Being fans of both homemade bread and Cook's Illustrated, of course we had to try the ciabatta recipe from the March/April issue! The recipe was pretty elaborate, including both a preferment made the night before and many detailed steps on baking day. But we were undaunted...
If you're at all curious about baking and bread chemistry, the article preceding the recipe has a wealth of information. We were really happy that the author took the time to explain things like the biga and why its such an important part of good ciabatta. The recipe itself guided us through both familiar and unfamiliar steps in clear, straight-forward language.
Although this recipe does include more steps and details than you'd find in a typical everyday bread recipe, we found that the actual hands-on time wasn't that intense. Instructions to stir, knead, or fold are strung out between long periods of simply letting the dough rest and do its thing. We were easily able to plan our day around it.
The final loaf was just lovely. It had a soft and chewy crust that browned to a beautiful golden red in the oven. The interior was tender and springy, and it had a wheaty flavor with a mild sweetness.
The ciabatta wasn't as hole-y as we were expecting, although this seems to be the author's intention. In the article, he mentions finally getting a loaf with "...a uniform crumb pockmarked with medium-sized holes. Success at last!" Personally, we like our ciabatta to have a more open and airy crumb, but we're not really complaining. It still made a delicious sandwich!
All in all, we definitely recommend this recipe for anyone who feels like breaking out of the mold and giving artisan bread a try. One caveat - you definitely need a standing mixer in order to mix the dough sufficiently and form enough gluten. How Italian chefs made this bread before electric mixers is beyond us!
Has anyone else tried this recipe yet?
• The article "Discovering Authentic Ciabatta" and recipe are available in the March/April issue of Cook's Illustrated, available on newsstands now.
Related: Working with Yeast: Be Not Afraid!
(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)