For my birthday, my wife bought me Jim's new book, My Bread, and last night, I made my first loaf of Jim's ciabatta. Honestly, it tasted FANTASTIC--as good as any I've ever purchased. And other than time, it took nearly no work!
How does it work? This recipe is food science at its best. There are several components:
- The recipe requires no kneading. Instead, you stir-together a loose mass of flour, water, salt, and a tiny bit of yeast and let it sit for up to 18 hours. During that length of time, the gluten forms on its own, rather than beating it into submission.
- The long ferment also lets the yeast work slower and develop lots of flavor. The concept is similar to making bread with a "sponge starter" or the way you'd make a traditional sourdough, except you aren't making just the starter. You're making the entire loaf.
- The abnormally high water to flour ratio makes a soft, sticky dough that releases its water in the oven as steam. The steam circulates back onto the bread and creates that thick, dark, extra-crispy crust that makes artisan bread so appealing.
- You cook it in a big heavy pot. This method, combined with the high water content, perfectly replicates commercial steam-injection brick ovens found in professional bakeries.
Do you ever make your own bread? What's your favorite kind? Do you use a breadmaking machine or do it old-school?