I love bread, and since discovering the joy of making fresh bread this pleasure has increased exponentially. Last weekend I decided to make roasted red pepper, chorizo, and garlic toasts. I decided to use ciabatta instead of sourdough. I very much want to try my hand at making sourdough, however it needs a lot of love and attention and life is getting in the way. Ciabatta still takes a little more planning than other breads because it requires a starter dough. However, this can be done the night before and so is more manageable then the seven day commitment sourdough necessitates.

The recipe I used was from The Bread Bible, a cookbook I have been using since I started experimenting in baking bread. The ciabatta started well. My starter rose overnight to the required state. However, I encountered some problems in the second stage when making the dough. The recipes related that the dough should be quite wet, in fact too wet to knead. Despite using the specified quantities of water and milk, my dough was clearly kneadable. This left me with several problems. Clearly I needed to add more liquid, but I wasn’t sure whether this should be more milk or water, or a combination of both. Also having never made ciabatta before I was uncertain of the consistency of dough I was supposed to aim for. In the end I guessed, adding enough milk and water to moisten it to the point of being wet, but still elastic.

Initially, it looked as if I’d improvised well, with the dough rising so much at the second resting that it actually escaped out of the bowl. Difficulties arose when I tried to get the mixture onto the baking tray and shape it appropriately. The mixture was slightly too moist which meant the dough spread rather than maintaining it’s shape. Unfortunately my struggles to overcome this meant that I over-handled the dough and lost a lot of the aeration.

I pressed on and baked the “loaves” of bread. The end product was better than I expected. They were a little flat, but the flavour and consistency of the bread was quite good. The crust was nice and hard and when sliced the bread had the characteristic honeycombed appearance.

Overall it was a good first attempt, but it left me with the feeling that I needed to invest in a more professional bread book. Or maybe that’s just me making excuses to buy more cookbooks.


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