Ciabatta at Home

BY CHEF LISA WHITE, DOMENICA: Bread has always been a part of our world's history, and with every part of history, there is always a story. Considering all varieties of bread, I find Ciabatta to be the most interesting. Ciabatta, which most imagine to be old-world, is a recent culinary creation that came out of the 1980’s. Some say nothing good came from the 80’s, but I think Ciabatta is a prime example of how that is not the truth.

Near Venice, Arnaldo Cavallari developed Ciabatta Polesano in response to the French baguette taking over the sandwich world. Designed to be the complete opposite of the baguette, yet still be a great sandwich bread, Ciabatta used old-fashioned methods while still seeking out that old-world flavor. Today, nearly every region of Italy has a variation of Ciabatta, whether it be the crust, the crumb structure (big or little holes), or the type of liquid used to make the dough.

What interests me most is in its development, Arnaldo Cavallari used the same four simple ingredients: flour, water, sea salt, and yeast. All of these are used in the baguette, and yet still produce such widely different results. This is why I truly believe baking bread is both magical and an art.

Ciabatta
(makes 3 loaves)

Ingredients
2 ¾ cups Milk (warmed to approximately 75 degrees – should not be hot to the touch)
2 teaspoons Instant yeast
5 ½ cups Bread Flour
3 ½ teaspoons kosher sea salt

*Please note: A stand mixer with dough attachment is the best tool for making ciabatta in order to ensure the dough gets enough air to rise properly. The recipe will work if kneaded by hand, but will not yield the same results.

Instructions

Combine milk & yeast – whisk together until dissolved in mixing bowl for mixer. Add flour. Using the dough hook attachment of your mixer, turn on slow speed for 3 minutes. Scrape bowl to make sure all is incorporated. Add sea salt. Turn mixer to medium speed for 4 minutes.

Cover bowl with plastic and let sit on counter for 75 minutes.

Once the dough has risen in the bowl, cover the counter with a thick layer of flour. Using cold wet hands, make three folds of the dough while it is still in the bowl, then dump out onto your heavily floured counter. Let the dough sit for 30 minutes. Cut and shape the pieces – slightly rectangular like a “slipper”. Let the dough sit for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Set a baking stone or an upside down sheet pan inside the oven.

The best way to pick up the dough is fingers down thumbs up – carefully compact the dough so it won’t fall through your fingers and stretch out on heated baking stone or sheet pan like a slipper. Don’t worry about a perfect shape - this is rustic bread.

Bake for 450 for approximately 20 - 30 min – should be light as a pillow when done – at least half the weight it was before it went into the oven.

Once removed from oven let cool at least an hour before slicing.

 

Chef Lisa White can be reached at lwhite@chefjohnbesh.com.