Wednesday, October 1, 2008

First, October

Alas October! Halloween, pumpkins, vibrant foliage, brisk nights, tolerable days, black and orange and yellow, decorations evoking youth, Haddonfield Illinois (huh?), I'm a sucker for it all! This weekend I shall put up Halloween decorations, including the Autumn wreath on the front door, after an early morning visit to the farmer's market in a last-ditch attempt at the remains of summer's bounty. Recently I'm given to baking so I'm looking forward to perhaps a nice fruit tart and maybe confiting some tomatoes. Over the last two weekends I've made some ciabatta bread which is so delicious that it is usually gone by mid-week! I've modified the Ponsford recipe slightly so that it is easier to work with and yields similar but preferable (to me) results.

Recipe follows but first a pointless rant:

Can anyone please explain how someone as abrasive and clueless as Andrew Knowlton became the restaurant editor for Bon Appetit? His sole qualification (as per wikipedia) seems to be "...worked in the restaurant industry". Yours truly "worked in the restaurant industry" for over ten years, maybe I too can con my way into their hallowed halls?

I'll do the same job for half the salary!

Let's face it, he's nowhere near Jeffery Steingarten (although he's desperately trying to be) and only slightly more reputable than Mo Rocca. He must give good tongue (by that, of course, I mean talking his way into landing good jobs).
And why on Earth is Mo Rocca even sometimes an Iron Chef judge anyway? Why the food media elite's love affair with condescending wannabes? They must give good head (by that, of course, I mean offering insightful and thought provoking view points).

Speaking of food media personas, has Bourdain finally bong-ripped the ultimate most pungent-stickiest-hairiest-chronic-funk-crypt this side of Rasta Nirvana? What else could explain his description of canned seafood as "supernaturally delicious"? Was it a perceived value influenced by the $220.00 price tag (yes for canned seafood)? I refer you to this clip from Penn & Teller's Bullshit for another plausible explanation.

Ciabatta Recipe
The Biga:
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons rye flour
3/4 cups water

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, stir, and let it stand for 5-10 minutes.
Mix the flours in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Measure 1/2 teaspoon of the yeasted water into the flour mixture and throw the rest away
Add the 3/4 cup room temp water. Dough is firm and resistant to kneading. Add an extra tablespoon water only if absolutely necessary.
Place into a well oiled container, cover completely with plastic wrap and let sit overnight (18–24 hours) at room temperature.

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
fermented biga

Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle.
Mix on low speed until a rough dough is formed then increase speed to medium and continue to work the dough until it is fairly smooth, about 5 minutes.
Place the dough into a well oiled roasting pan.

Cover and ferment for 20 minutes.
Knead this way : Instructional Kneading Vid
Repeat above two steps 3 more times

After the last turning let the dough finish proofing for another 70-100 minutes (a total proofing time, with turns, of 2 1/2 to 3 hours).
Heavily flour a couche, tea towels or in my case a clean laundry bag!
Flour the top of the dough and the work surface and turn the dough out.
Cut the dough approximately in half. Gently shape and stretch into rectangles, then loosely fold into thirds like a letter.
Place ciabatte seam-side up on the couche or towels, sprinkle the tops with more flour and loosely cover.
Let them proof until they are very soft and well-expanded, and barely spring back when gently pressed, about 45 minutes.

With a stone or unglazed tile in the oven, preheat to 450 degrees.
When ciabatte are ready to bake, place a piece of parchment paper on a peel. In one fell swoop flip the loaves onto the peel, seam side down, and stretch them very gently to make them rectangular.
Dimple the dough all over with your fingertips, pressing all the way down to the paper (don’t worry—the bread will recover in the oven!).
Slide the loaves on the paper onto the baking stone.
Bake them until very dark brown, 35-40 minutes, rotating halfway through the bake time.
Let cool on a rack.

Here were my results:

Enjoy awesome homemade ciabatta!

Photograph Loaded for Harvest used with permission. Thank you Silliopolous for that wonderful shot!
Also for more on ciabatta and all things baking check out It really is a wonderful resource (thanks steveb!).
Someday I shall post that "links" section.


  1. JBL, thanks for the link to my video on folding highly hydrated doughs. For those who wish to see the full ciabatta posting, it can be found here:

  2. You're right! I'll edit my post to include this url! Sorry about that; nice looking out.

  3. Thanks! I've actually seen better results but these weren't too shabby! :-)