Something I love as much as, or more maybe, than pizza, is bread. A crunchy boule just out of your wood fired oven is heaven on a plate. A few weekends ago, instead of pizza Friday, we had bruschetta for dinner. Fresh tomatoes and herbs from our garden, flavorful mozzarella and a drizzle of Italian olive oil with this ciabatta bread fresh out of the oven was a wonderful ending to a long work week! Add a bottle of crisp white wine to cool the summer temps and all is bliss…the perfect summer meal.
Ciabatta means “slipper” in Italian and the bread originated in Verona in response to the French baguette. The baker who created the first recipe, named it ciabatta because the shape of the dough reminded him of his wife’s slipper. Ciabatta is known for it’s crisp crust and open crumb and a ciabatta loaf is typically elongated, broad and flat. I chose to make rolls instead of a loaf, which were irregular in shape and size. I didn’t use my pizza peel to transfer them from the baking sheet to the oven, choosing instead to pick them up gently with my hands and place them directly on the oven floor.
I made a double batch, so I had a lot of rolls in the oven at the same time. It was a little difficult to move them front to back so they cooked evenly and I ended up using my hands for that too because my peel wouldn’t work in the tight quarters. They become fairly firm very quickly, so it is easy enough to move them around without affecting the quality of the finished product.
As I said, we had bruschetta, but these rolls are fabulous with just a drizzle of flavorful olive oil as well. I encourage you to try this easy recipe.
Yield: 12 rolls or 2 loaves
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water (to the touch)
1 cup all purpose flour
Add yeast and flour to the water and combine with a whisk to form a paste. Cover and let sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight (either on the counter or in the fridge)
After sitting, the biga should have a ton of bubbles on top. This, and the rising of the dough, are what will help the final bread have a beautiful crumb with a soft interior and crunchy exterior.
2 cups water
1 tsp yeast
The Biga that you had resting
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
Add yeast to the water in your mixer bowl and stir to wet all the yeast. Add all of the Biga to the water and break it up with a spatula until stringy.
Add salt to the flour and stir, then add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl. Stir to form a thick dough. Let mixture stand for 20 minutes so the flour can absorb all of the water and the yeast can proof a little.
Use the dough hook on your mixer and let the mixer run for a good 15-20 minutes on medium speed. This will really bring the dough together and help build the gluten. At first, the dough will really stick to the bottom of the bowl, but eventually it will come away from the sides and start slapping the sides. If you don’t get to this point by the halfway mark of the mixing time you may need to increase the speed on the mixer. When you stop the mixer, the dough will all fall back into the bowl and be very loose. As long as it is smooth and shiny, you are good to go.
Keep the dough in the mixer bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let this rise at room temp for 2 or 3 hours until it has tripled in bulk.
In order to most easily handle this wet dough, make sure you use A LOT of flour on your work surface. Scrape the dough out onto the flour and handle gingerly because you don’t want to break all of those beautiful bubbles that are just below the surface of the dough. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough and then cut the dough into either 2 loaves or 12 rolls. I used a pizza cutter and it worked great, you could also use your bench scraper.
Flour your hands and gently place the dough onto a floured baking sheet. Leave the dough sit for another 30 minutes or so (can go a lot longer if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend letting it sit more than an hour and a half). The bubbles will really start to come out on the surface after this resting period.
Bake in your wfo at around 350-400F for 15-20 minutes, until golden and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom. You can also bake in your kitchen oven at 475F on a baking stone for 20-30 minutes.