The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

PR poolish ciabatta - flawed recipe?

metropical's picture

PR poolish ciabatta - flawed recipe?

I've made the dough for Reinharts poolish ciabbat.  The poolish looked and felt right, but the dough doesn't.

It's rather stiff, not gloppy as I'd expected.  Barely stretched under it's own weight.


I wonder is there any opinion that the book recipe is flawed in some way?

It seems low on the water measure at 6 tbsp to 3/4c.


I'm sure it'll taste fine, but it won't be ciabatta from what I see right now.



11.25z bread

12z water room temp

1/4 tsp yeast




13.5z bread

1 3/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp yeast

3-6z luke warm water

JMonkey's picture

If you use the full amount of water, that puts the hydration at 72%, which is at the low end for ciabatta, but isn't that unusual. I think Hamelman's ciabatta is about 73%. Others, though, use a lot more water. In Artisan Bread Across America, the Ponsford ciabatta is just shy of 80%.

I've never really understood why the range is so large for ciabatta in the BBA. Using only 3 ounces of water gives a hydration of 60%, which is about right for a sandwich loaf, but not at all what's required for ciabatta.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

I have not tried PR's ciabatta recipe in the BBA, but I can vouch for Ponsford's ciabatta in the Artisan Baking Across America book...

I have done ciabatte with success using hydrations between 80% as in Ponsford's recipe up to 100% hydration in my own experiments...

davidm's picture

My arithmetic reveals a baker's percentage hydration ranging from 60% to 72% using the formula in BBA. 

Seems low to me too, if my math is correct, which it often isn't. (fair warning)

Another reason I wish Reinhart could be persuaded to include the complete baker's percentage in his recipes. It would make evaluating the situation much easier and faster.

breadbakingbassplayer's picture

I actually don't follow recipes anymore...  I will figure things out based on the total hydration of the dough...

metropical's picture

in doing some more reading here and elsewhere seems like 80% plus is a good place to start.

I also see more recipes that split the flour between AP and bread or even all bread.


We'll see what come out later today in the bake.  But I imagine it'll be short of big "eyes" and taste OK.  

brakeforbread's picture

I actually just posted a blog post about my comparison one weekend between the BBA recipe and Jason's Quick Ciabatta which I found on TFL. Jason's version came out perfect - great open, moist crumb, nice crust - while the BBA version tasted fine, it was not even ciabattaesque - the crumb was denser and more dry.

johnster's picture

I just took a look at my notes on that one.  Last time that I baked BBA's poolish ciabatta, I used a full cup of water in the final dough.  I, too, had been disappointed by the hydration level in previous attempts.


Another thing that I have been doing with that recipe is once it has finished baking I turn off the oven, crack the oven door, and leave the loaves in another ten minutes to improve the crust.  That has been working well for me.  


Good luck,



ClimbHi's picture

I tried this recipe for the first time this weekend, albeit for pizza shells and not traditional loaves. I used only a little more than 1/2 the 3/4 cup of water because I wanted the dough a bit stiffer so I could form and peel the shells without too much problem. It did result in a nice, kinda sticky, dough that had to be worked with flour for forming/peeling.

I'd say it was a success. I prebake my shells and weigh the centers down with a cake pan. I then top them and do a short re-bake. The edges of these shells had huge oven spring, big ciabatta holes, great flavor. This is gonna be my "go-to" recipe for pizza henceforth.

Pittsburgh, PA

metropical's picture

As expected.

The bread is tasty, but the crumb is uninteresting and lacking "eyes".

Good Italian bread.

cake diva's picture
cake diva

Steve posted a recipe for ciabatta last week which I can vouch for.  It is the easiest bread I've made and because of the high hydration, yielded the typical morphology, i.e., flat, and when you open it (east-west axis), there are plenty of big holes.  Perfect for panini!

metropical's picture


SteveB's picture
metropical's picture

nice site Steve.  new to me.


terry54's picture

I too with new book in hand made PR's poolish Ciabatta last night and failed. good tasting bread but major crumb failure. (no holes) Upon scouring the internet more and finding Jason's recipe on this site as well as this site

I feel tonight I will succeed. Peters dough came out as just that, dough and not batter or wet enough. Never have made this type of bread before I was not sure what wet enough was. The above site's photos make it very clear. And I didn't pay 35.00 for the book. Ah, but I did learn and that is what it is all about!!

Tonight I make Jasons Ciabatta.

metropical's picture

in relation to this.  Would I get more "flavor" from leaving the poolish out longer, or refrigerating longer, or some other step that will get me the "nuttier" flavor.

Floydm's picture

I'm happiest with the flavor I get from my poolish after around 12-16 hours rising on the counter (1/4 teaspoon yeast + 1 cup flour + 1 cup water).  Longer and it starts to collapse and go from "sweet & nutty" to "sour."  Much less and it doesn't change the flavor noticably.

rainwater's picture

As far as hydration is concerned, I never fully trust a recipe.......flours have all kinds of absorbtion rates.  I mix in about 1/2 the final flour with flavorings...salt, oil, honey, whatever, and then start adding the rest of the flour in the recipe in increments.  Actually, I couldn't tell you what my hydration percentages are, but I go by the feel.....My hydration percentages are probably a little higher than most the recipes I've used because there is always flour left over.....

metropical's picture

what would you say the water temp is in both stages?

John Ambrose's picture
John Ambrose

Thanks everyone on this thread. I had tried the BBA recipe at least four times with tight crumb results.

I'll be going with SteveB's!