The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Nancy Silverton's rustic bread (ciabatta)

robadar's picture

Nancy Silverton's rustic bread (ciabatta)

I saw an old repeat of Nancy Silverton's  appearance on the Julia Childs show.  (Wow, could she handle dough, but her grape method of making sourdough starter is  loony!).    Her rustic bread (ciabatta)  looked delicious.  Anyone make it, or make her famous olive bread, for that matter? 

Also, I found this conversion of fresh yeast (which Nancy uses) to instant yeast:  10 gms fresh or 1/3 ounce fresh = 3.5 gms or 1/8 ounce or 1 1/2 tsp. instant.  Sound right?





thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

It wasn't loony for the time she published it, which was still the dark ages of the artisan bread movement. She simply copied what she saw in her travels, what she was taught, a process that was generations old.

You can make her starter without grapes, and it'll come out just fine. (It could be argued that, while "getting yeasts from the organic grapes" is no longer a valid assumption, getting acidity from grapes (or pineapple juice, etc.) is advantageous (re:Debra Wink's Pineapple Juice Solution).)

You can also make her starter with half the recommended quantities of flour, and it'll come out just fine.

What you'll can't make with her starter is one that fails. 

It works every time.

dghdctr's picture

The grapes weren't really necessary, but it is also thought that the sugars from the grapes and the yeasts on the skins sort of jump-started a very VISIBLE type of fermentation that was encouraging to someone waiting patiently for a usable starter.  Any grape-iness or wild yeasts from the grapes themselves were absent (more or less) by the time the starter had been fed multiple times.  Check out Professor Raymond Calvel's suggested method (which always worked well for me), or investigate Debra Wink's solution on this very website -- also a sure thing.

As regards the yeast conversion, that should work fine, as it translates to taking a weight of fresh yeast and substituting 1/3 of that weight in instant yeast, and that is the industry standard.  Some bakers (like me) might suggest that, since that recommended conversion was intended for loaves proofed at 80 -85 degrees F or higher, you might find better results by using 40% of the fresh weight, instead of 33%.  Most of us proof at temperatures much lower than 85 degrees F.

-- Dan DiMuzio

Doc.Dough's picture

Silverton's book was my first introduction to sourdough, and it led me to misunderstand a lot of things for a long time.  I have made her ciabatta, but her process was really complicated. Today I looked at it again (before I saw your post) since I was about to scale a batch of ciabattini, just to see what she did. It is really amazing how much things have changed since then.  The one recipe that I go back to again and again is her chapeau rolls.  It takes a few trials to master the process, but they are a hit at any dinner party.