Friday, November 11, 2011

Sourdough Ciabatta

These take patience. Pure sourdough starter, a mix of whole wheat and unbleached bread flour. Some salt and water. The dough was mixed very wet by hand with a spatula, then immediately placed in the refrigerator for an overnight ultra slow proof and also to let any enzymes present munch on the whole wheat to develop more flavor. Then more proofing at cool room temperature in a bowl. Then stretched, proofed some more on the bench, then shaped, proofed some more at room temperature, then proofed some more at about 90° to speed things up. Finally, baked to an internal temperature of 96° C (205° F).

The initial dough is very, very wet. Like wet paste. Sticky, gooey, stringy. As the process moves forward, flour gets into the dough from the bench proofing, then when the loaves are shaped. The bread proofs on a couche to dry it out a bit more (funny word, but we're stuck with it). The end result is loaves that can't easily be picked up since without a lot of support they'd flow right out of your hands and on to the floor. However, all that moisture and stretching develops the gluten. The long proofing leads to happy yeast and lots of air bubbles in the bread that make it light and airy.

When the loaves go into the oven, they're almost pizza flat, but rise quickly. I'd rise quickly if I were in a 260° C (500° F) oven, too!

They're done in about 20-30 minutes, ready to eat in another 90. All bread needs to cool for a bunch of food science reasons, but the bottom line is that it has better texture and flavor after cooling than it does hot out of the oven.

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