Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Ciabatta Recipe

Someone on Homebrewtalk asked me about the recipe that I used for my hamburger “buns” and I figured I’d post it up so everyone can use it if they like. It really does create an amazing bread. I haven’t been able to get the stirato to work yet, but I think I prefer the Oval Cloud Rolls variation anyway, they’re remarkably similar to costco’s ciabatta rolls, but lighter and with a better texture. This is pulled directly from The Bread Bible.

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Ciabatta
(Ciabatta de Donna, or Lady’s Slipper)

This is the bread that, after the focaccia, has the highest water content and is therefore the very lightest in texture. The contrast of the crisp crust and soft open crumb is a delightful shock to the senses. It took enormous effort to conquer this bread, and I learned volumes about the texture of bread in the process.
Ciabatta (the name means “slipper” in Italian) is a relatively flat, shapeless bread with a fine crisp crust, wrinkled by a special shaping technique (taught to me by master baker David Norman when he was an instructor at the French Culinary Institute), and boasting large holes in the interior. The holes proved the biggest challenger, to the point that it came to seem Zen-like to be working so hard to achieve empty space. The quest led me once again to Brinna Sands, of King Arthur Flour, who taught me one of the most important lessons about this particular dough: in order to create an open crumb, you must have a very moist dough. Before this, I had always kneaded by hand. But she explained that in order to achieve this very sticky dough, it is best to use a mixer or bread machine, or one will be tempted to add too much flour. Another interesting thing I discovered in my ten-day obsession with ciabatta was that developing too strong a framework (gluten) would make a tighter crumb, so that it is better to use a flour that is very extensible (ideally unbleached all-purpose), with lower protein-forming gluten than bread flour, and to not knead it too long. This flour also results in a more tender and less chewy crumb, similar to that of the ciabatta found in Italy, where the flour is lower in protein. All my many ciabatta looked the same on the outside but it wasn’t until the ninth one that I found what I was looking for after cutting it open-big beautiful holes.
Once mastered, this bread will enable you to sail through other wet dough breads that bake into light loaves with large holes, such as Pugliese and Focaccia.

Time Schedule
Dough Starter (Biga): minimum 6 hours, maximum 3 days
Minimum rising time: about 2.75 hours
Oven Temperature: 475º, then 450º
Baking Time: 30 minutes

Makes an 11-by-5-by-2 to 2.5 inch high loaf, about 10.5 ounces/300 grams

Equipment:
A heavy duty stand mixer with paddle attachment
A half sheet pan lined with a nonstick liner such as silpain(not silpat) or parchment, or sprinkled with flour or cornmeal
A baking stone or baking sheet

Dough Starter (Biga)
Makes: scant 1/2 cup/4.7oz/134 grams
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1)Six Hours or up to 3 days ahead, make the dough starter (biga). In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the biga an stir the mixture with a wooden spoon for 3 to 5 minutes or until it is very smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. It will be slightly sticky to the touch. Cover the bowl tightly with oiled plastic wrap (or place the biga in a 2 cup food storage container with a lid) and set it aside until tripled and filled with bubbles. At room temperature, this will take about 6 hours. Stir it down and use it or refrigerate it for up to 3 days before baking. (Remove it to room temperature for 1 hour before mixing the dough.)

Dough
Ingredients Volume Weight (ounces) Weight (grams)
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2)Mix the dough. In the mixer bowl, whisk together the flour and yeast. Then whisk in the salt (this keeps the yeast from coming in direct contact with the salt, which would kill it). Add the water and biga. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid) for a few seconds, just until all the flour is moistened. Raise the speed to medium-high (#6 KitchenAid) for another 2 minutes. If it still doesn’t pull away from the bowl, beat in a little flour 1 teaspoon at a time on low speed (#2 KitchenAid). The dough should cling to your fingers if touched.

3)Let the dough rise. Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 2-quart food storage container, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil (I detach the paddle from the machine and use it to lift out the dough, as it usually clings to the paddle in a long elastic strand). (The dough will weigh about 13.6 ounces/386 grams.) Push down the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. WIth a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where triple the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75º- 80º) until tripled, 1.25 – 2 hours.

4)Shape the dough and let it rise. Sift a generous amount of flour onto a counter in a rectangle at least 10 inches by 8 inches. With an oiled spatula, gently scrape the dough onto the flour, and sift more flour on top. Handle the dough gently at all times to maintain as much air in it as possible. Using the palms of your hands against the sides of the dough, push it together slightly. Using your fingertips, make large deep dimples in the dough about 1 inch apart, elongating it. Push the sides together a second time. (This process wrinkles the bottom of the dough, which will become the top when inverted, and creates the classic lines in the crust.)
Carefully list up the dough and invert it onto the prepared baking sheet. It will be 10-11 inches in length. Push in the sides so that the dough is about 4.5inches wide. It will be between 1/2 inch and 1 inch high. Sift flour over the top and cover the dough with a large container, or cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise in a warm spot until 1 to 1.5” high, 1.5-2 hours.

5) Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 475º 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it, and a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven, before preheating.

6) Bake the bread. Remove the container or plastic wrap and quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 450º and continue baking for 20 minutes or until the bread is deep golden brown (an instant read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf will read about 214º). Halfway through baking, turn the pan around for even baking. Turn of the oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon wrapped in foil, and allow the bread to sit for 5 minutes.

7) Cool the bread. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely. Brush off the flour from the surface.

Variation
Oval Cloud Rolls Ciabatta dough also makes wonderfully light dinner rolls. Sift the flour (after weighing or measuring it) so that it is as light as possible. Use 1 tablespoon less water in the dough, so that the rolls will maintain their shape. Beat the dough with the paddle attachment for 15-18 minutes on medium-high speed (#6 KitchenAid) to develop more gluten. Allow the dough to rise for 2-2.5 hours.
To shape the rolls cut the dough into 4 equal (about 2.75 ounces each). Shape them gently into ovals about 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches by 1.25 inches high. (Try to maintain as much air as possible in the dough, and do not dimple it.) Allow the rolls to rise until 1.5 inches high.
Bake the rolls for 20 minutes or until deep golden brown. They will rise to 2.5 inches high and 3 inches wide but will still be 3.5 inches long.

Ultimate full flavor variation
For the best flavor development, in step 1, allow the biga to ferment in a cool area (55º-65º) for 12-24 hours. After 12 hours it will have tripled and be filled with bubbles; it will deflate even after 24 at this cool temperature.

Pointers for Success
> The type of flour determines the consistency of the crumb. For the softest, most gauze-like crumb, use Pillsbury or Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose flour. For a soft but slightly firmer crumb, use King Arthur all-purpose flour with an equal weight of bread flour(the volume will be 1/2 cup for the biga and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons for the dough).

> If you prefer a puffy 3-inch-high bread, omit the dimpling technique, which deflates some of the bubbles, and have the final length be 9 inches. The loaf will spread during rising but shrink in and rise up during baking. (It will no longer resemble a slipper.)

> For stirato, shape the dough by pulling it into a long, baguette-shaped loaf.

> Sifting extra flour over the shaped ciabatta gives it an attractive appearance. The flour already coating the dough tends to be absorbed into the dough. I like to set a piece of parchment or wax paper along either side of the dough when applying the flour and remove the paper before baking, as flour left on the pan liner would burn.

> After a total of 15 minutes of baking, you can lift the ciabatta off the parchment and bake it directly on the baking stone or baking sheet to ensure the crispest possible bottom.

> The final 5 minutes in the oven with the heat off and door open ensures a crisp top crust.

Understanding
The biga makes the dough more moist and tender will extend the shelf life to a second day. It is brought to room temperature before adding it to the dough to minimize gluten development.

The dough percentage
Flour – 100%
Water – 83.9%
Yeast – .53%
Salt – 2%

Essential Ingredient #3: Yeast

Breads that are made with baking powder or baking soda, which are chemical leavening agents, are called quick breads because they are baked immediately after mixing. Yeast breads, rather than relying on chemical reaction to produce carbon dioxide to leaven the bread (make it rise), rely on the metabolic action of yeast known as fermentation. Yeast is a microscopic single-cell organism to present in the air. When added to flour and water, it feeds on the sugar in the flour’s carbohydrates. In the process, the yeast multiplies and grows, producing alcohol, which flavors the dough, and carbon dioxide, which is held by the gluten network of the dough and creates the structure of the bread. If fermentation takes place for a prolonged period of time at a cool temperature, acetic acid is also produced, which adds flavor and strengthens the dough.
For breads where I don’t want any sour flavor, I use 100 percent instant yeast. In most cookbooks, this type is referred to as “instant” yeast, but sometimes you will see it called “rapid-rise.” I see this as a misnomer, because used in correct proportion, it does not speed the fermentation of the dough (which would be undesirable for full flavor development). Because of the manufacturing process, there are fewer dead yeast cells in instant yeasts than in active dry yeast. This special process also enables the yeast to “wake up” more quickly and makes it possible to use less yeast.
Instant Yeast is available nationally in supermarkets under the following brand names:
Fleischmann’s Bread Machine Yeast or Rapid Rise
Red Star’s QuickRise
Red Star’s Instant Active Dry
SAF Instant
SAF Gourmet Perfect Rise
If unopened, instant yeast will keep at room temperature for up to two years. Once it’s opened, it is best to store it in the freezer. If you buy it in bulk, it is best to transfer a small amount to another container for regular use and freeze both the larger and smaller amount to ensure maximum shelf life, which is at least 1 year.
This type of yeast, which can be added directly to the flour without dissolving and soaking (hydrating) it in water, is an enormous boon to the home baker, because it all but eliminates the possibility of killing the yeast by using water that is too hot. Note, however, that the yeast will die if subjected to ice-cold water. It is fine to whisk the yeast into the flour before adding the water, but the yeast can also be soaked (hydrated) in warm water (at least 3 times its volume) for ten minutes if allowed to come to room temperature first if the yeast has been frozen.

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