Tupper Lake, November 6, 2012 by Jeff Boucher

Monday, April 19, 2010


This past weekend was a good one for baking.  The weather was gray and damp, perfect for the kitchen.

What to bake was another story.  At first I almost made a no-knead wheat bread.  Then I said, "Self, you've done the no-knead thing a bunch of times, and it's time to expand your horizons."  

Last year I purchased Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice, and although I read it almost immediately I had yet to take the plunge into his recipes.

Most of his recipes call for a pre-ferment of some type.  A pre-ferment (or sponge) allows the wheat molecules to do their thing, giving more flavor to the final product. It needs to sit and work overnight.

My problem has been I like to bake my bread and eat it on the same day.  Therefore, the thought of starting and having to wait until the next day was not good for the impatient baker. No patience here Padawan.

On the other hand I had dropped 20 something bucks on his book and convinced myself to give it a go.

I decided on ciabatta. 
Sort of rhymes with Chewbacca.

 On Saturday I mixed up my pre-ferment, a poolish (wet sponge).  It's easy.  Mix 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of room temp. water and 1/4 teaspoon of yeast.  Cover and leave at room temp for 3-4 hrs. then put in the fridge overnight. 

The next day, take out the poolish and let it warm up for an hour or so.  Mix more flour, salt and yeast, water with the poolish and make a sticky ball.  I mixed in the Kitchen Aid and also kneaded there too.  Layout some flour, stretch and fold and let it sit for 30 mins.  Spray some Pam, dust w/ flour and cover with plastic wrap.  After 30 mins. repeat the stretch/fold and let it rest for 90 mins. -2 hrs. 
Looks like this in my incarnation.

At this point , divide the dough and form into loaves, placing them on your couche (linen w/ flour) and proof for another 45-60 mins. at room temp.
In the couche.

Then bake in an oven pre-heated to 500 degrees, with a steam pan ( a pan to pour a cup of water in to make steam, which makes for a nice crispy crust.)  After 30 seconds of being in the oven, spray the oven walls with water form a spray bottle and repeat 2 more times at 30 second intervals.  At this point drop the oven temp. to 450 degrees until the bread is done, 15 -20 minutes. 
My first loaf came out funky.  My shaping skills ain't quite where they ought to be. I should have divided that into 2 smaller loaves.  Nonetheless, I'm sending this pic to Yeastspotting, so other novices can realize they're not alone.

I did divide the next 2, and they too look funky. 

I gotta say the bread tasted great, very good.  The time involved though makes me reluctant to try it again soon.  For sure I'll do more of Reinhart's recipes, but only on days where I don't have too much too do.  

Another plus is the education one gets form the process.  His book is a great read, even if you don't bake. I'm beginning to understand that baking bread has a lot to do with chemical reactions and that indeed there is a science to it.  If nothing else, this weekends bread baking adventure taught me a lot about bread science.  

So we live learn and bake on.....


  1. Way to go, my friend! Many congrats on a bread that lays low many "supposed" bakers. However, if you want to join the club, you'll need to include a shot of your bread's interior crumb too. I know from your bread's plumpness that you got nice big holes in there - and that's what the clubees fight each other over.

    Man, don't stop now that you're doing so well - ciabatta's got your name written all over it - it's a status loaf - and it'll be the one that teaches you patience - right?

    BTW, don't worry about the strange forms it takes, the charm of ciabatta is in the weird shapes it takes!

  2. If the looks of your bread bugs you, I'd be happy to take any future "uglies" off your hands. Looks good to me! I have a no-knead bread recipe posted, and it's pretty diet friendly too (and delish!): http://reciperhapsody.wordpress.com/2009/05/18/rosemary-peasant-bread/