Ciabatta Bread

Well hello again, you! Please excuse my sporadic summer blogging – what with my vacation schedule and work rolling into the busiest months, it has been difficult for me to cook, let alone blog. But here is something I baked and took on a mini-vacation for a delicious appetizer snack.

I’m no bread maker. And while this recipe turned out tasting great, especially with the toppings described later, it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I’m blaming that on the fact that I didn’t have a spritzer for spritzing water on the bread every few minutes, as suggested. Psh, who has time for that kind of babysitting?

Here is my Cook’s Illustrated recipe for chewy ciabatta bread:

Ciabatta

Ingredients – sponge

  • 1 c. AP flour
  • 1/8 tsp instant (rapid-rise) yeast
  • 1/2 c. room-temp water

Ingredients – dough

  • 2 c. AP flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 3/4 c. room-temp water
  • 1/4 c. room-temp milk (I used whole milk)

Combine sponge ingredients in medium bowl and stir until a uniform mass forms, 1 min. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours (overnight).

Place sponge and dough ingredients in stand mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low until roughly combined, about 1 min. Scrape down sides. Increase speed to medium-low and continue mixing until dough becomes uniform mass that collects on the paddle, 4-6 min (note: I added at least another 1/2 c. of flour because mine was still too wet). Change to dough hook and knead bread on medium until smooth and shiny, very sticky, about 10 min. Transfer to large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temp until doubled in size, 1 hr.

Spray rubber spatula with cooking spray and fold dough over on itself from the edges inward at 90-degree turns – do it a total of 8 turns around the edges. Cover again and let rise 30 min. Repeat folding, cover, let rise another 30 min. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-mid position and heat oven to 450.

Place parchment paper on 2 baking sheets. Transfer dough to floured surface and divide in half. Turn one piece cut side up and dust with flour. Press dough into rough 12×6-inch shape. Fold up the sides to the center to form a 7×4-inch loaf. Place seam-side down on parchment sheet and dust with flour. Repeat with second loaf. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp. for 30 min.

(Here, CI asks you to transfer loaves to a new rimmed baking sheet, but I just put them straight into the oven). Using fingertips, poke the entire surface of each loaf to form a 10×6-inch rectangle (mine were more like blobs), then spray loaves lightly with water (which I didn’t do). Bake, spraying with water twice more during first 5 min. of baking, until crust is deep brown and center of loaf is 210 degrees (seriously?), 22-27 min. When tapped, the center of the loaf will sound hollow.

Transfer to wire racks to cool to room temperature.

There was a bit too much flour on the bottoms since I didn’t transfer the loaves to a baking stone, but I didn’t care at this point. I had been baking far too long to care.

Best way to eat this bread? Name it!

My friend Krissy is always handy with her appetizers, and this one I blatantly stole from her – ricotta mixed with scallions, basil, S&P; along with chopped tomatoes with more basil, garlic and olive oil. Can you tell we have a lot of basil on hand?

I sliced and lightly toasted my bread, along with a sprinkle of EVOO and a little S&P. Then we spooned on the ricotta and followed with the tomatoes. I love the cold creaminess of the ricotta topped with the fresh, juicy tomatoes. Then the heat of the garlic and floral loveliness of basil.

It is definitely too hot to bake bread this weekend, so we are heading to the mountains, where I will be basking (and baking?) in 70-degree temps.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

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