I made today’s ciabatta with a little more water than usual. I expected this would result in a more open texture, but it didn’t, perhaps because I mixed it a little too long. Take-home #1: all other thing being equal, higher hydration leads to a more open crumb. Take-home #2: all other things being equal, more mixing leads to a finer, more closed crumb. (You can see this effect dramatically in these baguettes.) Take-home #3: all other things are never equal.
I will say, however, that however open or not open the crumb, it made a pretty good sandwich with prosciutto, sopressata, mozzarella, basil, tomatoes, and balsamic vinegar.
Yield: 1.5 kg (3 loaves)
- Mix and ferment poolish: 6 hours
- Mix final dough: 10 – 15 minutes
- First fermentation (in the refrigerator): 12 – 15 hours, with folding at the first 45 and 90 minutes
- Warm-up: 1 hour
- Divide: 5 minutes
- Proof: 2 hours
- Bake: 35 – 40 minutes
- 229 g flour
- 76 g whole wheat flour
- 304 g water at about 65F
- 1 g instant yeast (1/3 t.)
Final Dough Ingredients:
- 541 g flour
- 373 g cold water (about 40F)
- All of the poolish
- 17 g salt (scant tablespoon)
- 1.5 g instant yeast (1/2 t.)
- 26 g olive oil
- In a large bowl, mix all the poolish ingredients until just combined. Cover the bowl and let the poolish ferment at room temperature for about 6 hours. The poolish is ready to use when the surface is creased, and pebbled with bubbles.
- Place all of the final dough ingredients, except about 20% of the water, into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, about 4 or 5 minutes.
- Continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development.
- Add the remaining water and continue mixing until it is all incorporated and you have a dough that feels very soft but strong and springy.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled container, and leave it at room temperature until after the second fold. (If it is warmer than about 75F, refrigerate it right away.)
- Fold the dough at 45 and 90 minutes. Make sure the container is very well oiled after the second fold so the dough will not stick when it is turned out onto the counter later.
- After the second fold, refrigerate the dough for 10 – 14 hours.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm up for about one hour.
- Turn the dough out onto a very well floured counter (you really can’t get too much flour here; you want to make sure the dough doesn’t stick, and any excess will just be left behind on the counter).
- Working from the center towards the edges, very gently stretch the dough into a rectangle about 2 cm in height. Try to degas the dough as little as possible.
- With a dough scraper, cut the dough into three rectangles. Gently lift these pieces to a liberally-floured couche, supporting the entire piece from underneath with your flat hands, keeping the floured side of the dough down. Again, be very careful to degas as little as possible.
- Cover the couche with plastic or slip it, on a board or sheet pan, into a large food-grade plastic bag.
- Proof for about 2 hours at room temperature, until the dough is very light and full of gas.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.
- Prepare a piece of parchment paper the size of your baking stone, and put it on a board or sheet pan.
- To transfer the loaves from the couche to the parchment, lightly sprinkle them with flour. Holding the edge of the parchment-covered pan right next to the edge of a loaf, grab the end of the couche, pull it taut and use it to flip the loaf over onto the parchment, so the heavily floured side is now up. Do this maneuver as gently as possible.
- To bake, slide the entire loaf-laden parchment onto the baking stone.
- Once the loaves are in the oven, turn the heat down to 450F. Bake for 8 minutes with steam, and another 20 minutes or so without steam. The crust should be a deepish golden brown. Once the crust is the color you want it, turn off the oven and leave the loaves in, with the door cracked open, for another 10 -12 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack. Wait until completely cool to cut and eat.