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Ciabatta Bread Recipe

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Featuring a crisp crust surrounding a soft-textured interior with an open crumb, ciabatta has a slightly sweet/sour flavor. It's great for grilled sandwiches.
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Servings:
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Ingredients
  • BIGA STARTER
  • 1/4 fresh yeast
  • 1 warm water (95ºF to 115ºF)
  • 3 bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • BREAD DOUGH
  • 1/2 fresh yeast
  • 1 1/2 warm water (95ºF to 115ºF)
  • 1/4 warm milk (95ºF to 115ºF)
  • the biga starter (prepared earlier)
  • 4 1/2 bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 2 salt
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • %3cb%3eNote:%3c/b%3e make sure the liquids are not too hot because high heat can harm the yeast.
  • %3cb%3eNote:%3c/b%3e the prep time shown does not include rising or proofing time for starter or dough.
Container: small bowl, medium bowl, large bowl, 2 baking sheets
Directions
BIGA STARTER
  • In a small bowl, cream the fresh yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water. Allow the mixture to sit for 7 or 8 minutes.
  • Add the flour to a large bowl and form a well in the center.
  • Add the yeast mixture to the well and begin pushing the flour into the well. Add enough water (up to another 3/4 cup) to create a dough that is firm, but not too dry.
  • Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and knead it for several minutes to form an elastic and firm ball of dough.
  • Place the ball of dough into a bowl, cover it with oiled plastic wrap, and allow it to rest in a warm location for 12 to 16 hours.
  • The starter dough, or biga, will rise and then begin collapsing, which indicates that it is ready to use.
BREAD DOUGH
  • After the starter dough has been allowed to rest for the required time, the bread can be prepared. In a medium sized bowl, add 1/2 cup warm water to 1/2 ounce of fresh yeast and blend until the mixture is creamy. Then add another 1 cup of warm water and stir.
  • Pour the warm milk into the yeast mixture and stir.
  • Pour the yeast and milk mixture into the bowl containing the biga starter and blend with a large wooden spoon.
  • Gradually add 4 1/2 cups flour, first mixing with a wooden spoon, and then mixing with your hand as the mixture becomes thicker. The dough will be loose and wet. When all of the flour is incorporated, knead the dough within the bowl for about 12 to 15 minutes. Note: the dough will be too difficult to knead on a flat work surface.
  • Add the salt and the olive oil to the dough and work it into the dough.
  • Cover the bowl with oiled plastic wrap and proof it until the dough has doubled in size. 2 hours is usually sufficient for this. After the dough has risen, do not punch it down.
  • Using a wooden spoon, gently push half the dough onto a floured baking sheet and the other half onto a second baking sheet. Note: one large baking sheet may be adequate to accommodate both loaves.
  • Shape the dough into long, low ovals and gently flatten the dough so that it is about an inch thick. Do not use excessive force when flattening.
  • Sprinkle the dough with flour and allow the loaves to proof for 30 minutes.
  • Bake the loaves in a preheated 425° F oven for about 25 minutes. The bread should be golden.
  • Test for doneness by listening for a hollow sound when tapping on the bottom of the bread; then cool the loaves on a wire rack to prevent the bottoms from becoming soggy.
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