bread baking season

there comes a time, when the weather changes, the days shorten and suddenly i find myself in the mood for soup and bread.

last year, i spend the cold months turning a magical sourdough starter into interesting, tangy loaves. sadly, i couldn’t keep pace with my starter and i had to let her go.

a few weekends ago, i spend a rainy Saturday afternoon at the new and improved King Arthur Story and Bakery in Norwich.  what a dream. everything you need and don’t necessarily need to create beautiful, delicious food. i spent a few hours looking flours and flour enhancers, dried fruit, chocolate, baking pans, gift baskets, scone mixes, and books. books…so many beautiful cookbooks. i landed on one–full of beautiful photos. i related to the author’s, Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, bread philosophy…bake bread for its simple pleasure, for its deep satisfying flavor and good crust. Emmanuel ends his intro with “I believe that everyone can make a loaf of bread, and with practice, it can be great bread.”

so my first recipe from his book, page 34-35, ciabatta. Ciabatta is the italian word for slipper’ and that is the shape that the loaves take right before and during baking. i picked ciabatta because it had 5 ingredients and after reading all the directions, intimidated me less than the rest. this recipe, with patience, is really really easy and quite impressive. You need some time to spare–the longer the rise time, the better this loaf gets.

i have found that measuring by weight is better than measuring by volume when baking bread. my tendency is to over flour which makes for tough, heavy bread. the dough might feel sticky when using the “measuring by weight” method, but if you let the dough sit, the flour will do its thing.

Enough dough to make 2 small ciabattas
200 grams or 1 1/2 cups white flour
4 g or 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 gram or 1/4 teaspoon active dried yeast
150 g or 2/3 cup warm water
about 25 grams or 3 tablespoons olive oil

1. in one smaller mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt together and set aside. this is the dry mixture.

2. In another larger bowl, weigh out the yeast. Add the water and stir until the yeast has dissolved. this is the wet mixture.

3. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture.

4. Mix the mixtures together with a wooden spoon until you get a fairly sticky dough.

5. Put about 1/3 of the olive oil in another large mixing bowl and place the sticky dough in it.

6. Cover and let rest for 1 hour.

7. After 1 hour, gently fold the dough twice. add a little bit of oil so that it doesn’t stick to the bowl and cover again.

8. let rest for 1 hour and repeat step 7. i repeated step 7, four more times (5 hours total resting). each time, add a little olive oil. at the end of the resting cycle, the dough should be well risen and bubbly.

9. dust a clean work surface well with flour.

10. transfer the dough to the floured work surface. be gentle so that you do not damage the air bubbles.

11. divide the dough into 2 equal portions using a metal dough scraper or sharp, serrated knife. best to keep both loaves similar in weight–for even cooking.

12. roll each ciabatta in flour. and place on prepared baking sheet (baking sheet lined with parchment paper).

13. let rest 5-10 minutes while oven is preheating to 475 degrees.

14. bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

15. ENJOY!

again, special thanks to TC Webb for his beautiful photos.

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