The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Eclectic Ciabatta

Rodger's picture

Eclectic Ciabatta

It has gotten to the point now when I try something new, I'll read through my library (Leader, Reinhart, Hammelman, Di Muzio, and the CIA's Baking and Pastry), read through the archives of TFL, and then throw tegether a synthesis that somehow makes sense to me.

So I've been working on Ciabatta.  I tried the beat-the-daylights technique championed by the famous Jason and apparently customary in Southern Italy (according to Dan Leader's Local Breads).  This method calls for spiraling the dough 20 minutes or more at the high end of the mixer's throttle.  The product is magnificent, but after years of indoctrination in the careful dough handling techniques of Calvel and his students, it felt practically immoral to turn the mixer up to eleven like that and just let it go.

For the last couple of loaves, I've developed an improved mix at low speeds with subsequent stretching and folding.  I also fused the double flour addition technique from Steve B's Breadcetera with the biga-based Ciabatta formula in Dan Di Muzio's book.  Dan describes a slightly different interpretation of the double-hydration technique than Steve B does, and in the event Dan's seemed more practical.  Hold out about ten or fifteen percent of the water, mix the ingredients to an improved mix, then add the remaining water and mix at low speed until it is absorbed.



UnConundrum's picture

That is one beautiful crumb.  Congratulations :)

flournwater's picture

OK, I'm convinced.  That's a remarkably lovely crumb.

I'd like to see your formula/technique added to the forum's library for all to try.

janij's picture

Wonderful looking bread.  I second flournwater' motion about adding the formula/ technique.  I would love to hear more about it.

Paddyscake's picture

we are a different breed, aren't we? I'm too Virgo, to do ciabatta..can't make it neat! Your's looks awesome.


Rodger's picture

Thank you for your encouraging comments.  Certainly some of the credit must go to my excellent camera and its close-up lens.  However, the bread is very satisfying, if I may say. 

The proportions were basically from Ciabatta with Biga in Daniel T. Di Muzio's Bread Baking (Hoboken: Wiley, 2010) p. 210, although I raised the hydration level a few percentage points.  I hope Dan forgives me.

It is not clear to me how to calculate baker's percentage incorporating biga, so this is the formula for the straight dough:

Flour                              100% (I use the Arthurian AP)
Water                             ~82%
Salt                                   2%
Instant yeast                    0.4%

In practice, one third of the mix will consist of a biga at 60% hydration, so you need advanced scientific instruments to figure the ultimate proportions.  To be simple if not exact, let's say (for a five-quart KithenAid mixer) 500 grams biga, 600 grams flour, and 550 grams water, plus appropriate salt and yeast.

Adopting SteveB's double flour addition technique, I began by whipping the biga with about 85% of the water on KitchenAid speed 1 until it was dispersed.  Then I added a small amount of flour and whipped it a little harder for a couple of minutes.  Then the rest of the flour and yeast went in, and I spiraled it together for a couple of minutes before a half-hour autolyse.

After the autolyse, I added the salt and brought the dough to an improved mix by spinning on KA speed 2 for about 5 minutes and then KA speed 4 for three or four minutes.  Then the remaining 15% of the water goes in (following Dan Di Muzio's version of the double hydration method, page 51 of his book), and I continued to mix on KA speed 1 for another couple of minutes until the water was absorbed.

Ferment until triple in bulk, with three or four stretch-and-folds at half-hour intervals.  Scale into 450 gram loaves.

I proofed the loaf in the photo en couche lubricated with rice flour, flipped it onto parchment and baked on a pre-heated stone at 500 for about 25 minutes, using a heated cookie sheet on the lower rack for steam. (I have been intrigued by some of the wacky steam contraptions invented on this forum, including carpet shampooers, but have not tried them myself.)

Alternatively, I have proofed on floured food film with success, where you proof the loaf on a piece of floured saran and flip that onto the peel or the parchment.

I'm on a ciabatta jag now, which replaced the Bouabsa baguette jag, which blotted out the long-lasting pugliese jag, which came of my pain ordinaire.