Bruce Bisping, Dml - Star Tribune
No need to knead with ciabatta
- Article by: Kim Ode
- Star Tribune
- October 20, 2011 - 9:29 AM
Bread bakers generally get along with one another, bound by a compulsion to devote hours of time to making something that's readily available in bakeries and groceries.
So it's too much to say that a schism exists between those who embrace the ease of the no-knead technique and those who wonder why anyone would forfeit the physical and mental therapy of pounding on bread dough.
Yet there is a loaf around which these two camps come together: ciabatta.
Ciabatta is known for a moist, hole-y interior captured within a flour-dusted, paper-thin crust. That's the result of dough that's wetter than most, and too wet to knead in the traditional manner.
Jim Lahey, whose recipe for no-knead bread turned the baking world on its ear when published in the New York Times in 2006, has gone on to tweak and improve this technique. But most of his recipes still require an outlay of cash toward acquiring a Le Creuset pan, a cast-iron pot, a Romertopf Clay Baker or other such vessel that creates a steam-trapping "oven within an oven."
If you have such a vessel, then you'll love what he does with it in his latest book, "My Bread" (Norton, $29.95).
But it's possible to take the best of Lahey's techniques and adapt them to a relatively unembellished kitchen. If you have a pizza stone and hot pads, you're on your way to making a lovely ciabatta.
But not tonight.
The key to the no-knead approach is a long fermentation (12 to 18 hours) that develops the gluten without all the stretching and folding. So mix the dough the night before you plan to bake and eat the bread.
Plan, plan ahead
Ciabatta is at its best the day it's baked, so here's a suggested schedule for serving fresh-baked bread for dinner on Saturday night.
Friday, just before you get your jammies on, mix together the flour, yeast, salt and water in a bowl. Stir thoroughly, cover with plastic wrap and set it on the counter overnight.
By Saturday morning, after about 12 hours have passed (you can sleep in), the dough is showing a few bubbles. Let it sit up to 18 hours, or into the afternoon, when it should look quite bubbly.
By now it's about 3 p.m. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, then pat it into a square, then fold twice to make a smaller square. Cover it with a cloth and let it rise.
After about 30 minutes, preheat the oven and place a pizza stone on a rack in the upper third of the oven, along with a cake pan on the bottom rack.
Now it's 4 p.m. and the dough has risen again; it's ready if you poke it and the indentation remains. Cut it in two pieces and gently stretch each piece onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Slide the paper onto the pizza stone, then quickly (but carefully) pour some boiling water into the cake pan. This technique mimics a steam-injected oven, which keeps the crust soft enough to rise to its fullest, then ensures a crackling crust.
After about 20 minutes, say by 4:30, you'll have two golden ciabatta cooling on your wire rack. If you listen carefully, you'll hear a subtle crackling sound as the loaves cool.
By dinnertime, they're ready to slice, and you're ready to indulge in the physical and mental therapy of eating home-baked bread.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185
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