Making the Ciabatta from Bread Baker’s Apprentice has been quite the adventure. I think I’ve made it four times (recently that is) now? Before I’ve really been happy with it.
The first time was an utter disaster, I had a friend that kept talking about making ciabatta but not doing it. So I took it upon myself to give him some ready made ciabatta, just needing baking. Unfortunately, they rose far more in the fridge than I was anticipating and became very stuck to the couche, I tried to bake them at home and they turned out okay. But nothing great.
The next time I actually intended to bake them. Things went well at the start, but the dough ended up being a bit too slack, and again getting them off the couche was difficult. Not because they were stuck this time, just because they were so slack that they were tricky to handle. Really wasn’t happy with how these turned out. Especially that internal flour line from a bit too much flour
It was time for a third try, I tried to make sure a little less water got in the dough this time. Tried to use a dual hydration strategy, developing the gluten some more before adding the last of the water. Had a bit of an easier time getting them off the couche, turned out okay but still not really what I was looking for, the crumb was too small. I didn’t even end up with pictures of this batch because they didn’t really look like much of anything.
So, along came try four. I’d just gotten my sourdough starter going, and I decided what the heck, sourdough ciabatta! I also went for the biga version of the recipe this time instead of the poolish version. And used AP flour instead of bread flour. So three big variable changes here, but I was frustrated and I just did whatever I wanted.
And they turned out beautifully! The dough wasn’t as slack as the previous times I made the ciabatta, but still seemed very wet. It also didn’t rise anywhere near as much as the commercial yeast ciabattas I’d made. In fact when I went to put the loaves in the oven I wasn’t expecting much, because they didn’t really seem to have risen much at all.
Into the oven they went, I used my steam pan and misted the walls as instructed in the recipe. Nowhere near as much oven spring as I’d seen in the previous times I made the ciabatta. Then out of nowhere, after they’d been in the oven for about 6 minutes, here came the oven spring. I held back hope as I needed to let them cool and wouldn’t actually be able to cut into a loaf until the next day.
Turns out, I didn’t need to worry, the crumb on these loaves was so much better than I’d ever gotten with ciabatta. And the flavor and crust were fantastic! Not too sour, nice hint of wheat from what little whole wheat flour was contributed to the dough by the starter.
Of course, the success here would make me a bit cocky on the next try of something else… More on that later.