All right, what’s the deal? Slippers? Well if you spoke Italian, then yes, slippers. You see the other day I made ciabatta, which is Italian for slippers, and lemme tell you, these were some tasty slippers. Why are they called slippers, probably because they look like slippers? Or because they’re super soft? I honestly couldn’t tell you, I slipped my foot into one of them, and it wasn’t that comfortable, but Italians are weird.
If I told you this was the best bread I’ve ever made, would you believe me? Next question – if you told me no, do I care? So yeah, this bread was amazing, like really, and really easy to put together, but it does take time to rise, so while it might not need a lot of attention, it does take a while.
Traditional bread making says – if you want bread to rise, you need a mesh of gluten to hold the bubbles of carbon dioxide the yeast are spewing away, and the only way to get that mesh is by kneading, because kneading stretches, aligns, and folds over the gluten molecules, until it forms the mesh. The implications are that if you don’t knead the dough, you won’t form gluten, and your dough won’t rise. However, there is something called a no-knead bread, which was made popular a year or two ago, and with this method, you don’t knead at all, and all you do is allow the flour and water to sit for a while, like over night, and that will form the mesh of gluten that is necessary. The reason for this is – just leaving flour and water together for a long enough time will eventually form the mesh. Besides being much easier, no knead bread have a lot more in the way of flavor because of the fermentation process that is allowed to go on. Ciabatta is a quasi no-knead bread. You don’t have to actually knead it, but you do have to give it a few folds every once in a while.
Start by combining the yeast and warm water and letting it bloom, and then combine the rest of the water, flour, and salt together, and mix with a spoon until it comes together into a shaggy mess. Like so
Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, put some flour on a work surface, plop the mush down, and work it into a rectangle, doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want to use your hands, to just work it down. You definitely don’t want to use a roller, or anything like that, mainly because what makes ciabatta unique are these big bubbles in the bread, and the way you get that is by not pressing them out when you work with it. So you have to be very careful when handling the dough.
Take the rectangle, and fold it up from top, and then bottom, like a letter, and then do the same from both sides. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, we’re just folding it over, to quasi knead it, and to incorporate some more oxygen into the dough. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap again, and let it sit for another 30 minutes, and after 30 minutes do the whole thing again (gently push into a rectangle, and fold). Then place in an oiled bowl again, and cover with wrap, and let it rise for 1-2 hours (until doubled).
I know this sounds crazy, but I’m always amazed when a dough actually rises, anyone with me on that one?
Ok so now that it’s risen, form into a rectangle again, about 12×8 inches, and 1 inch high.
yeah, I measured it, and you thought I couldn’t get crazier…do you see those nice bubbles in there?
Split the dough in half lengthwise, and width wise, so you have four equal portions, and then take each portion, and fold like top down, and bottom up, and place seam side down and let rise for another 30-60 minutes.
Pre heat the oven to 475, and 5 minutes before you’re ready to bake the bread, throw some ice on the floor of the oven, and put a pan of water in there also. If you’re not sure why, well then read up on it here, now!
Bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and crispy. If you have two sheet pans in the oven (like I did) it’s probably wise to rotate and switch positions half way through for even cooking.
Aaaaaand we’re done
adapted from the nytimes
- 16 ounces unbleached bread flour
- 1 3/4 ounces hot to the touch water (about 100 to 110 degrees)
- 13 ounces room temperature water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- oil (for coating the bowls)
- Sprinkle the yeast on top of the 1 3/4 ounces of hot water to let it dissolve, and set aside. Sprinkle the salt on top of the flour and stir to incorporate. Make a well in the center of the flour — salt mixture, and add the cool water little by little.
- After the yeast has dissolved into the warm water, add it to the mixture, stir to incorporate, then stop and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- After 30 minutes, sprinkle flour on your work surface, then scrape the dough out onto it. Tap your hands in a little flour, then gently flatten the dough into a rectangle, with the short side facing you. Using a bench scraper, flip the top edge down to just below the center, then flip the bottom side up above the center. Do the same with each side, then turn dough over and dust off the flour. Place the folded dough in a a bowl slicked with vegetable oil and let it sit for 30 minutes, again, covered with plastic wrap.
- Fold the dough again, using the same method as above. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, covered with plastic, and let it ferment until it has doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours.
- As the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 475 degrees, and put a baking stone on the middle rack, and an empty pan (for water) on the bottom rack. After the dough has doubled in volume, sprinkle a little more flour onto your workspace. Then, sprinkle flour onto a baking sheet. Scrape the dough out onto the counter, tap your hands in flour, and gently flatten the dough into a large, even rectangle of approximately 12” x 8” x 1” high. Use a bench scraper or a knife to cut the dough into 4 equal pieces, approximately 3” wide and 8” long. Fold each piece, top-down to center, then bottom-up to above-center, in the same way you folded the dough in step 3. Place each folded piece seam-side down on the floured baking sheet. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in volume.
- After the loaves have risen, throw some ice on the floor of the oven, and pour water into the pan on the bottom rack in order to make steam; you can also spritz the loaves with water, and put the loaves in the oven.
- The dough should bake to a very dark brown in approximately 30 minutes. Let the bread cool before cutting into it.