Friday, February 25, 2011

My Very Own Sourdough Ciabatta

Many moons ago on a very early blogpost, I promised a revised version of this recipe for sourdough ciabatta. The blogger who originally posted it had little success. I had a moderate amount of success it worked 3 out of four times, I think, but I want to modify the recipe and figure it out. I am going to write my version of the recipe with running commentary.

Here is what I did:
153 grams of whole wheat sourdough starter (100% hydration)
1/2 cup bread flour (I used her volumes, so this is 68 g bread flour)
3 tablespoons water (51 g water)
Kath's starter was 125% hydration. Mine is 100% hydration. This means that instead of the gooey paste that she describes, my poolish is much more like a wet dough. If her volume measurements are accurate, then this dough is 88.2% hydration.

45g Whole wheat flour  (1/4C)
273g Bread flour (2C)
Water 196g (3/8C) plus 46.5 grams as a second addition (total of 370 g)
10g Salt (2t)
272g Poolish (all of it)
14g Olive Oil (1 tablespoon)

I wanted to make my entire bread 80% hydration, like the ciabatta recipe I used to such success from Reinhart's Artisan Bread's Every Day, so I changed things around a little. I am also changing up the directions. 80% hydration breads are very sticky and difficult to work with, but ciabatta is traditionally between 75-85% hydration.

Mix together the whole wheat flour, the bread flour, the 196g of water, the 10g salt, and the poolish. Let sit for five minute for the flour to hydrates. Drizzle the olive oil over. Mix by hand with the slap-and-fold technique with a 2 minute break in the middle for ten minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes. This ended up working very well.

Mix the 46.5g water into the dough using the stretch-and-fold technique, a little bit at a time. The dough is folded 4 times over a 40 minute period (as per Reinhart's instructions). This was quite problematic. The water did not want to absorb into the dough structure of the other bread. All of the gluten bonds seemed to break. I had to reknead the dough significantly and ended up taking about an hour rather than 40 minutes to do so. Anyway, I think this is why the crumb did not turn out to be what I had intended.

Let rise for 3.5 hours. My loaf almost doubled in size. It is possible I should have let it proof for longer so that it would fully double in size. I still do not have a handle on the proper uses of my sourdough starter.

After three and a half hours, shape the dough into a rectangle and cut into two pieces. Gently, without degassing, stretch the dough a little and then fold it, placing it on floured parchment, seam side down. Let proof for another hour under plastic wrap. Turn seam-side up and stretch into loaves. Let proof for another two hours. Bake at 450 degrees F for 12 minutes under steam and then turn the bread around in the oven for 15 minutes to finish. The crumb did not turn out as well as I had intended. It was a fairly dense crumb, although there were some large irregular holes throughout. However, there were small air-bubbles in the dense parts of the crumb and the flavor of the bread was nutty and mild. It's just not perfect. I don't know whether it's my sourdough starter, the recipe, or the kneading technique which is making it dense. Maybe all three? Maybe I need an overnight fermentation process instead of the poolish. If anyone is willing to try out the recipe and provide feedback, I would love to hear it.
Pretty loaves with lovely crust.

Questionable Crumb.
As you can see from this picture, the crumb is not great. Although it is soft and creamy, it's significantly denser than ciabatta should be and the irregular holes are more like tunnels from incorrect shaping than like the beautiful artisan holes of my baker's yeast loaf. However, the bread had a lovely flavor, even if it was the wrong texture. Unfortunately, I do not have enough knowledge to figure out how to fix this problem. Maybe some more experimenting. If anyone has advice, I would love to hear it by comment or email.


  1. Sounds like you're getting pretty good at the Ciabatta. What do you do with the bread after it's you ever use it for Bruscetta?

  2. Although my first ciabatta (with baker's yeast) was wonderful, this one was good but it was not quite proper ciabatta texture (see the pictures I just added above). I'm working on that. I don't usually make Bruscetta, although I should. Most of the time I eat the ciabatta with brie or my mom and I make open-face sandwiches in the toaster oven:
    Take a slice of ciabatta and toast slightly. Spread with a thin layer of brie (or place some thin slices of sharp cheddar on it). Toast again so that the brie slightly melts and top with romaine lettuce and grilled chicken.