Rich came across a recipe for a sammich that he really wanted us to try; bacon, avocado, and tomato, with chipotle aioli on ciabatta bread. It was all basic – I had bacon in the freezer, chipotles in adobo in the pantry, and yogurt in the fridge.
Now, about that ciabatta…
I found a couple of recipes that looked doable, but they called for using bread flour.
I was not feeling the love for buying yet another type of flour; I already have all-purpose, whole wheat, and rye flours, as well as a pretty full bag of masa harina.
Then I did a bit of research on da Google and found a recipe I thought I could work with that called for all-purpose flour. The method I came up with is time-consuming – two days and a bit all told – but most of that involves two overnight rests, one for the biga, and one for the dough. My ciabatta may not be as airy as a traditional loaf, but man! is it tasty!
I also like the fact that the biga – kinda like the sponge used to make sourdough – is a (unlike a sourdough sponge) ‘one use’ thing, so you make it, throw together two loaves, then get on with your life. There’s no daily tending to a jar of stuff and bread making required.
I would suggest starting this recipe just before you go to bed to accommodate those overnight rises.
•1/8 tsp active dry yeast
•1/2 cup warm water
•1 cup flour
•1/2 tsp active dry yeast
•2 tbsp warm milk (105°‐115°)
•2/3 cup room-temperature water
•1 tbsp olive oil
•2 cups flour
•1-1/2 tsp salt
•Olive oil (for the bowl)
•Pizza stone (I use a cast iron pan)
Add the yeast to the warm water and let rest for five minutes, then add the flour and stir 5 times – it won’t look completely mixed.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 24 hours – it’ll puff up a bit and any odd dabs of flour will have been absorbed.
Biga made, let’s get on with the bread…
Stir the 1/2 teaspoon of yeast into the warm milk and set aside to rest for five minutes.
Add the warm milk mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer along with the biga, water, olive oil and the flour.
Using the dough hook, mix at low speed just until the flour is moistened.
Add the salt, then knead the dough on medium speed (‘6’ or ‘7’ on my Cuisinart) for ten minutes, until the dough has cleaned the sides of the mixing bowl, pulled into a ball, and is smooth and elastic.
Remove the dough (I just let it hang on the dough hook), coat the mixing bowl with a nice drizzle of olive oil, and then return the dough to the bowl, giving it a turn or two to coat all sides with the oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and go to bed.
When you wake up, the dough will have doubled in size, and you are just a few hours away from bread.
Punch down the dough and turn onto a floured board.
Divide the dough in half and shape into two more-or-less oval nine inch long loaves.
Dimple the tops of the loaves with your fingertips, transfer to two pieces of parchment paper, cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel, and let rest for two hours.
After one hour, heat your oven to 450º and pop your pizza stone in on the center rack to get good and warm.
After the second hour, place a pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven.
Uncover the loaves and place on the warmed pizza stone.
Bake for ten minutes, then remove the pan of water and bake for another ten to twelve minutes.
Remove your ciabatta from the oven and cool on a rack.
Nice bread! The flavor and texture is the closest I’ve come to a baguette at home, the two loaves are perfect for our small household – I can use one and freeze the other – and I love the fact I don’t have a leftover jar of sponge to tend to. With those two overnight rises, you certainly cannot call this a quick bread, but it is more than worth the wait.