foodie mcfooderson

a home cook with notions & an appetite

artisan baking – craig ponsford’s ciabatta

This is the most complicated bread that I’ve made to date – and the one that’s made me think, “I’m a FREAKING bread maker!” This was intimidating mostly in that this is a two day process. Yes – TWO days to make bread.

By the by, ciabatta means “slipper” and I do believe I can see a pair of slippers in my loaves…when I squint.  The recipe is from Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Baking, a Christmas Gift from the Mother-in-Law.

First up, the Biaga – it’s a sort of starter sponge – ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup 110-115° water
  • 7.1 oz bread flour
  • 3.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 0.5 oz whole-wheat flour
  • 0.5 oz rye flour
  • 3/4 cup water

The yeast and water aren’t the normal setup at all.  It started out with the normal dissolving of the yeast in the water, but after letting it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, I mixed in only 1/2 teaspoon of the yeasted water with the mixed flours.  This allowed me to use 1/364th (or something like that) of a teaspoon of yeast.  I suppose if I had a spoon that small, I might have been able to go with that instead…

I know! So I mix all of this with the 3/4 cup of water that seems like it won’t soak up all the flour. It makes this stiff ball and I let it rise for 24 hours:

Honestly, this didn’t do anything for well over twelve hours and then it was mostly husband and I going, “I think it’s done something,” looking at digital pictures of the original biga and saying, “I’m almost certain it’s done something?” By the time the 24 hours was up, it had tripled.

It’s now time for Baking Day ingredients:

  • 11.5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • ← the fermented biaga

(She really calls these Baking Day ingredients in the book, I love that.)

The biga, salt, yeast, flour (it seems kind of boring to be using only one kind) and water go together all at once. I’m happy to be using my mixer, as it’s all about mixing these together to make a very liquidy dough (and this is an old recipe and my old mixer which is no longer with us):

Now for good times. This has to rise – but every 20 minutes (save the last 30 minutes) of my 2 hour rise time is spent dumping out my mixture onto my well-floured counter and folding the dough up like a letter. This gets more flour into the dough and keeps distributing the gasses. There’s no heavy-duty kneading. And the dough really gets easier to handle as things go along.

Once that’s done, I cut the dough in half with a dough scraper – carefully. More careful folding of the dough and a rise. Then a quick flip and smoosh of the bread with my fingers – you can actually see how this allows the yeasties to rise all through the bread in these steps – there are bubbles everywhere in my loaf forms:

At this point, I’m feeling pretty good. The biga didn’t die, the dough went from soup to supple and all I have to do is bake it on my pizza stone on some parchment paper.  As you can see from above, I got browned loaves of bread.  Yay.  But what of the crumb – do I really have beautiful hole-filled ciabatta?

Why, yes, yes I do!


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This entry was posted on August 2, 2011 by in bread, cookbooks and tagged , , , .

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