The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

first time ciabatta, autolyse, preferment questions

nosabe332's picture

first time ciabatta, autolyse, preferment questions

hi all,

baker in oakland, calif. 

i recently renewed my interest in baking, but having lost interest in the more expensive form of pie-making, have decided to jump into bread-making.

 here's a picture of my ciabatta, made from this recipe:

 ciabatta number 1

a few notes:

i read about autolysing here, and i gave it a try. i mixed and let rest a cup of flour with 2/3 cup water before adding the yeast/water.

what does the milk do in this recipe? i may have warmed the milk too much.. 

what temperature does yeast get killed at? 

i mostly followed all the directions exactly, except i mixed by hand, not with a stand mixer. actually now that i think of it, i probably didn't mix thoroughly enough, just enough to combine. what effect will this have on the end result?

oh, so i forgot to add salt. it turned out to be pretty important to the flavor.

i noticed there's no kneading this dough. i performed a fold before i formed the loaves.

and that was it. 

any feedback would be great.

regarding autolysing, is this a standard bread-making method?

i was under the assumption that breadmaking necessitates much kneading... is this not true?

also, what are the time tolerances on prefermenting/poolish/sponge.. (are those all synonyms?) ? will a 12 hour preferment have a much different

flavor/texture than an 18 or 24 hour preferment?


thanks again for the feedback and answers to questions! there's so much information to absorb from these forums i really don't know where to begin.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Good Job!    ...sorry about the salt

Mini O
JERSK's picture

   Salt  helps your dough structure as well as enhances flavor. Yeast dies over a 115 deg. F. You certainly didn't kill yours by the looks of the picture. About 2 % salt hepls control yeast growth without killing it. Autolyse helps gluten development and relaxes the dough. It reduces kneading time and also helps in no knead recipes. I've never used milk in ciabatta before, but generally it is used for flavor, browning of the crust(due to caramelization of the lactose) and strengthening of gluten( a plus for no knead recipes). Milk is usually heated to scalding to deactivate protease enzymes which can effect yeast growth and produce gummy breads. So, you can't really heat the milk too much as long as it cooled enough to not kill the yeast. A preferment is just what the name suggests, some of the bread dough is allowed to ferment, before the rest of the yeast, flour and water is added. It helps to give extra depth of flavor and strengthens gluten. Poolish is a type of preferment that is generally equal parts flour and water(by weight) with a small amount of yeast. Biga is another type of preferment that has a higher percentage of flour than water, maybe 2:1. Poolish is ideally used when the preferment has expanded just about to the point of collapsing. This may take about 12 hours depending on temperature and the amount of yeast. It doesn't really matter that much if you capture that precise moment, a few hours either way is fine. Biga doesn't collapse because the dough is so stiff and can be used up to 2-3 days after mixing. By the way, biga is usually used in high hydration doughs like ciabatta. Sponge is a more general term that can be used for any type of preferment or pre mixing of dough. Some breads benefit from  a thorough kneading, but artisan type breads with large holes in the crumb, like ciabatta, do  not. Your bread looks just about right, so you just forgot salt, everything else seems fine. I know this is long winded, but I tried to address all your questions. I hope this helps.

susanfnp's picture

Mixing by machine serves the same function as kneading by hand -- to both combine the ingredients and develop the gluten. In fact, some bakers don't use theterm "kneading" at all, it's all "mixing" whether by machine, hand, or a combination of the two.

So if you didn't mix any longer than to simply combine the ingredients, my guess is that your gluten was not as developed as the original recipe intended. In my own baking I have found that my ciabatta comes out best when the gluten is developed fairly well during mixing, followed by a fold or two during fermentation


holds99's picture

Very nice loaf.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL