Choose your own Ciabatta


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Ciabatta tends to be a bread with bigger holes that isn't as tall as a normal loaf.

As I've said, one of the fun parts about writing this series of posts is that I get to check out a lot of recipes before choosing one.

I found Ciabatta recipes with anywhere from 75% hydration to 90% hydration.

Today you're going to choose your own adventure. You should choose how much hydration you want in your bread.

Our standard loaf is about 72%. The baguette I learned is 68%.

Here's a warning - the higher the hydration, the harder it will be to handle.

75% won't feel very different than our basic bread. The expression bakers will use is "the dough is a little looser".

At 80% the dough will become harder to handle.

I used 85% just to see. The reason was silly. Friday we're going to make pizza dough and it is 60-62%. This is 12% less than our basic bread so I wanted a Ciabatta that was around 12% more.

We're using 420 g of flour (3 1/2 cups)*. So 12% is around 50g. That's the difference in water we're talking about but the results are dramatic.

* I've been using King Arthurs measure of 120 g of flour per cup. Andrew Janjigian (@wordloaf) was kind enough to tell me that he uses 140g. Bittman's no knead bread is 385 g of flour which he lists at 3 cups so he's at about 128 g / cup. In other words, use weight measures instead of volume measures and we'll be more precise.

Andrew has a newsletter you can subscribe to at https://wordloaf.substack.com and Mark has a newsletter you can subscribe to at https://www.markbittman.com. I highly recommend them both.

I recommend you start with no more than 80%. I actually would say start with 76%.

How do you calculate the amount of water you need? Take your percent - say 76%. Convert it to a decimal by dividing the 76 by 100 to get .76. 76% of 420g is 0.76 time 420g or 319 g. I used 85% which was 357 g.

Use the same amount of salt 8 g (1 1/2 teaspoon) and yeast 2 g ( 1/2 teaspoon) as before.

Swap our poolish for 140 g of the flour and 140 g of the water if you like. Or you can do the same with the sourdough starter.

Oh my goodness - so many choices! You're becoming a baker.

The wetter the dough the more you'll be incorporating the ingredients with a plastic scraper and not kneading.

Also, with a wet dough it is essential that you wet your hands to keep from sticking. Wet them frequently when handling the dough.

Let it rise for 3 hours and give it a fold every 45 minutes.

You will not be able to shape the dough at the end. Lay the dough out on a heavily floured counter and arrange it in a rough rectangular shape. Sprinkle flour on top and cover for an hour.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F/ 246 degrees C.

When it is time to bake. Take your hands at either end of the dough and scoop under - this compresses the rectangle - and then spread to lay it out on your sheet pan.

Bake 45 minutes and check the bread. You may need to reduce the temperature of the oven if it's browning to quickly but still moist inside.

Expect a loaf that didn't raise very high. Once it cools slice it on the bias to get regular sized pieces.

Enjoy.

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