I turned the very wet, soupy dough onto the counter from the bowl and tried to do as Mr. Bertinet instructs. I mucked around (literally) for 10 minutes or so and got the dough to a stage where, while still very soft and sticky, had a bit of spring to it and would leave the counter in a cohesive mass when I picked it up. I am hoping that stretch and fold will make up for any deficiencies in my mixing or working of the dough.

d) Hamelman's bulk fermentation, at 3 hours, is longer than Kastel's instruction. I decide to wait it out for the 3 hours. When preparing for mixing, I made some formula adjustments as I was planning to let the dough bulk ferment for longer -  I wanted to slow down the rising - so used 1/3 less yeast (why 1/3? Only a guess). I also adjusted the salt to be equivalent to the percentage used by Hamelman as I really like how Hamelman's breads taste (I think they're nicely salted, and Kastel's recipe had a higher salt percentage).

Both Hamelman and Kastel indicate 2 stretch and folds during bulk fermentation. Peter Reinhart's stretch and fold video on Amazon instructs 4 stretch and folds for Ciabatta:
I will split the difference and go with 3 stretch and folds, at 45-minute intervals.  For the stretch and fold, Kastel says to flour the counter, Reinhart says to oil it. I'm going with Reinhart on this one, as I really want to preserve wetness in the dough.
I can feel the dough responding to each stretch and fold, and see air bubbles, which is exciting!

e) All the authors recommend using lots of flour and being really gentle with the dough when shaping.
I sifted a heavy coating of flour on the counter, gently turned the dough out of its rising container, and sifted more flour on top. I cut the dough into three strips. Shaping one dough strip at a time, I pushed the sides together as Rose instructs (to create the wrinkled look on top of the loaf), then inverted bottom side up. Then I gently picked the loaf up and stretched to lengthen it slightly while placing on parchment paper.

f) Kastel's final proof was for 20-30 minutes, and Hamelman's was for 1-1/2 hours. I chose the longer timeframe for proofing.

I followed Hamelman's baking instructions, 460F then 440F, and baked on a baking stone with steam.
I found the loaves were really browning so reduced the oven to 400F after about 18 minutes in the oven.

Here's how they turned out:

When I sliced the bread, the crust sort of splintered.  It's a very crisp crust. I am eating a piece of the bread right now as I finish this post...and the bread is good!
I am not sure if the crumb is as open as it could or should be, but it's more open than anything I've made yet, so for that I'm grateful!

Regards, breadsong








nicodvb's picture

Is it possible to create an osmotolerant sourdough?


since my sweet tooth (as Andy calls it) demands quite high percentages of sugar I always have a big problem with my leavened cakes: my rye starter  and the preferments I prepare with it are not made of osmotolerant yeasts, and it shows... making a cake is always a pain and I always have to proceed in incremental steps.

I wonder if I can give life to an osmotolerant starter using a selective approach: continually refreshing a part of my starter adding a non trivial amount of sugar and salt. My guess/hope is that at every refreshment only the osmotolerant yeasts should survive and colonize the starter.

But now the questions:

-first of all: does it make sense? Does my idea have any chance of succeeding?

-how much sugar and salt should I use? Yesterday I refreshed with 10% of sugar  and a touch of salt and now, after 12 hours, the starter has doubled a couple of times (the second time after a stir).

-should I keep the amount of sugar and salt constant until the growth rate is high or should I raise the percentages every time in small steps?

-finally: what would happen to the lactobacilli? Would they survive or die? Would my starter lose its enzymatic activity and it sourness?


Debra, I really hope to read your answer! I'm also very curious to know what which yeasts are osmotolerant and their properties. Can you can point me to something to read, please?


Nami01's picture

Shokupan Sandwich Bread...Help?


Nice to meet you all! So looking at the wonderful forum here, I found a recipe for Shokupan. Something I didn't know could be found ANYWHERE on the net. Excited, I started the recipe on from the Japanese site that was posted.

The pictures for the recipe and my progress work seemed to fit quite well, to the point I was really excited. But following the baking instructions, I got something like this...

Shokupan from Pullman Pan

D: It didn't look brown and toasty at all. In fact, it looked like it had shrunk in my pan. I baked it according to the site 160C for 10 min and 190C for 20 minutes. Then I waited 10 min before opening the pullman pan and popping it out. Can anyone guess what I did wrong?

I made sure to rise the dough until 1.5cm below the pan before baking. It looks like it grew a little initially during, but didn't quite make it there to make the pretty stuffed box shape?

The Japanese pullman pan is a different size than regular ones, not as long but wider and deeper. Could this have anything to do with it? I checked the ingredients and they should make a 1.4lb (630g) loaf...which should be about right for my 1.5lb pullman pan? Right?

From the background of the picture on the Japanese site, it looks suspiciously like they used a toaster "oven" type that my friend used while she was in Japan. Could it be that comparatively my big normal sized oven makes the pan too far away from the heat source and my temperature wasn't "hot" enough? On the site, they did say their little oven was "stronger" than most...?

And what in the world made the bread shrink smaller than the pan? Was I supposed to let it sit in the pan until completely cooled? Or maybe not let it sit in the pan at all (pop it out immediately)? Was it because my heat was too weak?

Sorry for being such a newbie. I feel that many experienced bakers may be able to tell what I did wrong from looking at the picture and my description. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I thought I would roll up my sleeves for try #2 tomorrow! Thank you in advance for reading/replying to such a long post from a confused little newbie!


huycao's picture

Hello from Vietnam

Hello everyone

I am an only 6 month-experience baker, from Vietnam. At workplace, I make baguette, burger, sandwich...At home, I don't have any mixer, so I knead the dough by hand for about 25mins, every 700g of flour, I get 2 loaves of milk sandwich (10cmX10cmX20cm). Now I want to try with muffin, it sounds hard for me to bake them.

I think this is a good site where I can learn from and share experience with you. I also wish to work as a baker in many different countries someday to study more about their local interesting breads.

Nice to meet you all.

bnom's picture

Excruciating video on how to shape a baguette. Please do not try this at home

I was looking at Ciril Hirtz' excellent video on shaping baguettes and stumbled across this "Expert Village" video showing the "cut and pull" technique for shaping a baguette.  It is so bad it's funny.  There are several other videos by this same fellow taking one through the entire process.  In one he explains that steam is used "because the moisture from the water kind of vaporizes and soaks up inside the bread giving it that nice pillowy softness inside."  

The "cut and pull" technique for making an "authentic French baguette bread"

And here's a link to the final product -- about the saddest looking baguettes I've ever seen:

bluerose's picture

Walnut bread from Korea

Hello All,

I'm a Korean home baker with 4years baking experience.

In most of Korean bakeries, they make some cakes and pies and sweet breads. Hard rolls are not popular here.

You can find some baguette. However, the baguette is not pure sometimes. They add milk, cheese, butter, sugar, etc.


When I traveled European countries, I tasted some really nice breads and I decided to make something like it by myself.

I studied from this website and some books.


This is the latest version of my study - my daily bread.



Bread cut



  • Whole wheat flour 400g

  • Water 850g

  • Pressed oat 100g

  • Molt 1g (1tea spoon)

  • Instant dry yeast 15g

  • Sea salt 17g

Mix them all, cover with plastic wrap and leave in room temperature for 30minute.

  • Bread flour 800g
  • Walnut 200g - pieced as you like
  • Grape seed oil 200g
Mix the sponge and bread flour just until no flour shown. Add walnut and grape seed oil and mix just until oil is fully mixed with dough. In a oiled bowl, put the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Place at room temperature for 10 minute.
Carefully take out the dough from the bowl on lightly oiled work place. Stretch and fold 4 sides of the dough and put it back to the oiled bowl. Cover and wait for 10 minute.

Take out and fold 3 more times with 10 minute interval as described above.
Let the dough rise double of its original size in room temperature. Divide dough and make two big loaves.
Cover with cloth and let rise for 45 minute at room temperature. Bake at 230oC preheated oven 45 minute. I put one cup of boiled water in a bowl of preheated gravel to generate steam.
The final result is as above. Please advise me if I have something to improve.


Tatoosh's picture

Granite versus Marble Pastry Board

While hunting bricks for a baking stone, I noticed some very nicely poslished stone slabs. They were fairly thick, at least one inch, perhaps a bit more.  I was told they were granite.  So I am curious if I had a 24 inch by 18 inch piece cut, would it work as a viable pastry board?  I understand that many bakers prefer to use wooden boards/tables for preparing their bread doughs, but that chilled marble is commonly used for pastry dough.  Since pastry dough is NOT available where I live in the Philppines, making it myself is the single alternative if I want some.  I have never made it before and I have been watching tutorials on youtube along with reading here and elsewhere for a better idea on what I should be doing. If a good cool stone would increase the chances of success for a good pastry dough, I'll work it into the budget down the road. I have a small-ish freezer I can use to chill the stone.  But would grainte suffice?   Marble is available in large squares, but not nearly so thick as the granite slabs I found. They are rather thin marble tiles, about 24 x 24 inches, commonly used on headstones here,  Which would be the better alternative?


OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Back after the long hot (not) summer

First I want to say hello to all of you again after being "away at my summer job".  I've missed you all, and have not even had much time to just lurk, let alone post.  I've purposely held back from posting knowing I could, at any time, be completely unable to follow up or hold up my end on a discussion.  The latest part of Spring and the main part of Summer are my very busiest times of the year, when weeks and even entire months can and do go by without a break.  I've had the liberty of rearranging my schedule some this year so I have had some daylight time off, as a trade for night time on, to get some things done around the house, where I work.  That's the only reason I've been able to continue baking at least, to keep my hand in and the store-bought bread out.

The juggling of my work and off time schedule comes at the price of sleep too often, but it has permitted me to accomplish some baking things I'm proud of.  The biggest one we celebrated just tonight, with:

First Fire!! Woohooo!  The WFO got lit for the first time tonight with a small drying fire.

First Fire in New WFO

Thanks to a herculean effort the last couple of weeks, and the blessing of a wonderful neighbor who pitched in and helped, my earth oven is nearing completion.  Whenever I've been able to steal or swap for a couple of hours of daylight off duty time I've been working on this, since back in March originally.  Finally the rains quit and I could make some progress, then my "summer job" started and it has been pretty slow going.  I had to get it finished enough to use this winter before the rains come again!  I'm there, and will probably get it insulated in the next couple of weeks.  It must finish drying out first though, and this was just a small drying fire for less than a half hour to speed things along some.  It got things warmed up really well though.

This has been the highlight of my summer, without a doubt.  I've done some baking, of which this (back to front, RLB Beer Bread, RLB Sweet Potatoe bread as dinner rolls, and some of "my" sourdough) is my most recent highlight,

and I continue to explore the world of bread.  This oven will expand my horizons and challenge me even more.  I look forward to it with excitement.

I've many pictures of the entire building process from footing to, yes, first fire, thanks to the diligence and skill of my wife/photographer.  I plan on posting them somewhere (Flicker, or ...?) one of these days when summer is completely behind me and I have time to write the story.  Till then, well, we'll just take it as it comes.  It is starting to come easier as the harvest season here in The Valley heads into the home stretch.

It's good to be back on "The Loaf".  Thank's for stopping by for a visit.


spinge's picture

Using/Sourcing Baking Stone Alternatives or Substitutes

I have read regarding baking stones, and some people cannot understand why for the love of god people are discussing quarry tiles and substitutes, when FDA approved baking stones are readily available.

I have no option but to choose a substitute to baking stone, and I'd be glad if you could help me find one. To put it bluntly,

To use a baking stone, a baker need to satisfy 3 conditions:

1) Live in a location where baking stones are available

2) Or Live in a place where safe handling and delivery is made

3) And Have the item tested for safety

Unfortunately, I don't satisfy either:

1) I'm from India, specifically Mumbai city (its similar to NY city, but much worse), and apparently no baking goods supplier knows what a baking stone is here. I just went to some B2C shops in this godforsaken city and they were totally confused. I'm sure the pros get their tools B2B and imported. Also Google, shows no suppliers in India. None whatsoever.

2) Even if I do import one, I will not receive the baking stone in one piece, due to the way things work here. To put it simply, the handling is so bad here, even if it was FedEx-ed/UPS-ed or DHL-ed, the delivery will be made by a chilled out local who will definitely break it if its says handle carefully, or steal it if it says valuable :D Ok so I'm cynical, but I've had my share of experiences when I ordered Zildjian cymbals from NY some years ago which 'luckily' arrived 7 months later, yeah I kid you not. Luckily they were too durable to break. Other items aren't so fortunate.

3) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is USA specific, and others countries may have their own version, but where I live the item to be tested (baking stone) isn't really available and therefore obviously there is no further question of testing.


Regarding Unglazed Quarry Tiles: Its a USA specific substitute from what I've read.

As far as Mumbai is concerned, some Tile shops I went to here clearly said its unavailable, others have no idea what it is. Even if I was told it is available, there is no way to check if it is glazed or unglazed. The seller will pass off a glazed piece as a unglazed here, as long as he makes a sale, since value of life in a country of 1 billion+ (1.1 billion now?) comes very cheap. :)

Therefore, of the other available substitutes (Granite, terracotta flower base plate, ceramic dish, soapstone, anything else? PLEASE SUGGEST OTHERS) which one would you think would be the best bet to get a good bread, especially pizza, or focaccia, and are there any conditions, that need to be satsfied for them to work. eg. unpolished granite, etc.

Although I'm throwing random darts here, I hope you will help me.



P.S.: This is my first post :)

sf mountain's picture
sf mountain

Spreadsheet translator--volumetric recipe to gram wgts recipe

Does anyone know of an Excel spreadsheet type translation program that will turn a standard (American-style) volumetric recipe into a gram weight recipe? Being unable to find one, I have been working on a simple version: a spreadsheet that translates the whole recipe at once. Most conversion systems i've seen on the internet work on a one-ingredient-at-a-time basis; i like being able to translate the whole recipe at one fell swoop..