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Ciabatta BreaD

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Ciabatta Bread, will easily replace white bread as a staple in your diet. Everyone who tries this bread loves it. Ciabatta means slipper in Italian. One glance at the short, stubby bread will make it clear why it was named Ciabatta Bread. It is much lighter than its shape would make it appear, and the porous, chewy interior is encased in a slightly crunchy crust.

The dough can be challenging to work with as it is very wet and sticky. How-ever do not add extra flour as the bread will not turn out right.

Weigh all of the ingredients do not measure them.

Have a bowl of water handy when you are about to shape the dough this will help.

Make this ciabatta recipe in a stand mixer.

Resist the temptation to add more flour when kneading the dough.

Even if it still looks flat after the second rising do not panic. Ciabatta bread rises nicely in the oven.

You will need 2 baking stones or large cast-iron skillets for this recipe.

Makes 4 loaves

Ingredients for biga:

This Italian bread starter recipe is used for the base of many of the great tasting Italian breads that we know and love.

 

I would like to suggest that you use weight to measure the ingredients as it will produce a more reliable starter. A cup of flour does not always weigh the same amout.

Ingredients:

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/4 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) warm water not hot

3/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons (7 ounces / 200 grams) water at room temperature

2 1/3 cups (11.6 ounces / 330 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil for oiling the bowl

Directions:

Stir the yeast into the warm water and let rest until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the remaining water into the yeast mixture. Add the flour 1 cup at a time. Stir with a wooden spoon for 3 - 
4 minutes. If mixing with a stand mixer, beat with the paddle at the lowest speed for 2 minutes.

Transfer the starter to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until the starter is triple its original volume. It should still be wet and sticky. If your family enjoys sourdough allow the starter to rise for up to 48 hours. 

Cover and refrigerate the starter until ready to use. Use within 5 days. You may freeze the starter. To use frozen starter place at room temperature for about 3 hours until it is bubbly and active again.

When needed, weigh out the desired amount for your recipe and proceed. I recommend weighing rather than measuring it by volume since it expands at room temperature.

If measuring by volume, measure only chilled starter.

Ingredients for Dough:

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

5 tablespoons warm milk

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, at room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the bowl

2 very full cups (17.5 ounces/500 grams) biga

3 3/4 cups (17.5 ounces/500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface

1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces/15 grams) salt

Cornmeal for dusting

Instructions:

Using a stand mixer:

Stir the yeast into the milk until fully blended. Allow to rest bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Add the water, oil, and weighed biga to the yeast mixture and mix with the paddle attachment until blended.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the weighed flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and mix for 2 to 3 minutes.

Change to the dough hook attachment and knead for 2 minutes on low speed, then 2 minutes on medium speed.

The dough will be very sticky. Dip your hands in the water and then scoop out the dough onto a well-floured surface, adding as little flour as possible, Knead only until the dough is still sticky but beginning to show evidence of being velvety, supple, springy, and moist. If needed moisten your hand with water and continue.

Place the kneaded dough into an oiled bowl.

Cover with a warm damp clean dish towel.

Allow to rise until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

The dough should be full of air bubbles, very supple, elastic, and sticky.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces with a damp knife on a well-floured surface.

Roll each piece into a cylinder, then stretch each cylinder into a rectangle. Use your fingers to get each piece long and wide enough. It should be approximately 10 by 4 inches.

Generously flour 4 pieces of parchment paper.

Place each loaf onto a piece of parchment.

Dimple the loaves vigorously with your fingertips or knuckles so that they won’t rise too much.

Cover the loaves loosely with warm clean damp towels and let rise until almost double in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The loaves will still look flat, but they will rise more in the oven.

30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC) and the slide 2 baking stones or 2 large cast-iron skillets onto the center rack to heat.

Just before baking the Ciabatta Bread, sprinkle the stones or cast iron pans with cornmeal. Carefully invert each loaf onto a stone or pan. If the dough sticks a bit to the parchment, just gently work it free.

If the dough sticks to much to the parchment, you can leave the paper and remove it 10 minutes later.

Bake for a total of 20 to 25 minutes, misting the oven three times with water in the first 10 minutes.

Transfer the Ciabatta Bread loaves to wire cooling racks.

Ciabatta Bread may be eaten warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy

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