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.