Derek has a hard time eating the delicious loaves of bread from the bakeries in our immediate neighborhood, despite the fact that they are the most delicious, varied and well-known in the city. It has nothing to do with the bread, and has everything to do with knowing that his wife knows perfectly well how to bake loaves of her own.
So, for these past months that I have been traveling, there has been little risen bread in the house and he has been resorting to tortillas and multigrain chips instead.
Not the same thing.
This loaf is truly a keeper; based off a ciabatta recipe from Peter Reinhardt’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, requires two days to put together, but minimal babysitting. This means that this loaf, this dough, is a bit more wet than other doughs….and thus a bit more sticky. The first step is to make a biga, or pre-ferment; this is where a majority of the character in this bread is developed. It goes without saying that baking artisan bread is a specific, traditional process that requires a bit of practice. I have tried to simplify the steps here but don’t be discouraged if there are bits that don’t seem intuitive. There is no need to master kneading techniques – in fact the less you touch this loaf the more delicious it will be!
The formula makes two smallish loaves and we have been eating it with hearty homemade soup, dipped in Spanish olive oil from Cork, and with healthy chunks of Spanish chevre and manchego, as an accompaniment to my ever popular Big-As-Your-Head salads.
A piece of stone tile, a water-only spray bottle, a thermometer and scale are a few tools that will help take your bread baking skills to the next level.