Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No-knead ciabatta thoughts

Since I wrote up my latest no-knead bread experience last night(pictures), I've been trying to figure out how turn my sub par efforts into a bread I really really like. I want an more open crumb than I got with the Cook's Illustrated recipe. The easiest thing to do would be to just use the original New York Times version, since they had a quite airy 85% hydration and most of the changes made by Cook's were to close the crumb... even the light knead they introduced serves this purpose. Alternatively, since beer and vinegar seemed to do a good job as flavor enhancers, I could just throw out the kneading step and up the water content of the Cook's recipe to something in the 80-85% range. Being that I'm not a big fan of cheap beer however, I thought the more traditional usage of a yeast starter (aka sponge or poolish or biga) might be a better way to go. To make a biga, you take some of your wet and dry ingredients with your yeast and do a pre-ferment where it will rise for 8 to 24 hours. Now to me, that sounds a lot like the long rise the no-knead breads all get anyway... so I'm not entirely sure it's necessary to make a biga, mix in the rest of the ingredients for an 18 hour rise, and then shape and rise again for another 2-3 hours... but that's essentially what these variations I've discovered do.

I don't have a recipe yet, but I'm leaning towards using the Cook's Illustrated ciabatta recipe from March, but altering it for a no-knead approach... and instead of making two smaller loaves on a baking stone do a larger one in the dutch oven. Though the baking stone has some appeal since I've had such trouble with burning. My oven thermometer should be here midweek, so hopefully I can figure out what's going on there... and I've got Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day coming in the same shipment, so that may change my thinking... but I'll keep you updated and blog my results.

photo by flickr user ɹǝɯıʇɹoɯ used under a Creative Commons license