December 27, 2010 • Breads,
I always make it clear that I’m not much of a baker, but that hasn’t deterred my daughter from trying to get me to teach her things about baking. On one of her recent nights home from school she dragged me into making ciabatta bread, the wonderful Italian slipper loaves that are usually full of holes and flavor. Since I’m a sucker for Italian breads (that’s about the only time I stuff myself on bread at meals) I agreed.You begin by making a biga, a bit like sourdough starter. Ideally, you make the biga the day before, which gives it plenty of time to ferment and bubble and take on flavor. Because we were pressed for time, we only allowed the biga to stand a few hours before proceeding to make the dough. It was noticeable in that we didn’t have as many bubbles or as much flavor as we would have liked, but it wasn’t so bad, however, that we didn’t proceed to eat an entire loaf of bread between three of us for dinner!After the biga has taken on some size and flavor you continue making the full recipe dough, and let it rise in a bowl. I always think watching bread dough rise is one of the small food miracles in the world – and it’s fun for smaller kids if you’re looking for something to make in the kitchen with them over the holiday break from school.Baking bread is kind of therapeutic – I’m not the first person, I’m sure, to feel a sense of calm as I knead the dough and shape it into a loaf. Just might have to become more of a baker after all!
- 1½ teaspoons dry active yeast
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 cups bread flour (I used all-purpose)
- 1 cup room temperature water
- 2¾ cups bread flour (I used all-purpose)
- 1¼ cups room temperature water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon dry active yeast
- To make the biga, mix together the first four ingredients and let rest, covered, on the counter for 4-24 hours before using. The longer the biga rests, the more flavor that is developed in the final bread.
- To make the ciabatta, mix all remaining ingredients with the biga on low speed until well blended, then on medium speed until a smooth and soft dough is formed, about 5 minutes. Let rise in a covered, oiled bowl, turning and kneading the dough three times, every 45 minutes. Divide the dough into two pieces, and shape into loaves. Place cut side down on a silicone lined baking sheet. Proof at 75 degrees (inside an oven with the light on is a good option) for about an hour or until it is about doubled in size.
- Place a small tray of hot water inside an oven heated to 475 degrees, and bake bread for 10 minutes. Remove pan of water and continue baking for 15-20 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. Let cool before slicing.