When I was making Ciabatta in the bread-making workshop at Surfas Culinary District in Culver City, I felt a sense of dejavu, like I’ve been here before. It was a new experience but everything somehow felt so familiar.
After thinking about it for a bit, I realize that I have been here indeed, when I made Focaccia several years ago. The process was almost identical so when I got home that night, I Googled “what the #@#% is the difference between Ciabatta and Foccacia?” and found this explanation from America’s Test Kitchen’s website:
Focaccia has a moist, tender texture and tooth-sinking chewiness. “Ciabatta” — Italian for “slipper,” a reference to the bread’s broad, flattish shape — is subtly tangy with large air pockets and has a pleasantly chewy texture.
Oh, now I know why Ciabatta goes so well as a sandwich, while Focaccia makes a lovely accompaniment to soups!
Before starting the recipe, you must prepare the sponge, or a pre-fermented dough. Luckily, it was already prepared for us.
To start, mix the yeast mixture, sponge, water, oil, and flour in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook, at low speed until the flour is just moistened. Continue to beat the dough, this time at medium speed. for 3 minutes. Add salt and beat for 4 more minutes.
Turn the dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for about 1-1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
Turn dough onto a floured work surface. The dough is very wet and a bit difficult to handle.
Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper (an amazing tool) and transfer them onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Now the fun part — dimple loaves with your fingers!
Let the loaves rest for about 1-1/2 hours or until it doubles in size again. Cover with dampened kitchen towel. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped with fingers.
I went shopping (the test kitchen is inside a professional kitchen supply store) while Ciabatta cooled on the rack, which was a bad idea. I wanted everything in the store! I had to hurry up to get out of there before I ended up buying the entire store!
One great takeaway from baking Ciabatta is learning about pizza stone. It apparently helps absorb moisture for crispier bread … and crispy and flavorful it was. I ate it when I got home and loved it. I smeared insane amount of mayonnaise on the bread and devoured it. Man, it was delicious!
Next up is, last but not least, Brioche!