Hamelman's Ciabatta with Stiff Biga
I had a busy day in the kitchen yesterday: as well as the semolina w/fennel bread (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/21639/semolina-bread-wsoaker-amp-fennel-seed ) & a Christopomos for the BBA challenge I'm participating in at http://akuindeed.com/?page_id=3099 , I had a go at the ciabatta with biga.
I used some Italian '00' flour that I haven't used before:
Protein content is 11%. Reading through other posts at http://mellowbakers.com/index.php?board=67.0  (again, after I'd baked!), it sounds like Hamelman's recipes are geared to stronger American flours. I might give this another go using Doves Farm Organic White (12.5% protein) for comparison (I realise it's not just protein levels that determine gluten quality).
I don't have a mixer so kneading higher hydration doughs can be a challenge. I often use Dan Lepard's no knead method, but wanted to get this done fairly quickly & also wanted to see how well I could manage by hand. I made use of a tip I've picked up along the way, i.e. starting off with less water until the gluten is fairly well developed, then gradually adding the rest. I began by mixing the dough at 65% hydration; this was still very wet, so I used the French method of kneading that I'm sure many of you are familiar with (if not, video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvdtUR-XTG0 ).
I did this for about 15mins before incorporating the biga, and 10mins later, the rest of the water, which took a further 10.
I performed the folds at 1 & 2hrs, & scaled at 3x500g after 3hrs and left them to proove on floured boards. I somehow missed the bit saying: cover with linen & then plastic, and just used plastic, which was a bit sticky when it came to uncovering them 2hrs later!
Then came the bit which confuses me slightly: Hamelman writes about how fragile they are & not to sneeze near them & yet you're supposed to perform a flip?! Needless to say, they degassed considerably during this operation:
I don't know why I followed this procedure with all three; I wish now I'd baked one without flipping to see how it differed.They all baked well, one after the other, with almost no discernible difference in final appearance, in spite of the fact the last one went in an hour and a half after the first.
I was really pleased with the crust, but a little disappointed with the hole size/distribution. It was good to eat though: I ate half a loaf straight away!
More images at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sgratch13/sets/72157625835166834/