I've been playing with my sourdough starter since last April. I've made dozens of loaves of sourdough bread. (to find out how to make your own starter click here --->Sourdough Starter<---). This is the second ciabatta bread I've made and I think it's the best bread I've ever made.
Before I continue, let me say...today, October 16th, is World Bread Day (ya i know...it's just about over..and by the time you see it, it will be yesterday...but hey...it's here). I discovered this quite by accident just a couple of hours ago and it just so happened that I had this ciabatta baking in the oven at the very same time. So I thought I'd better participate.
The purpose of World Bread Day is to stir up awareness of those who are not as fortunate as others. Those who do not have enough food to eat. Not that baking this loaf of bread will do anything for the world hunger problem, but maybe it will remind you to donate food to your local shelter or food bank.
So, are you wondering what made this particular ciabatta loaf so special or different than anything I've made in the past? It's due to the "mother dough". Something about mother dough that makes a loaf of bread......better. The crust, the crumb....the flavor. It's almost like the bread is more...I dunno...mature? It has a particular depth to it that I have not experienced in any of my breads in the past. A mother dough is basically like a biga, only it's for sourdough breads. It's a cold pre-ferment and is made with wild yeast (a.k.a. sourdough starter) and has anywhere from 50 - 80% hydration. My standard sourdough starter is at 166% hydration (1 cup of existing starter with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water added). Btw, the recipe is from an e-book called Discovering Sourdough (NorthwestSourdough.com)
Making a mother dough is not difficult....
Motherdough @ 80% hydration
4.5 oz of 166% hydration sourdough starter5 oz water
8 oz bread flour
In a good sized container (at least double the size of the amount of ingredients) combine the ingredients well and let it sit at room temperature for 4 hours. Cover loosely and let sit in the fridge for 2 or 3 days. Thats it. No fuss, no muss. If it goes beyond 5 days....well, you'll need to start over. So I highly recommend that you begin this process on Wednesday or Thursday. Actually, if you're going to bake the bread of Sunday, you can start this as late as Friday.
When you're ready to bake your ciabatta (you need to start your this in the morning), take your mother dough out of the fridge. You will see a nicely developed gooey dough
Get out your ciabatta ingredients:
Ciabatta (makes 2 loaves)
All of the mother dough that you made
1 cup water, room temperature, divided
1/2 cup canned milk
1 TB vegetable oil
4 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp salt
Pour the mother dough into a large bowl or into the bowl of your dough mixer
Add 6 oz of water (setting 2 oz aside), the canned milk, vegetable oil and the flour. Mix on low speed for about 3 minutes. Or, if you're like me and you don't have a dough mixer, stir with a heavy duty spoon for a bit then get your hands in there and mix, and twist and turn until everything is incorporated...this can be done in about 3 minutes and will look something like this:
Cover it up with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Then....add the salt and mix the dough for 5 minutes (using the lowest speed if you're using a mixer). Toward the end, slowly add the remaining 2 oz of water.
Place the dough into a folding trough (or large casserole dish) and let it sit for 4 hours, lightly covered, at room temperature. Every hour, fold or stir the dough. For more in depth instructions on folding the dough, please click --->HERE<---
Once the 4 hours are up, pour the dough onto a very well floured surface. Divide the dough in half (about 1.5 lbs each). Now you will have two big thick blobs of sticky dough. Take one of the blobs and fold it over on itself (just as you did in the "folding trough") and place it on a well floured baking sheet. Do the same to the other blob.
Cover and let rest for about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs.
Preheat the oven to 450' F.
Using your finger tips, make dimples in the dough, then gently stretch the dough to make the loaves a big longer.
Place the baking sheet into the oven along with a small oven proof dish with water in it (I used a ramekin). Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the loaves around, reduce the heat to 425' F and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes or until a deep golden redish brown.
Allow the loaves to cool thoroughly before slicing.
Then watch them disappear. If you can manage to save a slice for yourself, which I hope you do since you put all that work into such a wonderful loaf of bread, slather it with butter and drizzle a bit of honey on it. Crumble up some of your favorite cheese and pour yourself a glass of wine.
Sit outside, watch the sunset and know that its been a glorious day. Count your blessings and make plans to share with those who are less fortunate than you are. There are countless ways to do this...whether you give money, donate canned goods or drop off lightly used items to a thrift store that provides for a shelter. It's the least we can do.