I’ve been behind in my Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge baking. There are a couple of reasons, but mostly because some of the recent ones have been very dessert oriented, and I’m trying to avoid that somewhat. I’ve also been lazy, of course.
Last week, I got everything going to go with ciabatta, however. I’ve actually done this one before, but wanted to improve on it from the first time. I did a poolish, which is a pre-mixture of flour, water and yeast, used as a starter for a full dough recipe.
what I love about artisan breads is the use of a mix of gadgets and centuries-old baking methods. I use a Kitchen Aid Professional 600 mixer to mix the dough, but I kneaded by hand this time. I let the dough rise on the counter, with plenty of flour to keep it from sticking.
Ciabatta is a loose dough, meaning it’s got a lot of water in it and doesn’t hold a shape all that well, so it rises in a bit of a pile of dough, which is fine. Looser doughs seem to tend to have bigger holes in the crumb, which I like. This dough proofed nicely, and I used a dough cutter to divide it into three parts after it almost doubled in size. Part of the low tech process was that I used a couche, which is a course linen, to let the loaves proof a second time.
The ciabatta is pretty generously sprinkled with flour through the process, which stays white even after baking. The flour doesn’t really get incorporated in the dough but helps it not stick to everything.
I had the Big Green Egg fired up to about 500 degrees, and I misted it inside when I put the dough on the baking stone, then twice again, 30 seconds apart. After that, I turned the vents down to settle in around 450, and turned the loaves around after about 10 minutes. After that, it took about 8 more minutes for the internal temperature to be about 205, so they came off the cooker and onto a cooling rack.
The crust came out nice and crunchy/chewy, if that makes sense. It had some depth to it and great color. The crumb still could use bigger holes, but the texture ended up being very nice. Overall, I was really happy with these loaves, and will try more again. I think the next time, I’ll try King Arthur’s Sir Lancelot flour, which is very high in protein, and may help with bigger holes in the crumb.
Over the next weeks, the challenge will be digging more into Italian and French breads, so I’ll be keeping up a bit better!