Sunday, September 30, 2012


Is there a better name that evokes a longing for bread? Ciabatta.

I love bread. Almost all bread. I love the smell of a bakery and can usually ferret out one on a roadtrip from 10 miles away. I love to bake bread as well and that brings me to this:

Ciabatta. I woke up yesterday with a hankering to bake ciabatta, having never done so previously.

So off I went in search of recipes on the innertubes and came across several that looked more than promising. Trouble soon followed.

At first glance, all recipes have this thing I had never heard of: biga. What the heck is this? Simply put, it's a starter of fermentation that adds that special chewy texture and I dare say, flavor to the ciabatta which distinguishes it from most other breads. It is not sour.

So, while I went into this day of baking wholeheartedly, I was quickly squashed back with the understanding that ciabatti take 2 days. The next stumbling block was which biga to make, the one that takes 24 hours and is thick, or the one that takes 8 hours.

I tossed the coin and went with the 24 hour. It used a more whole wheat/rye mix and I thought that sounded really earthy (I love rye) and made it using this recipe. I could always make the other method another time.

Then, as I was cleaning up the bowls and counter, I thought.... well, wait a sec. If I do this and it doesn't rise, I will be out 24 hours.... let me do the other method now and I can always freeze bread if they both work well! So, I went with this recipe.  If you try this one, you'll see that the biga is much thinner which makes sense because it starts in as little as 8 hours or overnight.

All that was yesterday and what a rainy day it was. Perfect for baking bread, in my book. Today,  well, it's still raining out there steadily and I have been working my through the 2nd step in ciabatta baking.

With this first recipe, I am about half-way through the rising process, something that should take 3 hours or so. I am very excited to report that the thick, slow biga rose beautifully overnight, tripling in size as it should have.

Once the loaves are in the final rise, I will start with the other recipe and see how that one is looking.

A few hours later, this is what the first loaves look like.
The bread has a great nutty taste and chewy texture but not the kind of holes I expected to see. I wrapped the bottom one up in clingwrap and froze it for later in the week.

I made rolls and one loaf from the second recipe and await the final rise.

And here is the results of that one. Again, nowhere near the bubbly holes I expected but the flavor of this bread is outstanding....... If I do this again, (and I will) I will reduce the amount of salt in the first batch to >2 teaspoons...... but I really liked the flavor of the wheat/rye blend.

With the second, I will try to touch it less and hope the bubbles don't disappear.

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