No Knead Ciabatta Bread – Higher and Lower Hydration Levels

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.

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5 thoughts on “No Knead Ciabatta Bread – Higher and Lower Hydration Levels

    1. Thank you. It makes great garlic bread too. I spread some pesto made with basil from my pots and a bit of butter and cheese over a couple of slices and then toasted it up in the oven with the broiler on. (Gave away the rest of the loaf so I’ll have to make more soon.)

    1. Most breads are kneaded to develop gluten which provides the supporting structure that helps bread rise and keep its shape. The principle of no kneads is that feeding flour and water to yeast and allowing it to ferment for some time, whether at room temperature or in the fridge for a longer period, develops gluten as well.

      For someone who isn’t really that fond of bread, I DO a lot of baking. Then I give it away. 🙂

      I just enjoy learning about the different kinds. It’s the same with some of my pastas. It’s easier to buy the dried stuff but fun to play around making your own.

      PS: Have you seen my danish post? SO very good.

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