I can explain the photo. Read on:
"Ciabatta" is Italian for slippers, the big flat kind you wear on your feet at home. It is also the name of my very favorite rustic Italian style bread, so named because its shape resembles this cozy footware. (Note: It probably does NOT resemble the fluffy tiger slippers pictured above, unless you do something seriously wrong while baking it). Ciabatta bread is the one I make special trips to the grocery store for. I eat it plain, sliced and grilled under the broiler with garlic infused butter, by itself or along side a bowl of hearty vegetable soup. God, I love it.
I am no stranger to bread making. But I wanted to make something other than a basic white or wheat American style loaf. I wanted to make ciabatta bread, and I wanted to make it often--perhaps daily.
Then, thanks to Amy of Not As Good As Pork Cracklins, I found this book, with the intriging title No Need To Knead by Suzanne Dunaway. Here was a baker I could relate to. Touring Italy, she fell in love with the rustic breads and sought a way to bake them at home. She came up with a way of making bread that involves using a very wet dough and virtually no kneading. Using her method, she has created a very successful bakery and now in her book she teaches the home baker how to make their own daily bread with a minimum of fuss and delicious results. I can personally attest to the simplicity and delightful results of the no-knead method.
If you want to see a brief but instructive video clip of this type of no-knead bread making process in action, hop on over to YouTube, where Mark Bittman hosts a baker demonstrating the technique.
My son Evan was so smitten with this ciabatta bread, he asked me to teach him how to bake his own loaf. I sent him back to college with a little baggie of rye four and yeast. For me, Ciabatta is just the beginning! And just in time to prod me along and help me develop my skills, a group of three food bloggers (Seriously Good, KitchenMage, and Farmgirl) have formed a year long web based bread baking project to inspire and guide us all in the quest of creating delicious, satisfying home baked bread. I signed up. How about you? Check it out.
CIABATTA BREAD RECIPE
For the BIGA (Italian for "starter")
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 cups unbleached bread flour (Note: I actually used All purpose)
2 tablespoons rye flour
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 tsp salt dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup flour to dust the baking sheet and the top of the ciabatta
To make the BIGA, mix the yeast with the water. Then combine the flours with the yeast mixture, forming a very wet dough. Cover and let stand at room temperature over night, becoming very yeasty.
To make the bread: Measure the water into a large mixing bowl, dissolve in the yeast. .Stir in the BIGA. Add the flour and mix until a sticky, soft dough. Cover and let double in volume for about an hour.
With a scraper or spatula, fold the dough over on itself two or three times. Cove and let rise again for 45 minutes or until doubled in volume. OR cover and refrigerate until ready to bake (perhaps the next day).
When ready to bake, (allow the dough to come to room temperature if placed in fridge), flour a baking sheet witha thin layer of flour, and also your hands. Pour the dough into your baking sheet, and softly pat it into a long flat shape. (About four inches wide and 14 inches long). This is your old slipper shape (no bunny ears or tiger faces required!) Let rise another half hour or so.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Flip the loaf over very carefully for a more even rise in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake another 15 minutes until nicely browned.
Remove to wire rack and allow to cool completely before cutting. (It is technically still baking while cooling, so be patient).
Do I even need to say ENJOY?