In one sense, bread is simple. Just some yeast, some water, some flour, and a bit of salt.
And frankly, amounts are pretty arbitrary, since almost any ratio will get you a loaf of bread.
And if you are making good old-fashioned bread, then just start with a teaspoon of yeast and add some water, and then add some flour until you get what you want, and knead and let it rise, and bake it. Anything from 400° on up will do.
But if you want great bread, and you want bread like you get at the bakery, well then, more attention is required. Not always a lot of time. Just attention.
Ciabatta is my favorite, and I’ve been working on recipes for this for a long time. Finally I have the one I want. It comes from a website called “thefreshloaf.com”. But the recipe there, they got from somebody else. And I changed things.
A bit about flour: flour carries something called gluten. Bread flour has a higher gluten rating than regular. It has to do with strength and how strong the bonds are in the bubbles. Wheat bread is nice, but NEVER make a loaf of bread out of only wheat. It will be so dense you won’t like it. Dry and uneatable. Add only about 1/4 c or so of wheat flour to a bread recipe.
I don’t find a big difference in bread flour or regular. I used regular here, and that’s what it called for.
A bit about bigas: A biga is called by many names, but is basically a mix of flour, yeast and water that is left very wet and sits for some hours and is added to the final mix to make it taste “deeper”. Taken to the extreme a biga is nothing more than sour dough starter. A twelve-hour biga will add some great taste to your loaf, which is why I added it to this recipe.
So let’s get to it.
For the Biga:
- 1/2 tsp yeast
- 1/3 c water
- 1/2 c flour
For the loaves:
- 500g flour (about 4 cups)
- 475 g water (about 2 cups)
- 2 tsp yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- The night before make your biga. Add all together. It should look like pancake flour. Add more water or flour until it does. Cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warmish area for the night. Figure about 12 hours before you are going to use it.
- The next morning. Get out the big KitchenAid (nothing else will do, you can’t do this by hand or by a light machine). Put in the yeast, the water and the flour. (It’s better to weigh the flour which by weight is about 18 oz. Flour weighs differently depending on humidity and accuracy here is a bit more essential.) Add the biga, and mix on low just until combined. Turn off and let sit for 10 minutes. (This lets the gluten rest)
- Add the salt and turn up the machine to high. Leave for at least 10 minutes and as much as 30. What you are looking for: The dough will pull away from the sides, and climb up the dough hook (don’t use the paddle attachment–it will climb into the works of the machine). It might start to come off the bottom, but after 30 minutes, mine still had not. It “pools” at the bottom as it is spun. The dough should appear quite glossy and like glue. It is VERY sticky, so avoid touching it.
- Oil thoroughly a large bowl (a very large bowl). Also oil a piece of plastic wrap and a rubber spatula. With the spatula, work off the dough from the hook and then push the dough into the bowl with the spatula. Cover and set in a warm place to rise. It must TRIPLE in size. This will take from 1.5-3 hours depending. Just check it every half hour or so.
- Get a large space on the counter, and sprinkle heavily with flour. With an oiled spatula, push out the dough, carefully, trying not to disturb the bubbling wiggly mass. When out, shake a fair amount of flour over the top, and using a scraper or knife (oiled) cut into three pieces, pushing them apart gently so they won’t rise back together. Cover with towels.
- Place a bread or pizza stone in the oven and turn it up to 500° Leave it for an hour.
- At 45 minutes, return to your dough. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment and sprinkle with cornmeal. With your scraper or a metal spatula, (oiled), scoop under a loaf and turn onto your hand, and then onto the cookie sheet. (You are turning the loaf OVER). This helps to even out the bubbles within. Put two loafs on one, and one on the other.
- Shape the loaves as needed, but basically they are oblong. Don’t be too creative here. You don’t want to hand them much. I try to shape them a bit when i first divide them.
- Place one cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or to an internal temp of 205°. Then do the other. (Keep the remaining unbaked loaf covered with a towel until it’s turn)
- Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Once cooled, wrap extras in foil and place in freezer bags and put in the freezer until needed.
- Biga, Do you know what it is? (firenzemom.wordpress.com)
- no knead this … Strecca (Stick Bread) (stresscake.wordpress.com)
- Perfect No Knead Bread (wherefloursbloom.wordpress.com)