The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ciabatta, finally

leemid's picture

Ciabatta, finally

So I really have had no interest in widening my scope; having accomplished my goal in sourdough and WW sandwich bread, the only ones I was really interested in. A few weeks ago, to kill time, I went to the Pearl bakery in NW Portland, OR to look around. The Pearl is mentioned in Maggie Glezer's book and it's the only local one with enough fame to catch my attention, not that I care about someone's 15 minutes, but how else do you learn of the few and far between? I am initially unimpressed with a bakery that doesn't do what I think are the basic breads and nothing really stood out in the afternoon when I was there, so I bought a loaf of ciabatta for dinner. I had to go back to class in the evening so it really was dinner. It was good but I wasn't about to abandon what I was doing in the kitchen... But there you are, I had to order up Maggie's book because someone here mentioned Craig Ponsfords recipe included in that book (and I have been to his bakery in Sonoma, CA). Got the book and waited a few weeks for the time, which brought me up to this last weekend.

I started on Saturday and followed the recipe as closely as possible, except for not having specifically course ground ww or rye, and no parchment. Oh, and I didn't do the yeast thing, I just tossed in a TINY pinch of instant. The biga didn't do anything by Sunday morning so I applied heat to kick it into gear, which helped. Then I did the dough and managed to handle the wet stuff pretty well, not like a year ago would have been before racking up some measure of experience. Tossed the loaves onto baking sheets with plenty of flour to last rise and baked on my stone. Magic really does happen:


This is the first loaf, the other is quite similar. The taste is quite excellent, the crust is as expected. Really, it is as good as the Pearl's, in my thoroughly humble opinion.

The only thing wrong is that for me this is specialty bread. It's too holey for daily bread, too thick for sandwiches for the family. I could make pulled pork/beef sandwiches out of it, or dip it in soup all day long, but I think it will be a once in a while bread. I have an extra loaf that I can't figure out what to do with. I guess I'll have to freeze it. I'd give it to Cody but he's in SF right now...

Life is tough all over, but bread is getting easier as time gives me more experience. For those who are struggling to figure out how to make it all work, keep trying. Have faith in yourselves. Don't get hung up on too many details that seem to conflict. Try it one way, then another, and don't worry. Eventually it will happen. Just take notes so you remember what you did when it works. And remember this too: flour is still cheaper than gas. Stay home and bake.

That's my story,


dmsnyder's picture

Hi, Lee.

I like your story. Stick to it! ;-)

I've not made ciabatta, although the Nury light rye I would put in the same family of rustic breads.

We get excellent ciabatta from a local bakery. In fact, sliced parallel to the long axis, it makes terrific sandwiches. It also thaws amazingly well and quickly at room temperature. The crust crisps up without heating in the oven.

The loaves you made are absolutely classic, both crust and crumb. Good work, there.


weavershouse's picture

Very nice. I like your story too!                                                      weavershouse

breadnerd's picture

Wow what a nice loaf! Really looks lovely.  Nice to hear someone's having fun with their baking progress too

Re: uses--I often make ciabattas in slightly smaller loaves--maybe divide the ponsford batch into 4 or 6 instead of two. Then, if you cut them in half (top/bottom) they are GREAT for sandwiches, the crust holds any filling that seeps into the holey crumb. I also freeze them and the smaller loaves thaw really fast for a quick side for dinner, just toast them whole slightly and slice them up and dip in some EVOO--yum!

Not that you hve to make them all the time--I too have made breads that I like, but thought "once in a while" would be fine. I tend to be that way with loaves like sun-dried tomato or herb breads, I like them but they're not in my standard rotation.

leemid's picture

As I was reading your comments, and thank you very much for your kind words, it occurred to me this might make great hamberger buns.  But then I wouldn't have to chomp into those heavenly soft spong-bread stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth store bought items...;-). Well, it's probably worth a try.


holds99's picture

With all due respect, you sound like a French chef specializing in sauces, who has decided to make only sauce fines (bernaise, hollandaise, mayonese, etc.).  Ciabatta is no more a "specialty bread" than is a bagette.  It's a big, wonderful bread world out there.  Take up the challenge.

Howard - St. Augustine, FL