Sourdough Ciabatta

Ah, the joys of Pinterest! Somewhere last week, I noticed a big spike in my statistics. My Apple and Vanilla Tartes Fines were viewed A LOT. Wondering where all that traffic came from, I found out a lot of it came from Pinterest. Apparently, Pinterest users, some with more than 3 million (!) followers, had pinned my recipe on their boards en masse. It felt really good, and blogger-affirming, to have taken a picture and produced a recipe which was good enough to have stood out in the Pinterest haystack of food pictures. So thank you, Pinterest users!

 Anyway, you’re here for these ciabattas, so let me move on (I just got really excited, that’s all! :)). I got a really great French breadbaking book in Paris, the Larousse du Pain, which is written by famous baker Eric Kayser. The recipes are amazing, and all involve using sourdough starter. I know this whole sourdough ordeal can be a bit daunting at first, and that you’ll have to invest in a bit of flour to get it started, but it is -so- worth it! There is something magical about baking a bread in the first place, let alone when the yeast has spontaneously developed. I got mine started a couple of months ago, with the help of an organic apple and Paul Hollywood. I can highly recommend using Paul Hollywood’s method if you’re just starting out on sourdough, but there are plenty of others so look around to see which one “speaks” to you. I feed my starter with equal amounts (grams) of water and flour each time, so I now have a “100% hydration” starter to work with. Much of the sourdough bread flavor is developed while waiting. Some think the longer the wait, the better the flavor. Some fresh yeast is added to this dough to help the sourdough starter (in Kayser’s words), so the wait isn’t as excruciatingly long. 
These ciabattas are great to make a sandwich with, or just to rip and dip in some good quality, flavorsome olive oil. A fine accompaniment to a hot summer’s lunch or a winter’s bowl of soup!

Recipe Sourdough Ciabatta 

makes 4 smaller ciabattas


500   gr strong white bread flour (French T65 flour if you can get it) + extra for dusting
320   gr water at 20°C/68°F
100   gr sourdough starter (100% hydratation) 
5      gr fresh yeast
10     gr salt
30     gr olive oil + extra to drizzle when baked

1. To knead in kitchen machine:

Add the flour, water, sourdough starter, yeast and salt to the bowl. Knead 5 minutes on slow speed, then 7 minutes at faster speed (speed 1 and 2 on a Kitchenaid). Add the oil 2 minutes before the end of the kneading time.

To knead by hand:

Put the flour on a working surface, or in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour half of the water into the well and with your hand, draw in flour from the sides of the well in a circular motion. Make sure the sides keep “standing”. Once you’ve used about half of the flour, add the starter, yeast ad salt. Keep mixing with one hand. Slowly add the rest of the water and the oil. Keep mixing until all the flour has been absorbed. Then knead the dough. The method Kayser uses is pulling the dough towards you, then folding it over, turning it 80 degrees and repeating. Knead until the dough is supple and smooth (it should pass the windowpane test). 

2. Shape a boule out of the dough, flour or oil your working surface slightly if needed. Drop the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a moist kitchen towel and leave to proof for 2 hours. After 1 hour, fold the dough in half (you can do this in the bowl). 

3. Once proved, flour your working surface well (I use rye flour but you can use regular flour). Divide the dough up into four pieces, about 240gr each. Roll each piece into a longer, “sausage” shape. Leave them on your surface, covered with a moist kitchen towel, for 15 minutes.

4. Flatten each piece of dough delicately with the palm of your hand. Fold the top third of the dough down the centre, then the bottom third up and over that. Gently seal each fold with your fingertips. You can transfer the ciabattas to a lined and/or floured baking sheet now. Leave them to proof underneath a moist kitchen towel for 1 hour. While your ciabattas are proofing, preheat the oven to 235°C/455°F. 

5. Just before placing the baking sheet in the oven, pour 50ml of cold water on the bottom of your oven if possible, or alternatively in a baking tray at the bottom oven tier. Bake the ciabattas on 235°C/455°F for 4 minutes, then turn the oven down to 220°C/430°F and bake for another 12 minutes. Place ciabattas on a wire rack and drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top while they are still hot. Leave to cool. Enjoy!

Source: La Larousse du Pain

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