Regular and maybe even occasional readers of this space will know that baking is a hobby in which I indulge with great enthusiasm. What’s not to like? It’s not too difficult, time-consuming or inexpensive, and it’s easy to impress people.
Last weekend I decided to tackle a new challenge, from Maggie Glezer’s book Artisan Baking Across America: ciabatta.
The recipe describes a two-day process in which a very stiff pre-ferment, or biga, is made the day before and left to ferment for 24 hours. This is mixed with flour, water, yeast and salt on the second day for the final dough. The dough is so wet it's almost batter-like. After the initial kneading it ferments further for about 3 hours and turned (removed from the container, floured and folded and returned to the container) four times in the first 90 minutes. After shaping and proofing the loaf is baked. Here are my results:
The biga is mixed with a very small amount of water, so the initial blending is difficult.
After five minutes of kneading.
About 20 hours later, slightly expanded and softened.
The fully-developed biga
Kneading the wet dough in the bowl with a scraper.
After it was turned a few times, it got much smoother and firmer.
The shaped loaf, ready to proof in the couche.
The final product!