Monday, May 18, 2009

No-Knead Ciabatta

I had planned a whole long post dissecting my efforts of two weekends ago, but since I still consider the recipe a work in progress, I decided to keep it simple and just hit the highlights.

The oven thermometer worked fairly well, and with some trial and error I was able to get the temperature I was aiming at. I hope to set aside an evening this week to adjust the knob itself, so I don't have to do the math in my head... but as you can see below, I definitely didn't burn the bread this time... in fact it was a bit underdone. Not really a surprise that I'd be a little gun-shy after burning two batches of bread in a row previously. I completely forgot to check the bread's internal temperature before taking it out, which might have saved me.

The sourdough flavor was strong... not strong in a bad way, but perhaps stronger than is appropriate for ciabatta(need taste tests!). It's very likely it makes no sense to bother with a biga if you're just going to do an 18 hour rise afterwards, but I'm not entirely sure who to consult on that matter. Maybe write McGhee or Bittman and see if they write back? A possibility.

The crumb was still a disappointment(unfortunately I took no pictures for unknown reasons). Not open and airy at all really, and I didn't even use milk(we didn't have any), as Cook's Illustrated suggested to keep the air bubbles under control. My best guess is that I needed a longer rise after shaping (the Cook's recipe only called for 30 minutes), since other no-knead recipes call for a 1.5-2 hour proofing period after you've shaped. It's also entirely possible that, in under cooking the bread, I pulled it out before it had completed it's oven rise.

So what's next? I'm not entirely certain at this point, but I'm inclined to skip the biga, and do the basic no knead recipe and see where the flavor is with a simple 18 hour initial rise. I liked the shaping and using my baking stone, so I'm inclined to repeat that aspect but with a 2 hour proof on the peel. That should give me a better baseline to determine what it is I'm looking for and what I'd like to change. I pretty much knew that the "basic no-knead" is what I needed to do first, but I wanted to get out of the pre-heated Dutch oven too, so I suppose the order of the steps is somewhat immaterial. I'm not sure bread is on the agenda for this weekend, but I'll update if so.

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