I figured I’d try making ciabatta (ie, Italian slipper bread, as it looks kinda like a man’s slipper) because it’s gotten so trendy in the past few years and there was a recipe in my bread book. The ciabatta process is quite different from other breads. It requires a starter begun the night before and the dough is so wet, it is never actually kneaded. It remains wet and gooey until baking, in fact, but once out of the oven, this was one of the best breads I’ve ever eaten. My roommate and I would have finished both loaves within hours of baking if I hadn’t put my foot down to insist we save some for later.
The important points to keep in mind when making this bread are avoid adding extra flour to the dough and handle it with a very light touch after rising. Extra flour is very tempting because the dough is so hard to work with, but really, don’t do it except for when you need it to shape the loaves. After rising, do not punch down and be very gentle while shaping. Also, you really can’t use too much flour for the shaping process. If you have silicone baking mats (sadly, I do not), this would be a very good time to use them.
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One day last week, I decided I wanted a sandwich, because I like eating sandwiches sometimes. But I had no bread in the house with which to make it, so I went to the market… to buy flour. I’d run out of whole wheat flour, y’see, and I don’t like to use all-white for my sandwiches. I returned home and got things going. During the rise, I ate some peanut butter out of the jar. That evening, a friend of my roommate’s came over and cooked dinner, so by the time the bread was done, I’d been fed. But I did have a very yummy sandwich the next day, anyway. (The final irony was that after I finished baking, I realized that I did, in fact, already have bread in the freezer.)
This was actually my first time baking bread in a loaf pan, and the lesson learned was to grease more thoroughly next time (or acquire a non-stick or silicone pan). I couldn’t find a recipe that sounded just right, so I mixed some up, based largely on the pain ordinaire (fancy-speak for basic bread) in Ultimate Bread. I think I slightly overbaked, but the long process of getting it out of the dang pan may have been a factor there, too. Although I called this whole wheat, like most whole wheat breads, there is still a fair bit of white flour. After a few days, I did what I always do with my sandwich bread and froze the remainder in slices. It toasts up beautifully from the freezer.
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In the past couple of years, I’ve made my first attempts at yeasted breads and they’ve all turned out pretty well. It’s been mostly pizza dough with the occasional sweets such as cinnamon rolls and king cake. This summer, I started to think about bread more. The “problem” with bread is that not only is it pretty cheap to buy (even good bread), but making it also requires planning. The combination of these two issues has definitely been a challenge for me, but I’m working through it. And of course, there’s the other issue of just not having much of a clue, but luckily, there are books and the web.
This recipe is from Ultimate Bread by Treuille & Ferrigno. I’ve found this book useful both for its breadth of recipes as well as detailed instructions concerning all the steps of the process. It was also already in the house, and thus won on convenience. I’d still like a copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice (and Crust & Crumb) but this will have to do until there is more discretionary income.
Pide is a Turkish seeded bread. I did not have the seeds the recipe called for (nigella), so I used white sesame seeds on one and zaatar on other. This is a delicious, simple, and versatile bread, which worked great not only for eating alone, but also in strips alongside soup or dip or spread with Spiked avocado or even split the long way as a base for toaster oven pizza using assorted leftovers. It was just like French bread pizza.
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On a beautiful summer day, I wanted some freshly baked bread so decided it was time to take my first shot at focaccia. I searched many recipes and ended up combining aspects of several of them. The result was not quite the texture I was aiming for, but it was still light, flavorful, and delicious. I incorporated rosemary from my home garden (the top of the plant is visible to the right of the olive oil) in the dough as well as on top and also topped it with onions made from my farm share caramelized with some maple syrup and red wine.
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