Sunday, January 16, 2011

Homemade Ciabatta Bread

It's cold out, cabin fever setting in.  Soup, soup and more soup.  I adore any soup, but what goes better with soup than some homemade crusty warm bread.  You know the smell when you first walk into a bakery when fresh bread is coming out of the oven.  It's intoxicating! (to me anyway).  I don't bake alot of bread, but enough fresh pizza dough to invest in a pizza stone and a "peel".  The secret to a crusty loaf is a hot oven (preheat 1 hour before bread is ready to bake) and STEAM.  The hot oven  warms up the kitchen nicely on a cold day, and the aroma of the bread baking warms your soul.

Back in the day, whenever my mom would bake bread - usually Babka for Easter -  she would put the bowl of dough to rise on the radiator or furnace.  I'll admit, I still do the same.  You just need a toasty place for the dough to do its' magic.

With a little effort, you can fill your family's senses with memories that will last a lifetime.  There is very little prep time.  If your home on a Sunday, preparing for the week ahead.  The 3 rises of the dough takes minimal effort..do the chores in-between.

Basic Ciabatta Bread Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 pkg. Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2-1/2 cups warm water
Add dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk to blend ingredients.
Add the oil and water.  Hold some of the water in reserve and add later if needed.  You are aiming for a very, soft, sticky dough.  Not what you are normally used to if you bake bread.  Mix for about 5 minutes if using a mixer.

Place dough in a large bowl.  Dust bowl well with lots of flour.  Normally you would oil the bowl, but not in this method.  Cover dough with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, about an hour.

Scrape out dough onto floured board.  Fold the top and bottom of the dough piece into the middle.  Now fold each side into the middle.  Gently flatten the dough and shape into rectangular form.  Cover, and let rise again until the dough doubles in size again, about 1 hour.  Now you will see the bubbles forming in the dough.

Repeat the folding again, using plenty of flour.

If you are using a "peel", sprinkle peel liberally with corn meal (as ball-bearings to slide the dough off onto the pizza stone).  If you are using a baking tray, grease tray with some olive oil or non-stick spray.  Place dough pieces on peel or baking tray.  Cover and let rise once again until doubled.

Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 450F.  When dough has doubled, bake in hot oven approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown and crusty.


Steaming Methods; this can be accomplished easily using the following methods:

     1)  Place a baking pan in the oven at least 1/2 hour before bread is to be baked to preheat pan.  Place
          pan on the bottom of the oven underneath the rack where the bread will be baking.  Slide bread onto
          baking stone, toss one tray of ice cubes into hot pan and close the door immediately.

     2)  Go to the pharmacy and purchase a small spray bottle (usually in the make-up aisle).  This will cost
           you about 99 cents.  Fill the spray bottle with water.  Place dough in oven and spray 14 times.
           Yes, 14 times - that is what I was told!  Sounds like OCD to me, but hey if it works!  Again, close
           oven door immediately.
I think this would make a fantastic pizza dough, or great for panini sandwiches.

Source: Squidoo
Servings: 2 Loaves

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