The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Problems with Ponsford's Ciabatta

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

Problems with Ponsford's Ciabatta

Has anyone else made Ponsford's Ciabatta from Artisan Baking Across America? It looks interesting. The biga accounts for more than 50% of the flour and it's supposed to ferment for 24 hours. But I can't get the thing to rise a lick! The recipe calls for a ridiculously small amount of yeast. Add 1/2 tsp to one cup of water at 110 degrees F and, after it's dissolved, take 1/2 tsp of the solution.

I tried two days ago, and after 24 hours, the biga hadn't budged. I tried again yesterday and, this morning, still nothing.

I'm wondering if I got the water too hot and killed the yeasty buggers. Anyone had any luck at all with this recipe?

breadnerd's picture
breadnerd

Actually one of my favorite ciabatta recipes. I probably followed the instructions carefully the first time, and don't remember having a problem...but that doesn't mean much! I'm kind of notorious for adjusting recipes, and I've also used SD starter for the recipe (a few tablespoons).

I do recall being a little skeptical at the instructions, my thoughts were "I get it, you don't want me to use very much yeast." One thought now is why not mix the amount of yeast with water and flour, and then use a portion of it--seems a lot easier than the water option, with nearly the same results... I don't think it will hurt to adjust the amount of yeast a little at the beginning, and remember there's more added at the second stage, so you could reduce it there if your starter seems too active.

 

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I've taken another look at my biga, and it may have in fact moved a little. I'll give it until 10am or so. That's really my drop dead for getting it made. We'll see!

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

JMonkey, did your biga and ciabatta ever turn out?  I have to say, I think Craig Ponsford's formula is the best out there.  I made it this past weekend with great success.  I'd love to hear if you solved the biga problem.

~Lisa~

metropical's picture
metropical

wow Lisa.  Thats' great looking crust & crumb.  My crust is great and the look and texture of the crumb is nice, but the "eyes" aren't nearly as big and the flavor is rather mild.  I wonder if our house is just too cold for the rise, 62º a lot of the winter.

I tried this recipe twice with the same results.  One I used 75º water and once 110º.  The biga never bubbled like my original grape starter did years ago or get the kind of rise that starter does now when I "wake" it up.

 

give me liberty and a 5lb bag of flour

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

metropical,

Thank you so much for your compliment. :)

My house is rather cool also, so I always put any biga or starter in the microwave (avoids any drafts that sneak in) or turned off oven with the light on.  For this ciabatta, I actually put the 2 qt container with the biga into a 6 qt container, then in the microwave!  As for the final rise for the bread, I got lucky Sunday, as it was unseasonably warm, so I got a final rise that even remained 'poofy' after I dimpled the heck out of it. :)

 

~Lisa~

metropical's picture
metropical

I've just put together another Ponsford biga and let it ferment in the off oven, light on; as per your method.

If I let the biga ferment go long, say 48 hours, do you think I'd trade off perhaps more flavor for a lessor crust & crumb?

give me liberty and a 5lb bag of flour

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

I wouldn't doubt you'd get more flavor, but there could also be a slightly sour tone to it.  I would stick with his up to 24 hour direction, and see if your biga does better fermenting in the turned off-light on, oven.  Yes, flavor IS worth more than crumb, but those light, airy holes are just so irresistibly delightful, especially when dipping into a good olive oil or sauce. Little receptacles is what I call them!

~Lisa~

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

I did, but only after I started adding just a speck of yeast, instead of dissolving it first in a cup and using a tsp. Here's my result:



Yours is absolutely gorgeous! Mine didn't turn out so nice. Was oddly lacking in flavor and went stale very quickly -- perhaps I overproofed it?

Lisalovestobake's picture
Lisalovestobake

 JMonkey,

I think it came out very pretty, especially the crumb and crust color.  That said, if there was any oven deflating, it could be because it was overproofed.  I've done that so many times, I can't even count.  I just let mine rise for the 45 minutes stated in the recipe, then got some great oven spring.  As for lacking in flavor, the only reason I've heard why that happens is that there was not enough fermentation to develop the flavor (??).

As for the yeast amount and the biga..what brand and kind of commercial yeast did you use?  Did you try using bottled water instead of tap water?  (I used tap for the ciabatta, but I always use bottled for my SD starter and breads).  I was amazed that such a small amount of diluted yeast could yield a pretty good rise in my biga, with lots of bubbles, as I honestly didn't expect it to work.

Finally, this was my biga after 14 hours..but then I slept, and didn't get to see it do it's full rise, as it turns into kind of a lumpy, slightly less bubbly, batter at 24 hours, when you're ready to use it.  BTW..the liquid you see isn't hooch, it's the 'small amount' of canola oil I used to grease the container.  Strange how it seemed to have doubled itself..lol  Looks like my biga steered pretty clear of it, though.

 

~Lisa~

 

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

It does look OK in the photo, but the taste was just totally lacking. Not what I expected with 33% of the flour in the preferment. Odd.

Good looking biga, there. Hope it turns out well!

jkandell's picture
jkandell

Or why not just mix the yeast with some flour and use a portion of it?  Even easier.  That's what I do with my pizza where I want only 1/16th teaspoon of yeast.

TRK's picture
TRK

JMonkey,

 I have made this recipe a number of times and absolutely love it.  I actually went out and bought that book on the strength of that recipe.  I don't think leavening power is important in the biga-the point is flavor development.  So if it doesn't move it isn't a big deal, just let those yeasties eat the starch for a while and make their tasty waste products.   I'd say go ahead and make the bread whatever the biga looks like.  Then let us know how it turned out.

 

 

 

 

zolablue's picture
zolablue

It was actually one of the first recipes I made when I first started baking bread.  I thought it was an easy beginner recipe at the time.  At that time I didn't really even understand just how small an amount of yeast the recipe uses.

 

You are such an experienced baker I think it can't be anything but a problem with your yeast.  Here's a photo of the one I baked but remember it was one of my first and it didn't really come out perfect as you can see by the big cavern in the top and the photo is not very good.  I keep vowing to bake it again because I love ciabatta bread. 

 

Could your yeast have been exposed to something that made it lose potency?

 

JMonkey's picture
JMonkey

... on this biga. I'd thought I saw movement, but this is one dead parrot. No aroma, no flavor, nada. I think I had the water too hot and killed the yeast or something.

Anyway, I've got a new one going, and this time, I just used room temperature water and added a pinch ... a speck, even ... of yeast. We'll see how it turns out. Tomorrow.

I'm going to make Potage for dinner to go with it. Hope it turns out as nice as yours, ZolaBlue!

metropical's picture
metropical

I jump started my sponge after 24 as it wasn't doing anything.  Originally I did it in my Concept 7 mixer.  Then I went back and hand kneaded after it sat there.  I added 1 tbsp of 80º or so water and perhaps 1 tbsp more of bread flour.  And here's where I am after 36 hours or more.

 

metropical's picture
metropical

give me liberty and a 5lb bag of flourrestarted sponge for Ponsford reciperestarted sponge for Ponsford recipe

rubato456's picture
rubato456

i used an adaptation of the ponsford recipe which i found posted on tfl, as a sourdough ciabatta. i used only the sourdough itself as mine was quite active.  i used almost 100% ww as well. i kneaded by hand....this was my first try w/ this high a hydration and i may not have developed the gluten as much as i should have. the taste was very good though. still once i started the folds the dough did gain strength and rose quite well for me. my kitched temp was quite warm.....about 78 degrees (dallas tx in mid october)

here's the loaves:

and here's the crumb: 

deborah

joe_n's picture
joe_n

I have made Ponsford's lean French bread and the ciabatta with 100% ww in Reinhart's Bread Revolution book. The doughs were billowy soft and full of rise.  The 12 hour biga had a pinch of yeast in 170 gr wh wheat flour, freshly milled.

The rest of the dough had  510 gr freshly milled ww flour and about 3-4 hours of bulk fermentation with 3 stretch/folds.

The bread dough is wonderful to handle!!