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I have been wanting to buy  The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart for quite a while now. Unfortunately, the bookstore near my house seems to think that its alright if “next week” translates into a few months. In the mean time I have been trying recipes from whatever little is available in the preview of the book available at Google Books.  I have had much success with almost any recipe that I try from this book – the breads are extraordinary and beautifully textured even when I replace bread flour that is called for with all purpose flour. I owe getting my breads right and tasty to the small things that have been pointed out in the commentary section of this book and the detailed methods that emphasize on sensing the “just right” for each step of a recipe.

My favourite recipe from this book has to be the Poolish Ciabatta. I don’t think I have ever been so proud of a bread that I’ve baked right at the first attempt itself. Over the weekend, when Anu and I had a conversation about the recipe since she was trying it, I realized that I have actually never shared about the book or this fabulous recipe on the blog.

I follow the recipe faithfully except that I substitute the instant yeast with active dry yeast and the bread flour with All Purpose Flour. I use All Purpose Flour that has a higher protein content (approx 12%) than the maida with 10% protein that is largely retailed. Although I have shared the recipe below, I recommend that you read the original and try it. If like me you don’t get bread flour or instant yeast or work with a Samsung oven, it might help to look at some of the notes I have shared below.

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This is the texture of the very first ciabatta that I made with this recipe. It has improved over the past few months.

Adapted from Original Recipe at Bread Baker’s Apprentice Peter Reinhart

Ingredients

For the Poolish

  • All Purpose Flour – 2 1/2 cups (12% protein)
  • Water – 1 1/2 cups
  • Active Dry Yeast – 1/4 tsp

For the Ciabatta

  • Poolish – 3 1/4 cups (All of the Poolish above)
  • All Purpose Flour – 3 cups (12% protein)
  • Active Dry Yeast – 2 tsp
  • Salt – 1 3/4 tsp
  • Water – 1/2 cup (I use a couple of tablespoons more than this)
  • Olive Oil – 4 tbsp

Method

  1. Prepare the Poolish – Warm the water for the Poolish. You should be able to dip your finger in the water i.e it should be lukewarm. In a larger bowl, add the yeast to the lukewarm water and keep aside for 10 minutes until it frothes. Add the flour and mix everything. Cover with a plastic wrap and keep aside at room temperature until the poolish starts bubbling and frothy on top. This takes me about 6-8 hours and I usually keep it overnight. Keep the prepared poolish in an air tight container in the fridge. Poolish keeps well for 3 days according to the book. I have never had the opportunity to find out! I use it the very next day.
  2. Take the poolish out of the fridge and rest for 1 hour.
  3. Warm 1/2 cup water until lukewarm. Add yeast and rest for 10 minutes until it froths. Add the flour, salt, olive oil and poolish and whisk it all together until it comes together as a dough.  While forming the dough, whisk fast in one single circular direction until everything comes together. If the dough doesn’t clear the sides of the bowl or in other words is still too sticky add a couple of tablespoons of flour.
  4. Flour your working counter. Transfer dough to the working counter with a flat scraper. Strech the dough to a rectangle about quarter of an inch thick. Fold the dough over itself the way a letter is folded. Stretch into a rectangle. Repeat this stretch and fold again. Mist the top of the dough with some oil. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. Repeat the stretch and fold again.  Mist with oil again. Cover and let it rise for 2 hours until it looks inflated but not doubled.
  5. Spread a cloth on a smooth surface. At intervals, about the width of a ciabatta, raise the cloth to form divisions. Transfer dough carefully to a well floured working surface. Divide into two or three rectangles using a scraper that has been dipped in water.  Using a well floured scraper carefully transfer this to the compartments that had been formed with the towel. Mist the loaves with some oil and cover with a cloth and let it rise for 1 hours until the loaves look inflated or swollen.
  6. Transfer loaves to a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal/ semolina. Bake at 220 C for 30-35 minutes or until loaves turn golden and are done. I check by tapping loaves at the bottom.  The original recipe recommends baking with steam – i.e, mist oven twice in 30 second intervals and bake with a bowl of water. I have done the mist and shut oven door, put a bowl of water and all of that circus in many recipes before. I have subsequently made the same recipes without the steam and frankly found no difference as long as my oven is concerned. I prefer to make my dough more hydrated to get better texture.
  7. Cool completely for about 1 hour before slicing and serving.

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As you can see, I foolishly tried to score this dough the first time I made it, the dough is too wet and is not meant to be scored. I don’t do it anymore. You can dimple it if you like, very gently, being careful not to deflate the loaves.

Poolish Ciabatta – for the Recipe Marathon

Fellow recipe marathoners:

DKSiriSrivalliRanjiPJCurry LeafMedhaPriyaBhawnaRaajiRuchii
AnuKamalaRoopaDivya KuduaRekhaDivya MRaagaLakshmi VenkateshSripriyaViji, , Kamalika,Pavani, RoochiKaruna

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