Since we had a big Italian dinner lined up with friends last weekend, I volunteered to bring bread. One, it gave me a chance to try the Italian Bread formula from BBA; two, I decided to take another crack at ciabatta, also from BBA; and three, these people love homemade bread.
The Italian bread was pretty straightforward--and delicious. Here's a photo:
The crumb was fairly close-textured and chewy, but not tough. Great flavor, too, from the biga's overnight ferment in the refrigerator. Gotta work on the slashing, though. The loaf on the right came out pretty well, but the one on the left was definitely off the mark.
Bouyed by that success, I launched a poolish for the ciabatta. That went well enough, but the final dough was more of a struggle. Everything I read about ciabatta dough mentions how wet the dough is (the words "soupy" and "pour" seem to feature prominently). This is the second time that I've used the BBA formula, carefully weighing all of the ingredients. And, for the second time, I wound up with a very dry dough. Even after working in another ounce of water, it was still able to stand up unsupported, although it could at least be stretched and folded. I used bread flour, as listed in the formula. The flour was from a newly opened bag that had been purchased less than a week previously. I suppose it's possible that the flour was drier than usual because of the low humidity, but I can't fathom that there would be that radical a difference. Anyway, I soldiered on with the bulk ferment, shaping the loaves and letting them rise. When they were ready, I slid them onto the stone in the preheated oven, put water in the steam pan and this is how they looked when they came out:
The oven spring was fantastic. At about 8 or 9 minutes into the bake, they had tripled in height. These turned out far better than my first, sorry, attempt. When we cut into them at dinner, I was surprised to find that the crumb was quite moist, almost cake-like. Not at all what I had expected from the apparent dryness of the dough. The texture was a combination of smaller and larger holes, not nearly the wide-open crumb that I was looking for (sorry, none survived long enough for pictures of the crumb). It was thoroughly baked, since the instant-read thermometer indicated an internal temperature of 205F. There are a couple of potential contributors to the moistness of the crumb. I probably turned the oven temp down a few minutes sooner than necessary and maybe I should have pulled the steam pan out at about the 10-minute mark. Ah, well, better next time. They tasted wonderful, especially with a drizzle of a fruity olive oil.