Thursday, September 27, 2012

one hundred

I'm still sick, but I can't really call this post "ninety-nine point eight"*, so hooray for my "one hundredth" post! Fortunately, I seem to be getting better, despite the disturbing level of pressure that seems to be trying to make my eyeball explode out of its socket and my teeth out of their little spots in my gums (Do those have names?  Tooth holes?).  I was able to run an errand today, do a couple of loads of laundry, and make some matzo ball soup as a compromise for my antibiotic conundrum.  I think I'll be good to go grocery shopping tomorrow and, after I finish this exhausting paragraph, I may have just enough energy to share my most favorite bread recipe in the world: ciabatta.

*Well, I could, but I'd feel really lazy.

Homemade Ciabatta

Ciabatta used to be one of those breads that I thought were impossible to make at home without a pizza stone.  I was convinced I wouldn't be able to handle the dough and that I would end up screwing up the loaf (which is something that always makes my perfectionist self grumpy).  But since I'm apparently also a masochist, I gave it a shot oh a whim one day--for my Italian in laws, of all people.  Needless to say, given that I'm calling this my "favorite bread recipe", it turned out well.  Since then, I've learned that, given enough flour on one's hands, the dough is quite easy to work with, content to be ignored, and can even be shaped into delicious crusty sandwich rolls.  Be sure to allow plenty of time to rise so that you can get those giant air bubbles that are de rigueur for this airy loaf.

4 cups all purpose or bread flour, plus extra for counters and hands
2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the hook attachment as a "spoon", mix 2 cups of the flour with the water and yeast.  Allow to rest about 10 minutes.

Dough climbing the hook and cleaning the bowl's sides.

Attach the dough hook to the mixer.  Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and the salt.  Mix on speed 2 for about 15 minutes, until the dough climbs the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl.  (If you have the Kitchen Aid "Classic" or "Artisan", you can use a hair tie on the lock lever to keep the mixer from bouncing off the counter.)  The dough will be very wet and hard to handle.

My awesome Kitchen Aid Artisan "hack".

Grease a large bowl with olive oil.  Scrape the dough into the bowl, then spray the top with nonstick spray.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Place in a warm area and allow to triple in volume, about 4 hours.  

Oooh, bubbles!

Punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap (again), and let rise until tripled (again), about 4 hours on the counter or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

If making two loaves: Line two large baking sheets with Silpats or parchment, then sprinkle with flour.  Gently scrape half of the risen dough onto the prepared pan and shape into a long oval, being careful not to pop the air bubbles.  Sprinkle the dough with flour, then cover with a floured tea towel.  Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Shaping the loaf.

If making eight rolls: Line two large baking sheets with Silpats or parchment, then sprinkle with flour. Generously dust your work surface with flour.  Gently scrape the risen dough onto the prepared work surface and shape into a large rectangle, being careful not to pop the air bubbles.  Using a dough scraper or large non-serrated knife, cut the dough in half lengthwise, then cut those halves into four rolls each.  Use your very well floured hands to place the rolls onto the prepared baking sheets, several inches apart, four rolls per sheet.  Cover rolls with a floured tea towel.

Cutting the rolls.

Allow loaves or rolls to rise about an hour, or until they look puffy and bubbly.

Mine could've risen a little longer, but we were hungry.

Preheat the oven to 500*.

Place the pans in the middle of the oven, then reduce the heat to 425*.  The dough should puff up into a pillow as it bakes.  Bake 20-25 minutes for loaves, 15-20 minutes for rolls.

Remove the bread to racks to cool.

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