Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Monday, February 11, 2007
I was planning to make another batch of dough from my new Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book, but I kept thinking about all the breads I'd made from The Bread Bible, and how I'd repeated so few of them. I wanted to go back and make some of my favorites again.
I've always loved to try new recipes. The problem with being driven to try the new is that I never get the chance to develop an old, familiar repertoire of recipes. Sometimes when I make something that turns out especially good, Jim looks up and says, sadly, "I don't suppose we'll ever have this again."
I looked back through my blog and saw that when I made ciabatta the first time (in October of '06!), my oven stopped working mid-bake, and I had to rescue the bread from my rapidly cooling oven and run it over to my neighbor's house. With a new oven, it seemed like it might be nice to see what it turned out like if it spent its 25-minute baking time in just one place.

I knew it was going to be fabulous when I saw how wet the dough was. But it wasn't too hard to handle at all. I just put it on the countertop and made dimples in it until it stretched out to its proper length and width. I thought it might be hard to pick it up and put it on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper, but it came right up and didn't lose its shape.

You probably know that ciabatta is Italian for "slipper." I don't really get this. It doesn't look like a slipper to me, although I guess it looks more like a slipper than it looks like flip-flops or boots. But really. I can see that orecchiette look like ears, but the slipper resemblance escapes me. Of course, it could be that my ciabatta is not an authentic-looking ciabatta.
I made this bread over the course of two days, because I was having friends over for dinner, and I wanted to have fresh bread and also wanted to go to work on Monday. On Sunday, I made the biga and let it rise for about six hours. I put it in the refrigerator overnight, then made the dough Monday morning, let it rise, and told Jim to put it in the refrigerator when the timer went off. Then, when I came home, I shaped it, let it rise again, and baked it. It was just out of the oven when the doorbell rang.
As I've been experimenting with various no-knead recipes, I've sometimes asked myself if the more complicated breads are worth the greater effort. When I took a bite of this ciabatta, it was clear that the answer is yes. You may not always have the time or the energy to read the long recipe and go through all the steps. But when you do--what a reward! This ciabatta was so delicious that all of us at the table could have made a meal of the bread alone. It wasn't just good as an accompaniment--it was the star. (Even though the rest of the meal, I'll admit, was quite good).
When I ate my first piece of this ciabatta, I thought that I should make this bread once a week, and then I'd always have some around. But I know I won't--there are just too many other new breads to try.
Reminder for Twin Cities people: Stop by the Galleria Barnes & Noble at 7:00 on Feb. 25 and see Kim Ode, Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer and editor of Baking with the St. Paul Bread Club, Solveig Tofte, head baker at Turtle Bakery and member of the American National Team that will compete in France next month for the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, aka the Baking Olympics, and me. I am the enthusiastic amateur on the panel.
I'm going to bake something from The Bread Bible to give out as samples. Any ideas?
By the way, when I googled "orecchiette" to make sure I was spelling it right, I learned that there is also a pasta called "strozzapreti," which means "priest strangler" in Italian. It looks kind of like a long rolled-up towel, which could be used to strangle anyone, I guess, but why did they decide to pick on priests? When you ponder that question, it no longer seems so odd that they named this bread after a shoe.


Doughadear said...

I love the Bread Bible's Ciabatta, it is a most suburb bread. I too was amazed at how easy it was to handle for a wet dough and I knew that I would want to make this bread often. But as you said there just are too many breads to try so I don't get around to making it as often I'd like. Can you imagine making a large sandwich with this ciabatta stuffed with grilled chicken, roasted peppers and eggplant, fresh basil, and smoked mozzerella or provolone and sharing it with a few friends!

Melinda said...

I haven't made this one yet. But you have sold it properly to me so will have to make it soon!
I like the idea of the bread fresh out of the oven as the doorbell rang!
Excellent timing, Marie. The house must have smelled fantastic.

Jessy said...

Ive made the ciabatta from the bread bible before and it is great! The bread looks really nice.

Anonymous said...

Ciabatta is one of my favorites from The Bread Bible. I also love the pizza crust recipe and the Prosciutto Ring(I don't brush this one with bacon fat or butter in the end - just leave it plain.)The Dinner roll recipe is also really good, which I think you liked a lot. Anna

kim-ode said...

Your ciabatta looks like a classic. And I'm completely in favor of whole meals consisting of a loaf of bread!

Suzanne Pancrazi said...

This is definitely one of my favorites from the Bread Bible. It seems to come closest to the perfect Italian bread that I am looking for. In both taste and texture it just doesn't seem like something that could have been baked at home!

Marty said...

My favorite. Not just for flavor. For some reason it's my most consistent recipe. I go for it because I know it will be perfect. Thanks Rose.

Anonymous said...

I spent a summer in Italy while in college a few years ago. "Strozzapreti" is "priest choker," and comes from a habit the clergy had of visiting homes for a free meal. And they ate a LOT. The pasta was meant to be an inexpensive way to fill the guest up to his greedy gills.

-Anna at OA

breadbasketcase said...

Your sandwich idea sounds wonderful--it would be a great way to get Jim to eat eggplant.

The house did smell great, but I thought I cut the timing a little close. I hope you try this bread soon.

I agree, and there's nothing more satisfying than taking a bread out of the oven thinking, "I can't believe I made this myself."

Thanks--it is great, isn't it?

The prosciutto ring is a good idea. I haven't made that for a long time, and it's so tasty.

So much more satisfying than an all-salad meal!

It looks like this is on almost everyone's Top Ten list!

I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that interpretation of strozzapreti. I'm so much happier with that interpretation than with my assumption that it was all about killing priests!

rpse said...

well! thanks for reminding me about the bread that i worked harder on than any other one in the bread bible! i also forget how much i love the old perfected ones. speaking of which, thanks to marie here i tried the filone (tom cat's from artisan bread) and it's one of the most delicious breads i've ever tasted! i'll be posting my take on it one of these weeks. and i must make the ciabatta again. i just made the baby no knead this weekend to go with the veal bone and bean soup and found myself disappointed with the one dimensional flavor--guess i've gotten spoiled.
by the way, be sure and see the errata page on my blog when you make the prosciutto ring as i've made so big improvements vis a vis the amount and type of meat added!

rpse said...

was i dreaming? (i do have bread dreams on occasion in fact, after the nyu demo i drempt that the grass in our meadow turned to golden wheat blowing gently in the wind!)i thought i saw a posting of filone on this blog but can't find it going back as far as december so maybe not. apologies.

Jim said...

It's the posting from October 16, 2007. I just had to find it.

rpse said...

thanks jim--i was driving myself nuts! now i can credit where i saw it when i do my blog posting!

breadbasketcase said...

Well, I'm glad you spent all that time perfecting it so the rest of us get a perfect ciabatta first time out.
A bread like this is one that spoils everyone!