|From Food pics|
A few weeks ago, I took on the challenge of making a loaf of sourdough ciabatta bread. This was actually a quite a big challenge - It took 9 days for me to make this bread. Yup, you read that right. 9 days for one loaf of bread (ok, technically it was 2 loaves).
Why so long to make bread? Well, a few things need to happen to make any kind of sourdough - the first being the development of a "sour starter". The purpose of a sour starter is to develop a lightly acidic flavor common to sourdough. This is done by allowing "wild" yeast present in the air and flour to feed and cause fermentation in the starter. The starter needs to be fed every day, and this was actually quite creepy. I would read things like "The first thing to remember is that the starter is a living thing. It needs to be fed and cared for regularly." So here I have in my kitchen a large bowl of something growing and fermenting and demanding to be fed daily. Because it stopped being a thing and started to be a someone, EJ and I decided to name him Dave.
|From Food pics|
I adapted Dave from this supersweet book. The recipe is pretty specific. Its important to have a kitchen scale and a kitchen thermometer - both of which I purchased just for Dave. It actually wasn't too difficult - it only required a few minutes per day, and the end result really was very tasty. It didn't have the texture of ciabatta that I was hoping for, but I screwed up and ran out of flour, so I substituted. I could definitely taste the sourdough, and that was very cool, and very rewarding.
* You'll want to calculate the amount of flour you need so that you don't do what I did and run out. I included the flour amounts both in ounces and in cups. If you can, follow the ounce measurement, because every flour is going to be a little different and measuring in cups is less accurate.
* If your home is higher than 80 F you'll need to lower the thermostat. If that isn't an option, you can stick the sour in the fridge for 2 hours after each feeding, then remove it and let it ferment at room temperature.
4 oz bread flour (1 1/4 c)
4 oz water, 85 F (1/2 c)
Mix water and flour together in a glass or stainless steel bowl (less likely to retain odors). The sour should be homogeneous and fairly wet. Cover and let rest 18-24 hours.
The sour should be a little stinky. Not in a bad way, just in a very ripe ferment-y way. You'll probably see some bubbling, but there shouldn't be any mold (if it gets moldy at any point throw it away). Mix the sour with a clean utensil, cover, and store at room temp for 18-24 hours. You don't have to feed it today.
4 oz starter from yesterday
4 oz water, 85 F (1/2 c)
bread flour, 4 oz (1 1/4 c)
Today the sour should be much stronger smelling than yesterday, and pretty bubbly. Its also really sticky - I kind of thought that if Spiderman owned a bakery, this would be something he would like to make. Weigh out 4 oz of the starter from the previous day and discard the rest (I know, it seems wasteful, but in a day or two you'll have enough to fill a swimming pool if you don't start discarding). Mix the sour and water in a bowl and add flour. It should be a little looser and wetter than yesterday. Cover, and let it sit for 18-24 hours.
6 oz starter from yesterday
3 oz water, 85 F (1/3 c)
bread flour, 3 oz (2/3 c)
When you check out your starter today, it should be more soupy, bubbly, and yes, stinky, than yesterday. I kept being afraid it was going bad - its not, I promise (unless you see mold). So mix the ingredients together, cover, and let rest for 18-24 hours.
Days 5, 6, and 7
3 oz starter from the previous day
6 oz water, 55 F (2/3 c)
bread flour, 9 oz
Days 5, 6, and 7 are the same. You'll notice that the starter is becoming more like a dough at this point. Feed it as usual, and keep it at room temperature in between feedings.
Now you have one more feeding before you start the bread. Each feeding is unique, and this one is designed to produce a mild flavor and aroma, and will produce the volume that you want for ciabatta.
5.9 oz water, 60 F (2/4 cup)
3 oz white sour starter
bread flour, 8.4 oz (1 3/4 cup)
whole wheat flour 0.7 oz (2 Tbsp + 2 tsp).
Mix the water and the starter together until the starter is mostly broken up. Add the flours and mix well for a few minutes. it should be totally homogeneous, and pretty sticky.
Finally - making the bread!!
water, 80 F - 13 oz (1 2/3 c)
white sour from yesterday - 8.4 oz
bread flour - 20.3 oz (4 1/4 c)
whole wheat flour - 2.1 oz (1/2 c)
yeast, instant dry - 1 tsp
salt - 1 Tbsp
water, 80 F - 3.3 oz (1/3 c + 1 tbsp)*
1. Put 1 2/3 cups of water with the sour in a bowl. Mix well to break up the flour. Add flours, yeast and salt and mix very well. (Using a mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix 4 minutes on low and 2 on medium). Add the water and keep mixing.
* After I did all this, my dough was very sticky. I added about another 1/2 cup of flour. The dough should be sticky and wet, but it should at least resemble a dough - mine wouldn't hold a form on its own. This might be because i ran out of bread flour and substituted a combo of whole wheat bread flour and all-purpose flour, I don't know.
2. Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl and let it rest, covered, for 45 minutes, until it doubles in size.
3. Place the dough on a floured (and clean!) countertop and gently fold it into thirds. This causes some of the gas from the fermentation to be released, but is gentle on the bread. Leave the dough on the counter, covered, for 30 minutes.
4. Prepare a cookie sheet with some flour and cornmeal (you'll be placing the bread on this then sliding it onto a baking stone).
5. Divide the dough into 2 roughly equal loaves. Carefully place each loaf on the prepare cookie sheet and shape lengthwise (into a loaf shape). Careful not to expel too much gas. Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 75 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 500 with a baking stone in the oven. Ten minutes before you bake the bread, place a bowl with 3 cups of water in the oven to produce steam.
7. Spray the loaves with water and carefully slide them onto a baking stone. Reduce the oven temp to 475. Bake for 12 minutes and then remove the water. Bake another 14-18 minutes. The crust will develop a nice color and won't give when you touch it.
8. Ohmygod. You're done. Eat some bread.