This Rustic Flaxseed and Date Ciabatta really was a thrill for me because the bread is so full of holes! An airy bread is kind of the Holy Grail (no pun intended) for baking achievement in the world of ciabatta.
While getting those holes is fairly easy with white flour and a super wet dough, adding such things as whole wheat, rye, and flax seeds makes it a bit more complicated.
Building the dough for this bread involves a ground flax seed soaker as well as a poolish, both made the day before mixing and baking the final bread.
This dough's hydration is 90%, which means the water to flour ration is 90%. This also means that the dough is super wet and sticky. This helps achieve these lacy holes in the dough, and keeps the bread fresh and moist longer.
The dough also contains chopped dates, not so many that the dates overtake the flavor of the dough, but just enough to "distinguish" this bread.
I loved this bread. It's so light and airy, and tasty eaten with or without butter. It's also delicious toasted with some melty Gruyere or white cheddar. I also cut off a 3 inch slice, then sliced it lengthwise, and used it for a chicken salad sandwich. So good.
This recipe was selected by Cathy of Bread Experience (check out her gorgeous loaves) for the Bread Baking Babes monthly bake. She found the recipe on the San Francisco Baking Institutes's site, and scaled the recipe for the home cook. I am baking along as a Bread Baking Buddy!
A few notes about working with this dough:
- It is extremely wet. You will be tempted to add more flour to make it workable. Don't. Trust me on this. If you get frustrated with the dough sticking to your hands, just spray them (and your scraper) with spray oil, or dip them in water before working with the dough.
- Do not shape the loaves. If you do, you will lose some of those precious holes. Instead, gently pat the dough into an even rectangle or square, and cut it with a bench knife into three pieces (or 9 if you'd like rolls).
- Transferring these loaves to your baking stone can be tricky. I rolled the dough onto a floured flipping board (a long thin piece of wood or sturdy cardboard) to move the loaves from a floured couche to a parchment lined peel. Then I transferred the loaves, parchment and all, to the baking stone. I removed the parchment halfway through baking, when rotating the loaves.
The original recipe calls for prunes instead of dates. To avoid a trip to the store, I used some dried dates I had on hand. In addition, I substituted ground flaxseeds rather than whole, by weight, for the same reason.
Rustic Flaxseed and Date Ciabatta Bread
48 grams ground flaxseeds
72 grams (1/3 C) water
125 grams unbleached bread flour
125 grams (1/2 C) water
pinch of instant yeast
278 grams (~1 1/4 C) water
All of the poolish
300 grams unbleached bread flour
50 grams coarsely ground whole wheat flour
25 grams coarsely ground rye flour
10 grams (1 3/4 tsp) salt
2 grams (~ 3/4 tsp) instant yeast
All of the soaker
84 grams dried dates, seeded previously, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- The night before baking day, mix the soaker and poolish in separate bowls. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap. Leave enough room in the poolish bowl for it to double in size.
- The next day (about 12 to 16 hours later), measure the 278 grams of water into a large bowl or dough rising bucket. Add the poolish, and mix it into the water with your hand to break it apart.
- Add the flours, salt, and yeast, and mix the dough with your hands, stirring, pinching, and folding the dough to absorb all of the flour and dissolve the salt and yeast. When you pinch the dough, you should not feel any grit.
- Once all of the ingredients are combined, mix in the soaker with your hand until evenly distributed. Add the dates, and mix to distribute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot.
- After 45 minutes, stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four "sides." Repeat the 45 minute rest followed by a stretch-and-fold two more times (a total of 3 stretch-and-folds).
- Let the dough rest for a final 45 minutes, covered, in a warm spot.
- Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and gently nudge it into a rectangle. Be careful not to deflate the dough.
- Using an oiled bench knife, cut the dough into three equal pieces. Pick each piece up with floured hands and place it on a floured couche or parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with the rest of the couche or oiled plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rest for 20 minutes, then preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, and set it up with a steam pan on the lowest rack and a baking stone directly above it. Fill a spray bottle with water.
- When the oven is preheated, transfer the loaves to the baking stone (see notes above, or place the baking sheet with the loaves on it in the oven).
- Place a cup of boiling water in the steam pan (cover your oven's window), and spray the oven walls with water. Quickly close the door.
- Bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. They are done when the internal temperature reaches 200 to 210 degrees F.
- Cool on a wire rack.