The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

The baker is living in my ciabatta... :(

tananaBrian's picture

The baker is living in my ciabatta... :(

I think it's called the "Baker's Bedroom" or the "Baker's Pantry" or some such thing when your loaf has a large open cavity under the top crust, right?  Well, I made the biggest, baddest, bedroom (or pantry) you've ever seen today!  I made Jason's Cocodrillo Ciabatta ("Quick Ciabatta") last week and 2 of 3 loaves had a good distribution of holes in the crumb, and a nice pattern of large and small holes.  One of the three had the "baker's bedroom" syndrome however.  This weekend, I made Reinhardt's first Ciabatta recipe, the one without mushrooms, and got the HUGE "baker's bedroom" ...on all three loaves.  This was also the first time that I baked on a baking stone, my new fibrament.  I got GREAT oven spring too.  In the Reinhardt version, the crumb below the big cavity did not have a large number of larger holes and had a more even pattern (of smaller) holes instead.  I find this to be more typical of breads made with higher levels of gluten, e.g. bread flour.

Jason's ciabatta was made with all-purpose flour, and the loaves were turned over when shaped (to allow bubbles in the dough to distribute more evenly.)  Reinhardt's recipe is made with bread flour, and the loaves are not turned over at any time.  From what I understand, the large cavities are created by lots of oven spring combined with the dough not being extensible enough to rise with the spring, and the crust tears away from the rest of the dough as the gases expand.  As adjustments for next weekend's attempt, I'm thinking of the following: Shorter proof time, use all-purpose flour rather than bread flour, whole bake at 450 F rather than 5 minutes at 500 F followed by (yeah right) 30 minutes at 450 F, and maybe mist the loave during the final ferment followed by dusting with flour just prior to baking rather than dusting with flour prior to the final ferment.  My oven measures accurate temperatures, as verified by a electronic thermometer (with 5 degrees or so) and the bread baked twice as fast as Paul thought it should, and the internal temperature when I thought it looked done was 205 F ...exactly as it should be.

What do all of you think?  What might be the problem?  What might be the cure?  Are my adjustments a good idea?



PS: I thought that the 'quick ciabatta' ala Jason also tasted better than the 2-3 day poolish-based ciabatta out of the Reinhardt book (Crust & Crumb.)  BTW, if you request it quick ...I can take photos if you like.  Bread doesn't last long around here.



alliezk's picture

I just tried that same ciabatta recipe this past weekend with no success. It seems ciabatta is my archn-emisis in bread form. That was the second attempt at a ciabatta I've made - no loose crumb! - still good, flavorful breads but definately lacking the typical ciabatta crumb .

tananaBrian's picture

Ok ...I think I've got it figured out, or at least enough so that I'm anxious to go try again!  After doing a little web research, both here at TFL and elsewhere, these are my (excuse me ...other people's) conclusions:

1. I did not stretch, poke/dimple, the dough enough.  It's imperative that you get the dough to an inch thick or even less will spring a LOT in the oven and the result will be at least twice as high as what went in.  Don't worry.  Make it too thick, and you'll get too much oven spring, the crust will harden and the dough inside will tear away from it, shrinking lower both inside and after coming out of the oven.

2. Keep that top crust flexible ...moist or oiled, so it will not toughen up too easily or quickly when baked.

3. Use less yeast, preferring to round down a tad rather than round up.

4. Allow to fully proof, but not over-proof.  Over-proofing weakens the gluten structure due to enzyme (protease) activity and that can cause the inside to tear away from the top crust.

5. Some people say to invert the dough so the air bubbles more evenly distribute themselves top to bottom.

6. The hydration level should be 75% for ciabatta, period.  Convert those recipes to grams and make sure you hit this hydration as closely as you can.  At (Mike Avery's site), he's got spreadsheets that make this easier, even if using a poolish.

7. Several posts or sites said that the cavern is due to insufficient surface tension in the dough ...but while that may be right, ciabatta is not usually folded (thirds) to increase tension, so ...I'm not going to do any folding.  Note that Reinhart does say that a single fold is one way to make the loaf more rectangular while you are doing the preshaping of the loaves more folds for final shaping though.

In retrospect on how I made my ciabatta this last weekend, I did make a few mistakes.  (The bread's gone now BTW, and today's only Monday ...but I have a 16 year old, a 12 year old, an 11 year old, and a 9 year old all sneaking bread when I'm not looking.)

First, I'm not sure what the hydration level was since Reinhart's recipe doesn't give a weight on every ingredient, most notably the flour.  Second, I failed to make my 3 loaves thin enough.  The thickest one had the worst cavern in the top and the second thickest one had a cavern not quite as big.  The third loaf however, is one that I accidentally made "too thin" or so I thought.  On the thinner end, the crumb was exactly what you'd want with ciabatta and on it's thicker end, the cavern was present.  On last week's version of Jason's Cocodrillo Ciabatta, one of the 3 loaves had a smaller cavern, but I also made all of these thinner as well.

As far as that top crust goes, I (silly in retrospect) dusted the tops of the loaves with flour prior to their final 4-hour ferment.  This, I am sure, dried out the top crust so that it quickly became inflexible once in the oven.  I think these were my primary mistakes.  I did invert the Jason's version, but I did not invert the Reinhart version and this may have contributed to having larger weaker bubbles near the top.  BTW, I found a good way to flip ciabatta dough/loaves... I use two dough blades and a quick swoop from opposite ends to pick it up, then I flip it towards me onto parchment paper, pulling the dough blades outward as I set the loaf down so it returns the loaf to it's previous length.  This procedure does NOT appear to degas the dough enough to notice, and should probably be done around 40 minutes prior to backing.  Dust the loaves with flour or semolina just before and just after flipping, not earlier.

I'll let you know how it goes after this coming weekend is over.  I'm making Reinhart's mushroom ciabatta next ...Mmmmmm!



LindyD's picture

I recall that's how Peter Reinhart (there's no "d" in his name) refers to it in his BBA.

There's a thread on the same subject here which may be helpful.

tananaBrian's picture

Yup, Bavetta's loaf (see link above) looks earily familiar ...except that the crumb in mine is slightly more open in the bottom half of the loaf, and there are a bunch of 'stringies' connecting the top crust to the bottom loaf.