The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Stupid Ciabatta

mashweasel's picture

Stupid Ciabatta

Ok so Ive been trying to make some ciabatta. Ive been following the recipe in The Bakers Apprentice with the Poolish and whatnot. Ive done the folding etc etc. Im careful to not degas the dough.

Ive got the baking down and it looks perfect, just like a ciabatta. However its really dense. It doesn have those vacuous holes that ciabatta should have.

So, how do I get those and what am I doing wrong.

ryan's picture

Maybe the final proof isn't hot enough to give it the final rise, so in essence it may be under proofed when you put it in the oven?

Happy Baking
Ryan Beck

ryan's picture

I just realized as well, perhaps your flour is old. When it gets old the protein gluten doesn't stretch as well as it should therefore maybe making your loaves dense? I want to try this dough and see what it's like.

Happy Baking,

Ryan Beck

dasein668's picture

Are you using all-purpose flour or bread flour? Are you sure you're getting enough hydration—when it's enough it definitely seems like too much. Those two things made a huge difference for me.

Nathan Sanborn

Marty's picture

I suggest you try the recipe in "the Bread Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Try your library for a copy. No folding. It sound a little strange because it's more like beating the dough than kneading. Keep the faith as you beat. It will come together.
I have reduced the final rise to 45 minutes max because the holes were getting too large. What I like best is the loaves are consistent.

North's picture

I also tried the same receipe this past weekend from the Baker's Apprentice. My loaves also came out rather dense.
One problem I knew I had right from the start was that I had only active dry yeast and I couldn't figure out the baker's conversion formula to know how much more active dry to add. I've since found a web site(maybe this one) that suggests using 20% more.(Don't ask me why I didn't look for it before I started this project. It's one of those Doh! moments.)
Secondly, I think that affected how much poolish I ended up with. After letting it ferment at room temperature for about 3 hours, I refrigerated it overnight as suggested. The starter fit well into a 2-cup measuring cup so I guess the second problem is not enough starter.
Thirdly, I now think my dough was not wet enough even though I used the amount of water called for in the receipe. (I probably should have put it back in the mixer with more water.)
Finally, I don't yet have a bread stone. I dusted an insulated cooky sheet with corn meal and baked the loaves on that, so I don't know what effect that had on the final loaf.
The crust came out great, at least to my uneducated palette, but the crumb did not have those wonderful voids.
And I was so looking forward to dipping the bread in some good olive oil! Anyway, thanks for letting me tell these tales out of school on myself. I'm going to keep trying. I like baking bread.

mrpeabody's picture

I don't know what the recipe is from the Baker's Apprentice, but last night I finally got a Ciabatta that I think is respectable (at least for my uneducated palate). I finally got the nice open voids that I had been striving for. After poking around this website, I picked up some new hints and tips to try. These made a huge difference for me.

I found that I wasn't getting the hydration level high enough for a really airy bread (I now got it up to 75%). The dough nearly poured out of the bowl. The other thing that I learned was that I wasn't preheating the oven long enough. Previously, I had only preheated for a half an hour, so last night I preheated for a hour. Also, it seems that previously I may have been too rough in handling and shaping, so I was careful to be more gentle (it was more like nudging and "encouraging" the dough into a Ciabatta shape).

The very slack dough is tough to slash (which I'm not great at doing anyways), but these other tips really made a difference.

So, I echo what everyone else is saying with hydration and handling being a couple of key points.

Mr. Peabody