Baking bread is an art. It takes knowledge and skill, imagination and faith. Ciabatta is a prime example. The dough is so wet that you are certain there is no way that is every going to make anything other than a re-creation of Jabba the Hut. Well, I'm here to tell you that ciabatta is possible, if you just have faith.
Ciabatta (from America's Text Kitchen Television Show 10th Anniversary Best Recipes 2001-2010)
1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water, room temperature
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the dough and work surface
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1/2 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/4 cup milk, room temperature
3/4 cup water, room temperature
Number of servings: 2 loaves x 8 slices per loaf (this is a generously sized slice! so 16 servings)
Total fat: 0g
Carbs: 18g Dietary fiber: 1g
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 2
Mix the sponge in a medium bowl until a uniform mass forms, about 1 minute. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours but up to 24 hours. Over this 24 hours, the yeast will begin to ferment the bread, bubbles will form on the surface, and the sponge will begin to look very wet. Like so.
Honestly, it reminds me of a pancake ready to flip. When the sponge is done, ready the dry ingredients.
Then the wet ingredients. A little tip: if you are lactose intolerant, you needn't worry about that these days. This stuff will do.
Put the sponge and the wet and dry ingredients in the Kitchenaid mixer and using the paddle, let her rip. Did I mention that sponge would be VERY wet?
Takes about 6-8 minutes til the dough comes together as a single mass. You must have faith. It takes that long for the gluten to develop. You will doubt yourself at this point because SURELY no bread dough was ever this wet.
Then you switch to the dough hook. Another 10 minutes. I just set a timer and let it go. Sometimes the dough will come together as a mass. Today, mine never did. I was fearless.
Now you must let the dough rise. (Cover with plastic.) When it has doubled in size, you take a bench scraper to the sides of the bowl and draw the dough over onto itself 8 times (turning the bowl a quarter turn as you work). Cover again with the plastic wrap and let it rise again until doubled or tripled in size. My kitchen was cold, so this took a while. Maybe two hours.
Lots o' bubbles at this point. Now, you want to cut out two pieces of parchment about 6"x12". Dust them liberally with flour and spill out that very wet dough onto them. You will want to liberally dust all sides of the dough right away so you can work with it because it is seriously very Jabba-the-Hut-like at this point. Take your bench knife and divide it in two, putting each piece on its own parchment. Do not forget to liberally dust the parchment before you attempt this. You'll spend the next 20 minute of your life trying to detach the bread from the paper. When you can handle it, stretch each dough piece into a very long rectangle. You want to pick the dough up (with well floured hands), stretching it to about 3 feet in length and fold it like a business letter in thirds. It will shrink up a little bit. Then form it into a rough rectangle and let it rise for at least 30 minutes while your oven preheats to 450 degrees.
Although they are hard to see in this pic, there will be little air bubbles forming all over the surface of the dough. This is good.
Bake 22-27 minutes on a baking stone (opening oven to spray dough with water twice during the first 5 minutes. So, ok. I don't have a water sprayer or an oil sprayer. So I flick a generous amount of water onto the dough. It doesn't seem to matter. Because look! Voila! Perfect ciabatta!
I can't even describe the smell, but you are going to have a hard time holding off from slicing it right away. The crust is chewy, the airy interior is tender. This stuff is dangerous. Dogs must be locked in another room. I take this bread and I slather it with a lovely jalapeno-infused honey that I made back in the summer.
Man, life is good. Isn't it?