|Do they look like crocodile slippers?|
Traditionally Ciabatta bread is made using the sourdough method which requires the preparation of a pre-ferment dough; and this can take days before you can put a loaf of ciabatta on your table.
- 500g bread flour
- 450 - 490g water (I used 450g)
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 15g salt
1. Mix all ingredients roughly till combined, let it rest for 10 minutes.
Be prepared for a very wet dough which has the consistency of a gloopy pancake batter. The high water content is essential to produce the large irregular air bubbles characteristic of a ciabatta bread. Having a stand mixer to tackle the very wet dough is definitely a life-saver and a necessity.
2. After the resting period, turn on the mixer and beat for 10-30 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Mine took the full 30 minutes to transform from pancake batter to a sticky dough using a medium-high speed on my Kenwood Chef mixer. Do not despair if after much beating your batter hasn't changed much in consistency, the mixer speed is probably too low. So be brave and crank up the speed. The dough would be stretchy and feel very wet and sticky. Do not be tempted to add more flour, just go along with it.You'll know it's done when it separates from the side of the bowl and just coming off the bottom of the bowl, and your mixer shakes like crazy as if possessed!
3. Place into a well oiled container and let it triple its size, about 2 hours or more. It must triple!
For me, I let the dough double it's size and then kept it in the fridge to slow down the proofing process. It was very late when I did this, I was too sleepy and couldn't possibly be making bread until the wee hours, so I thought I'd continue in the morning. The next morning, I took the dough out from the fridge and left it to come to room temperature. By then it had tripled.
4. After tripling in size, use a spatula to scrape the dough from the bowl onto a heavily floured surface. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces, spray with grease and dust with flour, and allow to sit for 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 260 °C while the loaves are resting.
I just tipped the container and let the dough fall out onto the work surface, then cut in half and separated the two pieces just like how it was done in the video. I didn't bother greasing them, just dusted them with plenty of flour, then covered them with a clean kitchen towel (which has been dusted with flour of course).
5. After resting 45 minutes or so (dough will be puffy and spongy), pick up one piece of the dough and stretch into your final ciabatta shape (~10" oblong rectangle) and flip them upside down (this redistributes the bubbles, so you get even bubbles throughout), and onto parchment or a heavily floured peel.
I followed the video and used two dough scrapers to scrape the dough off the work surface and turned it upside down on a lined baking sheet. I tried to do this as gently as I could in one quick motion. The dough will look as though you’ve deflated it. Fear not, it'll puff up as it bakes in the oven. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
6. Bake at 260 °C about 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 96 °C.
I don't have a thermometer so I baked the ciabattas a little longer to be safe, about 25 minutes. Better err on the side of overbaking than underbaking as the dough is so wet anyway.