The dough for these mini ciabatta loaves is 92 percent hydration, which results in one of the lightest, airiest, and moistest loaves of bread. When you take them out of the oven, they sit there and crackle and sing for you for about five minutes! If you are a bread geek, you know exactly what I mean.
Most homemade bread is wonderful sliced and eaten the day it is made, and possibly the second day. After that, it's still delicious, but is best toasted or grilled. Not this bread. even on the third day, the bread is still fresh and moist.
The dough for this bread is very sticky, almost soupy. If you are not used to getting your hands dirty with sticky dough, you might be tempted to add more flour. Don't! This bread actually came together pretty easily with just a few stretch and fold moves to develop the gluten.
Each loaf is about eight ounces. You can't really shape the dough. Instead, you cut it into pieces and sort of pull it and fold it to shape it.
I folded the risen dough over itself just prior to putting it into the oven to get a taller bread. If you prefer, you could just place the dough in the oven "as is," or even stretch it out a bit, to create a mini stirato shape.
I decided to get out the calculator and figure out the hydration level of the other ciabatta bread I've made. Here they are, in order of hydration:
- Ciabatta with biga, 77 percent hydration (water to flour ratio). This one actually has a really nice interior with evenly distributed "holes."
- Ciabatta with poolish, 78 percent hydration. This bread was shaped into long twists just prior to placing them in the oven.
- Ciabatta with cold fermented dough, 80 percent hydration. This is a great make ahead dough, and produces and amazing interior.
- Flaxseed and date ciabatta, 87 percent hydration. This is a nontraditional ciabatta, but really worth trying.
- No knead ciabatta, 88 percent hydration. Like most no knead breads, this one is super easy.
As you can see, I am a big fan of ciabatta.
While this bread does not have a preferment, what distinguishes this bread is the crust. The bread is baked for at least 45 minutes, to a very dark brown. This caramelization totally permeates the flavor of the bread.
I like to keep a bowl of water nearby for dipping my hands prior to handling the dough. I also recommend removing any rings with stones in them that you may be wearing to keep any dough from getting stuck in the setting!
Embrace the wet dough!
Mini Ciabatta Loaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) active dry yeast
- 1.75 ounces warm water, about 105 to 115 degrees F.
- 16 ounces bread flour
- 2 teaspoons (14 grams) salt
- 13 ounces cool water, about 75 degrees F.
- Add the yeast to the warm water, stir, and set aside for about five minutes.
- Measure the flour into a large bowl. Whisk in the salt.
- Add the yeast and water mixture to the flour, and mix with a dough whisk or wooden spoon. Add the water, and mix with your hands, pinching and stirring, until all of the flour is incorporated and the salt is dissolved.
- Let the dough rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 30 minutes.
- Using a wet plastic dough scraper and wet hands, lift the dough up from each of the four "sides" and stretch and fold it over itself. Let it rest, and repeat after two minutes. Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface. Wash the bowl and coat it with olive oil. Give the dough another stretch and fold, and place it into the bowl. Spray the top of the dough with spray oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 30 minutes.
- In the bowl, using wet hands and a wet dough scraper, stretch and fold the dough from all four "sides." At this point, the gluten in the dough should have developed good tension. Cover the dough and let rise for an additional 60 to 90 minutes, until doubled.
- Generously sprinkle your work surface with flour. In addition, generously sprinkle a 13 inch by 18 inch piece of heavy duty parchment paper with flour. Scrape the dough out onto the floured work surface, and, with wet hands, pull it into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Using an oiled bench knife, cut the dough into four pieces, and, using wet or oiled hands, place the pieces on the floured parchment paper. Spray the tops with spray oil, and cover with oiled plastic wrap.
- Preheat the oven to 480 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack, and a pan on the rack below.
- Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes, until puffy and nearly doubled.
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil, and, separately, fill a spray bottle with room temperature water.
- Gently fold the undersides of the dough over the top of the dough. Using a peel or the back of a baking sheet, transfer the breads, parchment and all, to the baking stone. Pour the cup of boiling water into the pan below the stone (be sure to cover the window of your oven door with a towel), and quickly close the oven door. Let bake for 5 minutes, and then spray into the oven with the room temperature water from the spray bottle. Immediately close the oven door.
- Bake the loaves for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Cool the loaves on a wire rack.
Cook time: 45 mins.
Tags: bread, ciabatta
Recipe inspired by One Dough, Ten Breads: Making Great Breads by Hand, by Sarah Black