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Ciabatta James Morton Style

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Ciabatta is that lovely bread distinguished by all those holes! It’s light and flavoursome, keeps well and is also amazing toasted or made into bruschetta. In need of  a reliable recipe, I consulted James Morton in his great book Brilliant Bread for how to make this bread.

I was making ciabatta for the first time this week. I had friends over for dinner to celebrate the arrival of a shearers’ table which has been sojourning in the Southern Highlands for too long. I had hot-smoked a side of salmon and wanted some nice bread to serve it with. I ended up serving it with dill pickles, creme fraiche, focaccia and the ciabatta loaves. Here’s a photo of the hot-smoked salmon. For the recipe on how to hot smoke, check the recipe from my post on hot-smoking.

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Ciabatta can be tricky to make as the dough is very wet and hard to handle, so be prepared for this. James suggests using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, which makes the kneading easier.

I discovered that James has a simpler recipe online. It looks good, and I am keen try his “pared down” version.  See James’ simple ciabatta here.

But here is the recipe from James’ book Brilliant Bread that I have made successfully.

Ingredients

300g strong white flour
100g plain flour
7g instant yeast
10g salt
200g sourdough starter
350g tepid water
Semolina, for dusting

Method

Into the bowl of your electric mixer (I used my KitchenAid), rub the flours, yeast and salt, keeping the yeast and salt on separate sides of the bowl.  Add the starter and water and form into a extremely wet dough.

I followed James’ instructions for the electric mixer, here, although you could knead by hand for 10-15 minutes. Beat the dough with the paddle attachment of the mixer until it comes away from the sides and easily passes the windowpane test.

Cover your bowl with cling film (I use a shower cap) and leave to prove. This can be 2 hour room temperature prove or leave for 10-12 hours in the fridge. The dough should have at least doubled in size.

Turn the dough out on to a heavily floured surface. Using floured hands, fold the dough in half so both the top and bottom are both floured. Move it around a little to make sure the bottom is totally coated, and add more flour to the top. Flatten very gently into a  rough rectangle, then cut into 4 strips, being very careful not to deflate the dough and lose those bubbles which will be your holes!

Gently transfer each strip onto a heavily floured tea towel. As you move them, stretch them out until they are long and “slipper-like”. The loaves don’t need to be exact they are after all rustic loaves. Leave to prove on the tea towel for about 1 hour, or until wobbly and noticeably increased in size.

About 40 minutes before you bake, preheat your baking surface in the oven set at  240 degrees C or 220 degrees C fan forced.

Turn the ciabattas (be very gentle) on to a board dusted with semolina, so what was the bottom is now the top – this helps to redistribute the bubbles for a better crumb. Slide the loaves on to the hot baking surface and throw 1/4 cup of water on to the sides of the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. (I think I could have baked my loaves a little longer – they were not brown enough).

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