Bread Week

A Case Against Strong Flour: The Ciabatta Diaries

So to finish up Bread Week (which, again, I have to do on Monday because I was away all weekend), the contestants were asked to make ciabatta.  I watched the Masterclass episode to get the recipe, and followed it to the letter using 500 grams of strong flour (which I was able to find in the bulk bins at Winco), 10 g. salt and 10 g. yeast.  Those yeast packets only have 7 g. in them…did you know that?  I had a fresh jar of yeast (not “fresh” yeast, but not-past-its-expiration-date dry yeast).  I put the ingredients in and added 440 ml of water (as directed) and let it rip…and I ended up with a very lumpy mess.  Like two hard lumps.  I don’t know what it was, but it certainly wasn’t bread.  I dumped it in the trash.

I tried again using the remaining strong flour, about 250 grams and added the balance of 250 grams of all-purpose flour.  Added salt, yeast and water and ended up with…another lumpy mess.  It was considerably less solid than the previous batch, but still a terrible failure.  I momentarily considered rising it to see if it was salvageable, but realized that it looked nothing like Paul Hollywood’s dough, so I pitched that as well.

This was the half-strong, half-all-purpose mix. It looks like it has cancerous growths. It’s just disgusting.

Take 3… Completely omitted the strong flour (I was all out anyway) and just used All-Purpose store-brand flour.  Looks promising…

Finally, something to write about!  And potentially EAT!  This is truly the “amazingly elastic” look you’re supposed to get–smooth and stretchy, not lumpy and gross.  Sticky, but not lumpy.

Sticky, gooey, lovely gluten!

Put it in the greased (with a bit of olive oil) 3 liter plastic bucket (that I had to go to Cash & Carry to find…great place, by the way!) and set the lid on loosely.  Allow to rise for 45 minutes.  The timing is not going to work out well since I have to go pick up the kidlings….can’t be helped…hopefully it doesn’t OVER-proof.

OK, back from picking up the kids and the dough didn’t rise as much as I would have liked.  I think it’s because it was sitting right on the stone counter top….cold surfaces preventing a good rise.  I put a towel under it and turned on the gas fireplace, and…PRESTO!

Look!  It’s so FLUFFY!

A view from the top…

Dust the countertop with semolina and all-purpose flour….

And pour the dough, gently onto the middle of the floured surface.  Note that it retains the square shape, which is ideal for cutting into four equal loaves.

And be sure to dust much more than you think you’ll need to, and clear enough space so it doesn’t…you know…droop off the edge.  It oozes out further than you think it will.

Flour the top of the sticky mound–it will absorb some of the oil from the container, but it’s also necessary to cut apart the dough with the chopper thing.  If you don’t, the dough sticks right to the chopper and oozes back together, making it impossible to separate.

Make three cuts to create four long loaves.  Then gently…as gently as you can… scoop up the four slices and place on the baking tray, turning a quarter-turn so that the cut marks are on the top.  It’s a ciabatta thing.  Let rest 20 minutes, then bake 25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Oh my giddy aunt….  Cut into that beautiful bread and slather it with butter….YUM!

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