Anyone hungry for hockey pucks? Who knew it was so easy to screw up making ciabatta bread. On my first attempt to make ciabatta, it looked and had the texture of a very crude biscuit. While all the while in the end all I had to do was nothing. Yeah nothing! With nothing being, just let the dough rise until it becomes a monster. Then bake it all up, for it to become the softest bread that I’ve ever made. So at the time of writing this post I’ve already made ciabatta three times, and here is what I’ve learned so far.
1) Let the poolish rise for about 2 hours on the countertop, then pop it into the fridge for at least overnight to develop. You want at least 12 hours of ferment time in the fridge.
2) When letting the poolish rise in the fridge, make sure to put it in a fairly large bowl, because it will at least double in size. Also the poolish expels a lot of gasses, so when covering the bowl, make sure that it is not airtight. I almost have a Pyrex bowl cover blow-off after a couple of hours in the fridge.
3) After mixing the dough, find a very warm spot to let the un-shaped dough rise. You can help this along if you happen to have a “glasstop” electric stove. Turn one of the burners on high for 15 seconds, then turn off the burner and put the bowl on the now warm burner. This will make a big difference in getting better volume on the finished bread.
4) This is a very wet dough, wetter then anything that I’ve every seen or worked with before. Whatever you do, don’t mix the dough on the countertop, because you’ll just make a mess. Try to do all the mixing and kneading in the bowl with a stiff spatula. Wait to use your hands until after the dough has absorbed most of the final addition of flour.
5) You don’t have to slash this bread with a razor. It is basically a waste of time and it just deflates the bread before baking.
So for some reason I’m starting to come to the realization that less is more when making bread. Because when I fuss with the bread it turns out like crap. But if I neglect the bread, ignoring it and basically putting no effort in, it turns out great. C’est la vie.