Saturday, July 4, 2009

BBA Challenge #7: Ciabatta

Now, there are some BBA Challenge participants that are reporting that the poolish Ciabatta did not come out as hole-y as they had hoped. I am going to be fully honest here, and say that mine was also not at all hole-y, but, even though I went by the book, I still ended up with something that was not very good.

I decided to go the poolish route.

Here you see the initial mix with my King Arthur Flour Brotpisker. I bought this about eleven years ago, and it shows no sign of letting up. For the flour, I used 25% Type 1050, 50% Type 812, and 25% High Gluten flour. I thought this would give me more holes, but it didn't. Maybe next time I'll stick to just 812 or a mix of 812 and 550. 1050 seems to work best in thick hearth-like breads like my favorite 1050 Sauerteigbrot made the night before and baked in the morning.

After six hours on the counter and an additional twenty-four in the fridge, it came out like this. It looks gray like brains only because I was still getting the hang of the flash. I had an umbrella set-up, which I have since abandoned.

The thing I noticed immediately about this bread was how low in hydration it was. The only other Ciabatta I have made was 95% hydration and came out fabulous, if a bit flat. This one had the consistency of regular bread.

As it came together, I began to doubt myself. I even added extra water and made a mess in the DLX. One of the disadvantages of the machine is that if you add water after the dough has come together, it will not catch on to the spinning bowl. See, the machine works through the awesome power of friction, and if you add water to the dough, it will act as a lubricant, and the friction will be gone. Nevertheless, it was the second time I had added water after the fact, so I ended up having to knead by hand, and then put it back into the machine to take another photo. Hey, I could have lied about it!

Here it is in daylight, after being stretched and folded. I made a double batch, so maybe it was collapsing under its own weight instead of forming nice big bubbles.

Here it is under flash lighting, having risen some.

An impromptu couche using two new boxes of parchment paper. Oddly enough parchment paper, known here as backpapier is fairly common. You can get it for 0,99 € at any supermarket next to the plastic wrap and foil. However, wax paper is nowhere to be found.

I made four loaves as well as six rolls for our Monday morning office breakfast.

The first loaves came out decidedly un-rustic looking.

As did the rolls.

I find myself photographing the bottoms of the breads, ever since the Casatiello, and have found out that Cindy from Salt and Serenity as well as Nicole from Pinch My Salt both photograph the undersides. Crazy!

Close-up of one of the loaves.

The last loaf came out a bit more rustic, but I am not sure if it was because by this time the oven stone was fully warmed or what. I cheated on this one and added a ton of flour to the top later, but it didn't look like classic Ciabatta. As bread it was okay, as Ciabatta, not so good.

It seems I have overlooked the crumb photograph. I'll just say that the bread was tight and dense, and great in flavor, and great when warm (yes, I could not resist). However, after a day the crumb was tight and the bread was too dense and too chewy, but not in a fun way.

I'll be trying this one again with much more hydration, as well as with a Biga instead of a Poolish as the pre-ferment. Thanks to everyone else who has posted on the Ciabatta. I have learned more on this bread than from any other!


  1. They look great but a lot darker than mine. Maybe you baked a lot longer. I know when I over bake the bread gets dry real quick.
    Ya would have be great to see the inside but you described it great. :)
    I plan on hydrating more the next time too. :)
    Nice baking along with you,

  2. Yours looked great! Hardly a failure, I'd say...

  3. Your post made me laugh - loved the gray like brains Poolish.

    I am also struggling with the whole lighting issue in photography. What is the umbrella set up and why did you abandon it?

    I am looking forward to trying this again with Biga and lots more water. Maybe then I'll get more holes. Only bakers want holes in their final product. We are a strange breed!

    P.S. Loved the bottom of the loaf shot.

  4. Oh wow! Comments! Thanks for all the nice comments. It really warms my day to see comments from people whose blogs I love.

    The umbrella set-up is a flash on a light stand with the flash bouncing off the umbrella and onto whatever I am photographing. I abandoned it because I figured I could just bounce the flash off the ceiling and get the same result and not have to mess around with the angle of the umbrella and so forth.

    Also, I recently tried the biga version, and it was much better. I am going to catch up on my posts tonight and try to blog it.

    Thanks again!

  5. I think this was definitely one of the more rustic recipes. I haven't heard of anyone's Ciabatta turning out perfectly.

  6. Mine wasn't hydrated enough! I made the poolish version, too, and there are few holes. The texture is like normal bread, but more chewy. Your fold turned out much better than mine ; )