Bake 52 Week 11: Ciabatta Bread

I wasn’t worried about this recipe at all.  Bread?  No sweat.  I decided on Sunday morning that I’d make it to go with dinner that night, but when I started reading the recipe, I learned that it’s a two-day process.  There was a one-day option, but I wanted to stay as true to the original recipe as I could, so I put it off for later.

I’ve never made bread that requires you to make a sponge as part of the process.  I felt really weird leaving it out on the counter for a full day….it felt wrong, like it would go bad or something.  When it came time to incorporate the sponge into the dough, mine didn’t mix up very well (and I apologize for the lack of pictures….it was a crazy day and I was running from one project to the other).  I never felt like it got to that smooth, shiny appearance the recipe said it should.  Oh well.  I left it to rise.

The next step required you to turn the dough, which is basically just folding it into itself.  The recipe suggested using a bench scraper or rubber spatula for this step, neither of which helped me feel like I was turning correctly….this step was very awkward for me and I definitely didn’t end up with the “rough square” I was told I should have.  It was more of a messy blob.  Oh well.  I left it to rise.

Soon it was time to divide the dough into two halves and shape the loaves.  This was another slightly awkward step.  Ciabatta bread doesn’t make pretty-shaped loaves….and I guess since it’s supposed to be that way, then I was successful here.  The dough is very sticky, and even with well-floured hands and a well-floured surface, I was sticking to dough left and right.  Oh well.  I left it to rise.

In the meantime, I got my oven pre-heating to 500°, which seems crazy hot for baking.  I put my stone in, hoping I’d have better results with pre-heating it than I did last time.  No such luck.  When I opened the oven door, smoke poured out again and it was evident that my stone was toast.  Burnt toast.  I guess 500° is enough to call all of the grease and gunk of 10 years of use to the surface and then burn it.  I immediately took the stone outside, in hopes that my house would be spared some of the smell.

I have another stone that I rarely use that I pulled out and threw in the oven to heat up.  That stone came out un-burned, but still smelling very unpleasant.  I’ve decided that I don’t care what the recipe says, I’m not pre-heating my stones anymore….it’s not worth the stench!

I put the first loaf on the stone and started baking.  After 20 minutes, I removed it to take the parchment paper off, only to find that the excess flour on the paper was burned….another lovely smell to add to the burnt stones.  At the end of the baking period, the bread came out looking fairly close to how I anticipated it should (at least I think so….it was kind of hard to see throught the haze of the smoke), but we missed out on the smell of freshly baked bread because the burnt smell was so strong.  I was so grateful for a nice weather day so that I could open my doors and windows to air things out!

When the bread was all done, I was glad.  What a process!  And then, as I stared at it, I wondered what I was supposed to do with it.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever eaten ciabatta bread before.  A quick text to my sister, who hosted this week, revealed that you could do a bunch of things with it, none of which really appealed to me.  Joseph cut a slice and shared it with the kids.  Ryan said “This bread is weird.  It’s really hard to eat.  But we’ll get used to it.” and Joseph thought it must resemble what they ate in ancient times.  Hmmmm….not quite the response I thought I would get after all that sweat and tears.

Emily was this week’s host and she made a sandwich with her bread that looks pretty good if you’re into that sort of thing.  Check out her blog if you want to give this recipe a try (and you should, despite my experience).­­

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5 Responses to “Bake 52 Week 11: Ciabatta Bread”

  1. Em Says:

    After all that your loaves turned out to be some of the best looking so far. I like Ryan’s reaction! It is definitely a chewy bread and is well-fitted for the ‘rustic’ bread category.

  2. Em Says:

    P.S. Sorry the recipe killed your pizza stone.

  3. Jen Says:

    I am also an anti-stone-pre-heater. So glad to have another one on my team! 🙂 I want to know what you have planned for those yummy looking peppers behind your bread!! 🙂

  4. Jen O'Neal Says:

    I have to agree with you Jen, my house had a burned smell the whole baking time as well, due to the excess flour. At least yours look good!

  5. Amanda Says:

    Sorry about your baking stone! That is terrible. Maybe you could make croutons or something with the bread, or someone suggested bread crumbs. Bummer that it wasn’t more of hit with the family. I love that they would eat it anyway. 😉

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