Sourdough Saturday – Ciabatta with Olive Oil

I make bread in part because I cannot usually get good bread locally. I figure any bread made at home has to be better than commercially made bread, right? It’s something I kept in mind when eating this week’s sourdough – ciabatta with olive oil. While it looked good, and it tasted good, it really could have been better. And should have been better. I’ve been making bread for decades now, so I was a little disappointed with this effort. But, I know what I did wrong so no one else has to make my mistakes. Some people do everything perfectly all the time, and other, like me, apparently prefer to be guinea pigs. WARNING: Ciabatta is a slack dough that really can’t be kneaded by hand. You can try, but it would be a real lesson in frustration! This is one dough that needs a stand mixer.

Recipe:

  • 1 1/2cups sourdough starter
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Add all ingredients to stand mixer bowl and mix on lowest power until well combined. Increase speed to medium-high and knead dough for about 15 minutes. You may have to stop the mixer a couple of times to scrape down the dough hook and the sides of the bowl. The dough should be very stretchy as you can see from the photo above.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 3-4 hours. Cover a baking sheet liberally with flour and turn the dough onto the sheet. As the photo above shows it looks like a blob (although yours will not look quite like this – see my What I Did Wrong below). Divide into two loaves. Stretch one piece and place on parchment paper. Repeat with the other half. Sprinkle with flour, cover and let rise about 40 minutes.

Place a baking stone on the middle rack in the oven and preheat to 475 degrees. Uncover the loaves, dimple dough with your fingertips, and slide onto the stone. Bake until the loaves are browned and internal temperature reaches 205 degrees, about 30 minutes.

What I Did Wrong: Ciabatta is a slack dough, but my dough was really too slack. I could make this same recipe again tomorrow using the exact same ingredients and get a different result. Lots of things affect this; brand of flour, how precise my measurements were, even the weather. Keep the dough slack, but feel free to add a little extra flour if your dough is basically unworkable – like mine was.

My kitchen is teeny-tiny with not much counter space at all. While the loaves were rising I was also making homemade caponata. Caponata has lots of ingredients that all involve chopping, adding at different times, etc. I found myself constantly moving the bread out of the way. In effect, I really didn’t give it the opportunity to rise enough, so it was a little flat. The moral of that story? Pay attention and do one thing at a time!

As I noted above, the ciabatta tasted good nonetheless. Almost all of it was used to make paninis using the caponata. However, this is a project that I will re-create at a later time. Still though, better than store-bought bread!

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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