I spent Halloween morning working on the next bread, ciabatta, which came out relatively well. Michael and I were planning on leaving the house at around 2pm that day, so I had to get up bright and early to start making it. I had made the poolish (starter) the night before, so I woke up at 7am to take it out of the fridge, then went back to bed for an hour while it got up to room temperature. At around 8am, I went back to the kitchen and mixed the poolish, flour and salt, and proofed yeast.
The book said that this was supposed to be a very wet dough, so I ended up adding close to 3/4 cup of water to the dough. When all was said and done, I thought it turned out a little too wet, so I added a few handfulls of flour at the last minute. I had been mixing it with a spoon the whole time, but then decided to get in there with my hands to get a more accurate reading on the dough’s texture. Big mistake! The dough was so sticky that it immediately coated my hands, and there was no easy way to get it off. Anyway. Here is the dough, pre-flour addition.
Once the dough was adequately mixed, I transferred it to a “bed of flour” on the table.
I stretched it out to form a rectangle about 8 inches long, and then folded the dough into thirds.
It had to sit for an hour, then I stretched and folded one more time. After that, I cut the dough into two equal pieces. The loaves were then supposed to rest in something called a “couche,” which is a special canvas cloth for breads. The material is stiff, so it can be folded and bunched—this way, when the bread rises, it will keep a particular shape. Obviously, I don’t have a couche, so I had to improvise. I used a bunch of cloth napkins that Michael and I inherited when one of the Bloomfield roommates moved out and didn’t take them with her.
The bread sat in the makeshift couche for another hour or so, and then it was time to bake. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees with my mom’s baking stone, as well as an empty roasting pan, sitting inside. When the time came, I transferred the loaf (I baked them one at a time) to the back of a sheet pan, which I had dusted with cornmeal. Then, I slid the loaf onto the baking stone. In order to have the real “hearth” atmosphere in my oven, I also had to pour hot water into the empty roasting pan, thereby creating a burst of steam in the oven. I was instructed to close the oven, wait one minute, and then mist the walls of the oven with water to create more steam. Here was another problem. I don’t have a spray bottle. I really had to think hard to find a way around this requirement, but I finally figured it out. I ended up using our iron, which has a spray function, to spray the inside of the oven. Smart, huh? I had to do this twice at 30-second intervals, and then the bread baked for about 20-25 minutes.
The loaves ended up coming out pretty nice, although one had a little too much flour stuck to it. I thought I had done a pretty good job of not deflating the loaves when I formed and transferred them, but the bread didn’t have quite as many holes as I was hoping for. But, it was still a success.
Next on the list: sticky buns. Not exactly looking forward to having a large quantity of dessert-type products sitting around the house, but hopefully I will be able to pass them along to some other lucky people.