Walnut Raisin Apricot Ciabatta

Ciabatta dough is so different from any others. There is so much to like about ciabatta. I wonder why I don’t make it more often. They make perfect sandwich breads. Go well with soup. Toast well with its thin blistered crust over a wide flat surface.

True, it is a very wet dough with more than 75% hydration. Since there is no degassing, preshaping or shaping involved, there is almost no actual work between mixing the dough and getting it in the oven. I left the divided ciabatta dough pieces on parchment paper to rest. Then they were ready to be transferred straight to the preheated oven. No inverting the dough out of the shaping baskets, so there are no sticking issues. No hot Dutch oven to transfer the dough into. No scoring either. Pieces of bread dough were laid out flat on their backs and allowed to rest naturally. No coercing. No struggle to keep the dough in the strict confine of an ideal shape. No marker of any sorts, regarding shapes. This allows everyone to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the finished bread.

If you have not baked home-made artisan bread before, this may be a good place to start. Most bakers find shaping bread dough challenging. A stumbling block, real or imagined. Once shaping is taken out of the equation, all you need is to do is to follow closely the fermentation schedule, you’ll have a decent loaf of tasty bread made. And become the proud baker that you are! I wish someone has told me this.

There are a few essential equipments you’d need: pizza stone to fit on the oven rack and a peel to transfer the dough into the oven. If you are familiar with pizza making, you can skip the rest of this paragraph. If you don’t have these equipments and don’t mind experimenting, try resting the dough in a parchment-paper lined baking sheet (A). Preheat another sheet pan on the oven rack. When you are ready to bake, transfer the dough along with the sheet pan (A) in the preheated oven. Place sheet pan (A) on top of the preheated sheet pan. In other words, use double sheet pans as a way to add to the thermal mass. The crust may not be as crackling as the bread baked on a pizza stone, but you won’t be compromising on taste.

To replicate the steam environment critical to developing a crusty bread exterior, put a cast iron saute pan in the oven as you preheat the oven. This is what I did. As you load the bread dough in the oven, pour in a cup or more of boiling water in the preheated cast iron pan to create a burst of steam. Close the oven door as quickly as you can. Be careful not to burn your fingers. I’ve found this to be the most effective way to create steam in a home oven. (If you are leery about this procedure, the alternative is to spray water, using a spray bottle, on the bread loaf in the oven.)

This is one tasty bread with a thin delicate crust!



Lots of random-sized holes and translucent cell walls




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