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Home made ciabatta

I don’t think I’ve posted about cooking for a while.  It’s not really my thing (although I’m doing more and more of it) and I usually confine my activities to dinner and the occasional cake.  I’ve never made bread before (unless you count Home Ec at school, when the resulting rolls were so unappetising that even the pigeons didn’t want them…), so this was a first for me.

So what prompted this fit of domesticity?  I’ve given up smoking and as such have treated myself to things instead of tobacco.  One of my treats was a heap of magazines which included this one:

It’s not a bad little magazine actually, I’ve not finished it yet as I got completely distracted by this article:

Lots of bread recipes there, so I thought I might as well try one.  I made this decision at about 10.30pm, and after having a look at the different recipes the only one I had all the ingredients for was the ciabatta.

The dough was really quick to whip up, just five minutes and then it went into the fridge overnight.  The following morning I split it into two loaves, baked it, and it was… delicious!

If you’d like to give it a try the recipe is as follows (though at just £2.90 for the magazine, which has loads of other things in it, you might as well splash out on your own copy).  I made a couple of adjustments, which are noted below.

Ciabatta (makes 2 loaves)

  • 1/2 cube or 21g fresh yeast
  • 700g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4-5 stems fresh thyme
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary
  • flour for the work surface and shaping
  • baking parchment

Dissolve yeast in 500ml of ice-cold water.  Mix 600g flour and salt together and add it to yeast liquid. Add olive oil and quickly mix together to a soft dough.  Stir in the 100g remaining flour.  Put dough into a bowl at least twice the size, cover till airtight and leave to rise in a fridge overnight.  Next day, let the dough rise at room temperature for 30 min.  Place the dough on a well-floured surface and halve it (without kneading, so that the air stays in the dough).  Using plenty of flour, shape the two pieces into 30cm long narrow loaves.  Place both loaves on to a baking tray lined with parchment.  Pick the leaves off the herbs and divide over the loaves, pressing down lightly.  Leave for 10-15 mins to rise again.  Bake on the second lowest shelf of a pre-heated oven (200 degrees celcius/gas 6) for about 40 mins.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

As mentioned above, I did make some changes to the recipe.  I didn’t have any fresh yeast, only the dried stuff in 7.5g packets, so I used one of those.  I also omitted the herbs, sprinkling the loaves with coarse sea salt instead as I wanted a plain loaf with no other flavours.

I seem to be blessed with good luck when trying recipes for the first time (as with my bank holiday baking back in June), and these loaves were no exception.  A nice crust, a good amount of air through the bread (I’d have liked more though – I’ll try with fresh yeast next time), and really tasty.  We had one loaf with dinner that night (cajun chicken gumbo – I’ll write about that another day!), and the other with salami and cheese the night after that.  I will definitely be making ciabatta again now I know how easy it is!

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