The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge recipe 7: Ciabatta. This Italian rustic crusty chewy bread shaped like a slipper has become so popular and when a restaurant started to serve sandwiches using ciabatta several years ago I was eager to try but was so disappointed at first bite. The bread was incredibly leathery or maybe flip-floppy; I thought I was chewing on rawhide. And the bakeries are no better with their mediocre ciabatta but thanks to BBA and other cookbooks, not to mention several websites, I am now able to have freshly baked ciabatta at home that are flavorful and yes chewy but not rubbery.
For this challenge I [again] forgot to take photos of the unbaked dough. Sorry about that. Anyway, I divided the dough into four 5-ounce sandwich rolls and the remainder of the dough I shaped into a long thin baguette. The rolls were shaped like a letter just like in the photos and I put them on individual pieces of parchment, uncouched. It is easier to slide them one by one from the peel onto the baking stone.
For this recipe I used a poolish which I left in the refrigerator for 2 days to develop more flavor. The ciabatta recipe is easy to follow but I find the dough a little bit dry and had to sprinkle a lot of water while kneading because the wetter the dough the more hole-y the bread will turn out. I honestly thought even with the additional water I felt the dough was still dry. And this is what's odd about this batch: three of the sandwich ciabatta rolls have random large air pockets but one didn't have any, just a few medium and small ones. The baguette also has irregular medium and tiny holes in them. I can't believe these are from the same dough. I suspect my oven has cold spots and I should have baked them in batches. But overall, I like this recipe; the bread is chewy, crusty although not as dark brown as I would have liked, and definitely more flavorful than store-bought. I love it with crisp-fried pancetta, lettuce, and tomato or simply halved and baked topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheese seasoned with dried Italian herbs. I probably will NOT use this recipe again for my next ciabatta as I have PR's ciabatta test recipe for his upcoming book.
PLT: pancetta, lettuce, and tomato
visual appeal 4
ease of preparation 4