I’ve only made ciabatta bread successfully a few times, and that was in the days when I still had a bread machine, but no camera to immortalize my success. Since it died, my sole attempt was a dismal failure. Recently, someone posted pictures and a recipe for a “no knead” ciabatta, which, knowing how difficult that sticky dough is to work with, sounded too good to be true.
Well, it IS and it ISN’T.
No Knead Ciabatta Bread
NOTE: SKIP the next paragraph if you don’t want to be bored with minutia and just admire the pictures
For someone with patience and a bit more experience, it’s easy enough to manage. My first attempt was equal parts fail and success. It was edible but a bit tasteless without help. (More salt needed in the dough.) The crumb was a bit gummy for my taste. (Bake longer at a lower heat and LET IT COOL, thoroughly.) It was REALLY sticky and hard to manage even compared to the poster’s dough. (Reduce the water used by 1/4 cup on the next attempt.) After 16 hrs, the half batch had I extended the proofing time for (12-18 hrs, or even 24 hrs proofing has been used) had liquid pooled at the bottom of the bowl under the dough. See previous sentence for possible solution.
The pairs of pictures represent the higher and lower hydration levels, respectively
Step 1 – After mixing the dough
Step 2 – 12 hr ‘ferment’ at the higher hydration level and 18 hr ‘ferment’ at the lower hydration level, respectively. I allowed half of the dough, at the higher hydration level, to continue fermenting for 19 hrs and it looked similar to the way it did after 12 hrs.
Step 3 – Dough shaped and allowed to proof for 1-2 hrs
Step 4 – After proofing, 1 and 2 hrs, respectively
Step 5 – Baked at 475 deg F for 22 min, and at 450 deg F for 30 minutes, respectively
Oven Spring – 2 inches tall, and 1 1/2 inches tall, respectively
Crumb – higher and lower hydration, respectively
No Knead Ciabatta – enough for a large loaf or 2 smaller loaves or 8 buns
3 cups (400 gm) all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 US cups (300 gm) cool water
Mix flour, salt, dry yeast, and sugar together in a bowl large enough to allow the contents to at least double in size.
Add the water and mix well with a large spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (75-80 deg F) for 12 to 18 hrs.
Scrape out the dough onto a floured board. Do an envelope fold and then flip or transfer the dough out onto a baking sheet. You may line the sheet with parchment paper, drizzle it with some corn meal or not as you prefer.
Stretch out the dough a bit so it’s a rough rectangle shape.
Scatter some flour over the top of the dough, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. (The flour will help prevent the dough from sticking to the plastic though you may have to repeat every half hour. Or you could oil the plastic.)
Bake the bread at 425 to 475 degrees Fahrenheit until the top is browned and the bread gives a hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles. At 425 deg F, it took 35 minutes before the bread was done. At 450 deg F, it was done in 30 minutes.
At 475 deg F, it took about 22 min for the top and bottom to get browned and for the dough to sound hollow, but after cooling for 30 min, I thought the crumb looked a bit moist. It might be a good idea to cover the loaf with a sheet of aluminum foil, after 20 minutes, and let it bake for another 5-10 minutes.
NOTE: I spritzed some water into the oven every 5 minutes for the first 10 minutes as it was supposed to promote oven spring but that was only partially successful … and at the highest temp. It was also the one where the dough had only been allowed to sit (ferment?) for 12 hrs. The dough that had been allowed to sit for 18 hrs didn’t have a lot of oven spring.
In conclusion, I had the best results from the ‘lower’ hydration ciabatta dough. It is called LOWER but at 75% hydration it’s still higher than regular bread levels of hydration. The ‘higher’ hydration was about 90%. That was an estimation based on equivalent conversions since I didn’t weigh the flour and water that I used in the first attempt to make the ciabatta.