Ciabatta Bread

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Back in my former life when I used to have all the time in the world, I really got into bread making. I laugh at that person now who felt like she  was ‘so tired.’ Weekends off and working barely 3 days a week? Shut up!

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Now that I have that out of my system, let’s get onto the bread. I always hate blogs that describe making something intricate and then have a sentence about how easy it is. This is relatively easy, but I always found yeast to be a little tricky. Though buying yeast in bulk is much more economical, I feel like I had much better luck using the packets when I first started. Maybe it was all psychological, but it seemed like the yeast was fresh and actually working.

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The other caveat to this recipe, which really does not apply to other bread recipes, is that you sort of need a stand mixer. This doesn’t make the most sense to me, because I’m assuming people made ciabatta before electricity, but the kneading process involves high speeds for 7 minutes. Also, you need to make the ‘biga’ or starter the night before. Luckily it just involves mixing flour and water, then leaving it out on the counter, but just something to keep in mind.

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The upside is that this recipe makes you two loaves–you could even give one away. We rarely did though because usually before the loaves were even cool, we had eaten half of the first loaf. It freezes beautifully though, which is always a plus. The best part of making your own bread {besides eating it of course} is way your kitchen will smell!

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Ciabatta Bread
from the kitchn

Biga
4 ounces (1/2 cup) water
1/2 teaspoon active-dry yeast
5 ounce (1 cup) all-purpose flour

Ciabatta
17 ounces (2 cups + 2 tablespoons) water
1 teaspoon active-dry yeast
Biga
20 ounces (4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the Biga: Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the flour–it will be pretty thick and paste-like. You want to mix it vigorously, approximately 50 times to help develop the gluten.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at least 8 hours on the counter and up to overnight.

For the bread: Dissolve the yeast in the water. Then add your biga, breaking it up with a spatula a bit. You don’t need it to dissolve completely, just break it up a bit. Add all of the flour and salt and stir together to make a thick dough. Let it rest for 10-20 minutes so that the flour can absorb the water.

Put the dough hook onto your stand mixer. Knead at medium speed {5-6 on a Kitchen Aid} for 15-18 minutes. Be careful because the stand mixer can move around and it would probably be bad if it fell off the counter.

In the beginning , the dough will just be pooled around the bottom, but about halfway through {7 minutes} it should start collecting around the dough hook and pulling away from the side of the bowl. If you notice that it’s not doing that, turn up the speed a bit. If the dough start going up the dough hook, stop the mixer and scrape it down. By the end, the dough should be smooth and glossy. It will go back into a puddle once you turn the mixer off.

Cover the bowl and let it rise for 2-3 hours, or tripled in size. You want it to be in a warmer place, so I usually will preheat the oven to the lowest it will go and then turn it off.

Dust your counter with a ton of flour, then place two sheets of parchment nearby. Dump the dough onto the flour. Dust your hands with flour and then  cut the dough into two pieces using a bench scraper or sharp knife. Then move the loaves quickly to the parchment paper. Using your fingers, press into the loaves, making small dimples into the surface. Let the loaves rise uncovered 30-40 minutes.

While the loaves are rising, preheat your oven to 475 degrees. If using a baking stove, put in the oven now.

Slide the loaves using a pizza peel either onto the baking stone or the baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before eating {yea right!}

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