The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ciabatta Couche Calamity

jims's picture

Ciabatta Couche Calamity

I have just started to experiment with ciabatta recipes and techniques. My goal is to be able to wake up in the morning and think “today would be a good day to have ciabatta with lunch” and just knock it out in a few hours. No biga, no long fermentation; can it still be called ciabatta without incorporating biga? Of course, it must taste good and have a very open crumb and crisp crust.

Yesterday was step two in my quest. The process still needs much refinement but I think I am getting a little closer. However, when I tried to move the, not bad looking, proofed loves from the couche to the peel, disaster struck. The loaves stuck to the couche. The dough, at 83% hydration, is quite sticky and stick it did. The loaves had to be scraped off the couche. Clearly I did not flour the couche enough. I’ve only used a couche, an old dish towel, a few times before so I really don’t know what I’m doing. What is the best type of flour to use, and how much? The dough is KA UB Bread flour.

Although the loaves lost a lot of their volume, got distorted, and stuck to each other, the bread got good marks from the testers (the family).

 Any advice, suggestions, or comments will be much appreciated.


MisterTT's picture

in a few hours, but it won't be good unless you use a preferment. If you would allow yourself an evening's forethought to your ciabatta decision you could surely make it good, either by mixing up a preferment of having a long overnight bulk fermentation. Actually you could just keep a good piece of old dough in the fridge and use that for about 33% of the final mix flour.

This wasn't really what you asked, though. The flour you are using is fine for ciabatta and so is the hydration, though if you knock it down to an even 80% it won't do any harm. I've seen a lot of people using something other than heavy linen cloth as a couche and, well, it isn't great. However, one can understand how you may not want to buy something you may not end up using, so my advice is to really think long and hard about it and come to the decision to buy some linen cloth. It should be of a pretty heavy weave, maybe even feel the tiniest bit rough to the touch. No point in buying a specially made couche.

Anyways, once you get the couche you really need to rub that flour in the first time. Do not sprinkle, but rub. After you use it for a few times you'll notice that you hardly need to use any flour on it -- dough just doesn't stick at all. I don't even flour mine for standard 70% hydration baguettes -- there's no need. Just remember to never wash it.

isand66's picture

I suggest you use parchment paper and use a lot of bench flour.  I've been too stingy using the flour on occasions and had the same issues.

I agree about using a Preferment and overnight retardation in the fridge but if you are happy with a straight version then go with it.  There is no doubt the other versions will have more flavor though.