Saturday, June 19, 2010

BBA: Ciabatta

The seventh bread of the BBA Challenge is ciabatta.
Biga Version
Ciabatta is known for it's big holes. That is the goal. To bake a bread that comes out holey. But, how do you accomplish that? I read a number of other posts by people who have completed this bread and the two things I took away were: make sure the dough is wet and don't handle the dough too much.

I tried both the poolish and biga versions. This bread was a bit intimidating for me as so many other bloggers counted it as a failure and I've never worked with a "wet" dough before.
I began with the poolish pre-ferment. I thought it was going well. I used my KitchenAid and I thought I had achieved the "dough clears the sides, but sticks to the bottom" part of the instructions. My dough rose very nicely.
My mother gave me this metal pan which she bought for bread making years ago and never used. I had no linen to re-purpose for a couche, so I used it. I think it worked well, although I should have floured it better as the dough stuck a bit.
 This was also my first ever hearth baking as well as first time using a baking stone. My poor oven is still having issues (although now I wonder if my oven thermometer is off due to the fact I accidentally left it in the oven when I put the oven on 'clean' the other week. It just won't register above 350 anymore, so either my oven doesn't heat above that or my thermometer is broken.)
The bread was pretty, had a nice crust, tasted good, but no holes. I also had some extra flour streaks through my bread. Flour would clump on the bottom of the sticky dough and the when I did the stretch and fold the flour would then be enveloped on the inside of the bead. This was certainly a first timers ciabatta.
For the biga version, I decided to make the dough more wet as I thought that might help my quest for holes.
Biga version on a bed of flour. This time when I sliced the ciabatta I noticed the dough noticeably deflate. Is that normal or is deflating bad for holes? It seems like it would be, but I'm not quite sure how to avoid this.
I was a bit more skilled this time getting everything into the oven via the cornmeal on sheet slide technique, but I still ended up with cornmeal everywhere. That technique really requires more hands to do well.
Alas my results were not much better. Not a monumental failure, but a "hole" failure nonetheless. I enjoyed the bread for sandwiches, but I still quest for a holey ciabatta.


  1. Who needs holes anyway. Holey ciabatta can be a problem: stuff falls out of the holes and you can't spread any mayo or mustard on it worth anything.
    Your ciabatta looks just right for making pannini. You can actually spread some butter on it before it hits the grill.

  2. Oh, you have holes, I can see them! Love the shape of your breads. We loved this bread and I need to make it again soon. You are racing through this book, in no time you will have caught up with us at the BBA Slow & Steady group. I am on Panettone this week. Yikes. Great looking bread you have!


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