Ciabatta - step-by-step
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I'm sitting in my study, with the summer sunshine pouring through the window, warming my bones and dreaming of a time when I can travel once again, after a very peculiar eighteen months.
Looking through my many travel photos, there's one of my wife and I sitting in the Italian sunshine, enjoying a picnic. We're in the magical city of Ostuni in Puglia. We have a bottle of Primitivo red wine, a chunk of Pallone di Gravina cheese, some sliced Italian cold meats and....ciabatta.
I can't remember a time when I didn't eat ciabatta...and yet, to my surprise, it wasn't 'invented' until 1982 by Arnoldo Cavallari, a baker in Adria, in the province of Rovigo in the Veneto. He made it in response to the growing preference for the French baguette.
By 1999, the original recipe for ciabatta had been licensed to be made in 11 countries. It arrived in the UK in 1985, bearing the M&S label and reached as far as Cleveland, Ohio in 1987.
The ciabatta is a distinctive bread. It is broad, elongated and flat. Cut open, it should have alveolar holes, again adding to its distinctive qualities. It's made with a strong bread flour but is a far wetter dough than its French counterpart.
Around the world, you'll see it forming the basis for a toasted sandwich - a panini, although, strictly speaking, a panino, in Italy. can be made with any bread that comes to hand.
You may see ciabatto integrale - wholemeal ciabatta, or ciabatta al latte -a milk-enriched version. But, for our purposes today, we're going to focus on the original ciabatta.
There are two stages to creating the ciabatta.
This recipe is for 2 ciabatta. Simply, double up the ingredients for 4...and so on.
Prepare the biga
140 gms bread flour (I use T55 flour)
80 gms tepid filtered water (or own-brand still water)
⅛ teaspoon active instant yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
Make the biga the night before you plan to bake
Mix together the yeast with the warm water. Allow it to stand for a few minutes
Stir the yeast mixture into a medium sized bowl. Add the flour and the water and stir until combined.
Cover with cling-film or a shower cap and leave it at room temperature overnight. It can be left for up to 24 hours.
|The biga - after 12 hours at room temperature|
Make the ciabatta
280 gms of bread flour (I use T55 flour)
½ teaspoon of instant active yeast
1½ teaspoon of sea salt
163 gms of filtered water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons skimmed / semi-skimmed milk
Combine the yeast and the milk. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes.
|Mix the milk with the yeast and leave for 15 minutes|
|Add the olive oil to the biga|
|Mix the oil, biga and yeast / milk mixture together|
Combine all these ingredients.
Add the salt and then mix together for about 10 minutes until everything is well incorporated.
|Add the water, mix and then add the flour. Finally, dimple in the salt and mix.|
Lightly oil a large bowl.
Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover.
|After ten minutes mixing. Leave to rest for 2 hours.|
Leave it at room temperature for about 2 hours - until it has doubled in size.
|Doubled in size|
Tip the dough out onto a well-floured surface.
|Ready for dividing into half|
Cut the dough into two equal pieces.
Form each piece into a long loaf.
Transfer the pieces to parchment paper.
Flour your fingers and create dimples in the top of the loaves.
Gently sprinkle with flour.
Cover the loaves with a damp towel and leave at room temperature to double in volume. (approximately 2 hours).
Place a pizza stone in a cold oven and then preheat both to 220⁰C. Or, if you've placed your ciabatta on a baking tray (lined with parchment or silicone) pre-heat the oven to 220⁰C.
When the loaves are ready for baking, mist the inside of the oven and transfer the loaves (with the parchment paper) to the pizza stone and bake for approximately 25 minutes until golden brown. If you want to create more steam, you will end up with more crusty ciabatta.
Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before cutting.
Happy baking....Buona Cottura...