Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ciabatta Using Double Flour Addition and Double Hydration

Saturday, January 16, 2010

This is another bread from,Steve B's website devoted to "professional quality baked goods from a home kitchen." I was quite worried about him because he hasn't blogged since June 14 of 2009. But then I noticed that he's been faithfully answering people's questions on his blog, so I could stop fretting about his well-being.
I made his version of white whole-wheat bread and grumbled about its being bitter. But there will be no grumbling about this bread. I wanted to try this bread for a few reasons: first, the photos on Steve B's blog looked gorgeous and second, I couldn't resist the title with its uber-scientific "double hydration" and double flour addition method. All it means is that you add both the water and the flour in two separate additions, which turns out not to be so mysterious after all. I got the gorgeous-looking bread, learned a few new techniques, and loved the taste of the ciabatta.
It starts out with a poolish that's mixed together quickly and left standing at room temperature for about 12 hours, so it's perfect to do the night before you're ready to start making the bread.

In the morning, you mix the poolish with some of the water and olive oil, using the whisk attachment (new technique #1) until it's mixed to a "homogeneous slurry" (new word combination #1). Some of the flour is whisked in, and then the rest of the flour added, switching to the dough attachment (this is the "double flour addition").
Oh, and by the way, this recipe specifically calls for King Arthur Organic Select Artisan Flour. They may have changed the name, but this is the closest I could get.

Now comes the "double hydration" part.
You mix everything together except for about 40 grams of water. It's a fairly wet dough as it is, but after mixing and mixing, and allowing to rest, you add the additional water just a little at a time.

I don't know if you can see the difference in the picture on the left and the picture on the right, but it was actually great fun to watch the dough slowly absorb even more water.
Now I understand that "fun" is a relative concept, and if most people were asked to rate, say, 100 activities for their fun quality, and one of the 100 were "watching bread dough slowly absorb small amounts of water," that might, in a general election, come in last. But I get more enjoyment out of that than I would out of hang gliding, which doesn't sound at all fun.
You can see that after all the water is absorbed, it's a very wet dough.

After three hours of rising, the dough is divided in half.

Then this very wet dough is shaped, floured and placed on a couche to let rise again. This is new technique #2. When I mentally pictured the bread on the couche thing, I pictured a big horrible mess. I decided to give it a try anyway.

To my amazement, it wasn't a mess at all. The bread pretty much shaped itself into nice oblong loaves, and they didn't stick at all.
Here's what the directions say: "After proofing, the dough peices are gently flipped onto a transfer peel and then slid from the transfer peel onto an oven peel." Huh? I though I was doing good to have a peel. I definitely don't have one that I consider my transfer peel. I have a peel. One.
So I hoisted both breads on a baking pan lined with parchment and placed the pan on an oven stone. I couldn't decide whether the loaves should be dimpled, so I dimpled just one.

Both loaves came out of the oven looking crispy and golden brown, and smelling delicious. I think that the one I dimpled had a slightly more even shape.

I was so pleased with their appearance that I didn't want to cut into them. Steve B's pictures showed such big holes and great texture, and I was sure mine would not be up to snuff (maybe because I didn't have a transfer peel), but they had the promised "wide open interior crumb."

We ate this bread as an accompaniment to soup, but the bread is so good that the soup (which was good too) became an accompaniment to the bread. This is not a dead-easy bread, but it's worth the time it takes. It's one of those kinds of breads that will make you feel like a professional bread-baker, and it will wow your friends.

If you're wondering what I made for January Coffee Hour #3, it was these cranberry scones:

They're from America's Test Kitchen cookbook, and can also be found at Smittenkitchen.
I've already blogged about these, so I won't say anything more than that they're still about the best scone around: not dry, not too sweet, tender, flaky, and delicious. Add whatever you want. Make a glaze by brushing on cream and sprinkling on sugar (or not). They're hard to mess up.


doughadear said...

I'll pick "watching bread dough slowly absorb small amounts of water," over hang gliding any day. SteveB does have the most amazing bread pictures doesn't he? It is so satisfying when bread turns out so beautifully and taste so great! I made my favourite Sourdough bread today and if I didn't care about the size of my hips I could easily eat the whole loaf.
You know I was thinking about making the scones in the Bread Bible today and then I see these gorgeous scones! Your guests are very lucky!

evil cake lady said...

I'm with you and doughadear; I would consider watching bread dough slowly absorb more flour as fun too! Those scones look amazing. I had a dry one earlier today and now I wish what I had was one of yours.

Vicki said...

This is some good looking ciabatta!
Your texture is fantastic. Ciabatta is our first choice of bread. Too think this can be made at home is amazing.

I have yet to have luck with scones. Will definitely try these.

Melinda said...

The ciabatta looks fantastic...check out those cavernous holes! Nice close up picture, Jim!
I do like that you try out different recipes. I am an old stick in the mud, I guess. I find one that I like and just keep making it over and over. You are rewarded with this beautiful bread and new techniques and words to use!
Those scones still look good.

Anonymous said...

*stands up and applauds*

Wow - terrific job, Marie. The bread looks great - crusty with holes. You can tell by looking at it that it would be delicious! It'd nice that all the work paid off.

The scones look good, too. I have that cookbook, and now I think I need to make scones, lol

Laura NYC

breadbasketcase said...

Oriana and ECL,
Good to know that I have kindred spirits in the "fun" department.
One of the guests took a bite of scone, sighed, and said that he was so relieved--scones are like peaches, he said, when they're good, they're very, very good, but it's so easy to get bad ones and they're so disappointing! I agree.

I've had great luck with this recipe, but I hesitate to see it's a sure winner--whenever I say that about a recipe, someone proves me wrong.

I keep trying new things because so often the second time I make something it's not as good as the first time. Why is that? Just heightened expectations, do you think? Or doesn't that ever happen to you?

Thanks. Can you tell I'm pleased with the way this bread turned out?

Jenn said...

Marie - beautiful ciabatta! You are trully a bread baker expert (you might not agree with me but in my eyes you are an expert). I tried making Rose's ciabatta last month and it flopped. Don't know what's wrong. I followed everything to a T, but the dough was too wet to shape. So I just kept adding flour until it's shapeable and baked it. Not exactly ciabatta in the end but I didn't want it to go to waste. It still tasted good and we ate it. I thought I would give up on ciabatta but now I'm thinking I should try this version :). Will let you know how it turns out!

Jenn said...

Btw, those holes are AMAZING!

breadbasketcase said...

Bread is so much easier than cake to me because you can feel when it's right; with cake, you have to take it on faith. Thank you for thinking I'm an expert, but I do believe that to be an expert you have to do more than read a recipe! But I gratefully accept your compliment--especially aboutr the holes.

faithy, the baker said...

Wow! Your bread looks amazing!! And so does your scones! You are the bread expert! Now i know who to turn to when i have bread problems! I still haven't gotten round to making the baguette again..but i'll try it again soon...:) gotta master one at a!

Jenn said...

Marie - I completely agree with you regarding cake and faith. I am still super new in regards to bread baking though - having only made a couple recipes successfully. So for me, bread I have to take on faith as well. For eample, sometimes the dough feels right, but there are less holes than the previous one I made. Question for you, what is a couche? Is this really needed? Where can I get one?

jini said...

hi marie......the bread is gorgeous and now i suppose i will have to try this recipe. i have made the food processor baguettes twice.....once with my old pan which was not successful and once with my new non-stick pan which worked great! i love the bread and it was nice and easy.
i am slowly coming along with this bread thing. :) we had the last batch with a yummy chicken pot pie with a sage biscuit crust. oh my.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

In another post you said:
I've heard such good things about pain l'ancienne that I want to try it soon.

You tried this ciabatta so successfully and you still hesitate?

Please place pain l'ancienne as one of your next few breads to try.
I promise you won't be dissappinted by the flavor.

Have you tried to bake your breade a touch longer, more of a dark carmel color rather than golden, to develop that more rich taste to the crust? Some say it is more "european".


pinknest said...

I'm intimidated by this wet dough!! But I love the look of the finished product. Lovely!

breadbasketcase said...

Ha. Not an expert, but I'm always glad to answer questions. Sometimes I make up the answers, though, just to warn you.

A baker's couche is just a canvas cloth that's used to keep a baguette or ciabatta or other hand-shaped loaf from sagging or collapsing when it's rising after being shaped. I know you can buy them from King Arthur, probably in the $20-$25 neighborhood. I just use a stiff linen tea towel that I flour, and it works pretty well, but it has to be stiff that you can make kind of a wall around the bread dough. (not sure if this makes sense).

Really--you should try it! It's kind of fun to make.
That chicken pot pie with the sage biscuit crust sounds wonderful. I love that you have bread with biscuits for dinner--that's my kind of dinner.

Wow--you must love that bread! I'll get to it soon, I promise.
The darker crust is tricky--I've tried it a couple of times with mixed results. Sometimes it's perfect and sometimes it just tastes burned.

I like to speak Italian to the ciabatta dough to fool it into thinking I know what I'm doing.

lestat01 said...

Looks so good it made me hungry