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Apr 15, 2013

Whole-Wheat Ciabatta Bread

Whole-wheat ciabatta bread

After successfully executing Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread twice, I tried my hand at sandwich bread, which also turned out quite fabulous.

I decided it was time to give sourdough a try. Twice, I tried, using Mark Bittman’s sourdough starter and bread recipe from his famous book, How to cook Everything. Both times my sourdough bread turned into this dense, heavy ball of…of something… that was better suited to bludgeoning people to death with rather than eating. I was not dejected the first time — anyone can fail at following a recipe once. But when my second loaf of sourdough went south, I lost courage.

“I will leave bread baking to the professionals,” I said, ” From now on, I will  stick to just cooking.”

But K just would not let me! Any time I stop to look at artisan breads at the market, K reminds me that he loved the bread I baked at home. As I pick up a loaf and put it into my basket, he tells me that the store-bought stuff is so expensive, that I should bake my own bread again. Yesterday, he pointed out the cost of the lovely ciabatta loaf I had set my heart on. I felt so guilty that I put it back.

So today, here I am trying out a recipe for “Easy Homemade Ciabatta” from the blog Crepes of Wrath based on their lovely photo on Tastespotting, my favourite food porn site. I picked this bread because of (almost) instant gratification: No waiting until tomorrow. I make the dough, rest it for two hours and then bake. And I know whether it was a success or a failure.

And this one, baby, was a success!

I used white whole-wheat flour. Yes, it sounds contradictory. But, it just is a different wheat berry that gives you the health benefit of whole-wheat but is less dense. See, I can have my cake, uh bread, and eat it too. But use all-purpose or white bread flour by all means. And into it went salt, sugar, instant yeast and warm water. I made the dough in the food processor using a dough blade this time instead of the regular cutting blade. Mix until everything comes together and toss into a large (olive) oiled bowl.

ciabatta dough-1

I just wiped the bowl clean, oiled it and transferred the dough into it. Then I pulled one side of the dough up to stretch it, folded it over the dough and then repeated with the other side. I needed both my hands and the dough was so sticky that I just could not get a photo of me doing this. At first the dough tore when I pulled it up even a few inches, but after doing this for a good 5 minutes, the dough held much better when I pulled a bit up. This step traps air in the dough that helps give the bread its delicious air-pockets.

ciabatta dough-2

Then drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil and set aside for two hours in a warm place.

ciabatta dough-3

My apartment is  quite cold today so I decided to keep a light on near the dough to keep it warm and snug.

ciabatta dough-4

We’ve poked, pinched, prodded and pulled the dough. It is tired. Let it rest! 2 hours. Pre-heat your oven to 400F during the final 30 minutes of resting.

ciabatta-dough-5

This is what the dough looked like after resting.

Now line a baking sheet with parchment paper and generously sprinkle flour over it. (I have foil on my baking sheet because it is old and has burn marks on it). Flour your hands and shape the dough into a log by folding it over itself once or twice. This step turned out to be easier than I thought  it would be.

ciabatta dough-6

Sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes until bread turns a golden brown and the inside sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.

Whole-wheat ciabatta bread

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