The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


robcorby's picture


Hey I've just recently purchased The Bakers Apprentice by Reinhart. I read the book twice, and I love it.

First thing I tried (in the middle) to make is the ciabatta.

Lacking AP Flour I used the Biga version.

I'm pretty sure I didn't mess up the Biga, I followed the instructions to the letter and the window pane passed very nicely when I put it in the fridge.


24 hours later I took the Biga out having risen double in size. I let it get to "cool" room temperature I suppose. Divided the biga into ten pieces then mixed with the flour, salt, yeast, water, and 1/4th cup olive oil. Mixed it with my wooden spoon for approximately 3 minutes. It didn't seem like the very elastic loaf like he described so I added a bit more water. Then I started kneading. And kneading. And kneading. And kneading.


How I was kneading I would fold it onto itself then press down firmly but not too hard, then turn it 90degrees, then do the same. I proceeded for about 200 turns, checking every 50 for the window pane test. Negative.

I then started the french method of kneading, however it just wasn't wet enough. So I slapped it around like a bafoon for ten minutes... Did little change, still no windowpane. 

The dough doesn't seem at all to be the high hydration supple dough as he described. It's more dry, however I added 3/4th water first after the biga, then another quarter, then another quarter... and on top of that a quarter cup of olive oil. 


Does anyone know what the problem is? Is there a possible way to salvage it?

Could it be because I'm not sure what my room temperature is? I measured the yeast in a regular teaspoon measurer and not by weight... I used SAF Instant which the book recommended. It said I could freeze it? I didn't freeze it for the biga, however it was in the freezer when I mixed it with the ciabatta.


Thank you very much!

taurus430's picture

this way. I find it easier to use the no knead technique for ciabatta like this:

After letting it rest for the time, I dump it out and divide it in 2 smaller loaves on a sheet pan. Ciabatta is a wet dough so I feel by making the no knead method, it's ready to bake the next day without kneading and I get the holy crumb (lol). I make 2 smaller loaves as I cut each loaf in 3's after it's baked for sandwiches, any left over, I freeze.


robcorby's picture

Thank you for the advice.

I just cut the first slice off and there were hardly any holes. It tasted all right, but when I smelt it it reminded me of pure alcochol.

Next time I attempt I will try the no-knead method. Thanks!

jcking's picture

Seems like your percentage of flour is too high if the dough seemed dry. Are you using cups or weight? Are you controling the dough temperature? Unlike cooking, baking requires attention to detail. You've spent good money for the Reinhart book and the Ciabatta will turn out well if you practice. Changing to a different formula won't help, developing good techniques will. It's rare for any baker to try a new formula and have it turn out perfectly on the first try. Wet doughs like Ciabatta are not the easiest to perfect, try one of the easier ones to build confidence.


robcorby's picture

Thanks for the support, I'll keep on trying this ciabatta until it's good. I measured everything by volume but I'll buy a digital scale for the next attempt. Thank you for the advice. :)