Running from the Law: Adventures in Bread-Making - Part 1

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adventures in Bread-Making - Part 1

I have been craving fresh bread lately in a major way. Like crack-addiction crazy major way. So I figured it was finally time to put that bread-making class that Alice and I took at Kitchen Conservatory to use.

I pulled out that packet of bread-making info and recipes (like 30 pages of stuff!) that we got from Josh and Price of Companion Bakery. Of the three bread recipes they gave us, I decided to attempt to make ciabatta bread. Mmmm. Doesn't that just sound amazing (and hard)? Well, it was. Both amazing and hard.

But not as hard as I thought it would be! Yay! Mostly because even though I didn't follow the directions exactly (because I screwed up*) and yet it still turned out really delicious! Yes, it probably could have been better (and prettier), but it reaffirmed my faith in bread and made me realize that I just might be able to do this.

* When I cook I have a really hard time following precise directions. I just can't do it! I always screw something up. Sometimes I do it on purpose (because I think I can modify the recipes and "improve" them, but when "baking" that only screws it up worse), but mostly I just get overwhelmed and distracted. When I cook, I'm usually making about 17 things at the same time, and watching TV, and talking to Ryan, and stepping on/over/around the dog, and taking pictures, etc. So it's easy to miss something here and there.

Anyway. Back to the bread. Wednesday night (after having a delish lunch at Companion that day), I decided to try making the ciabatta. However, as you know with artisan bread-making, this is not a quick process. It takes at least 2 days to make this bread, so it's like internet shopping...delayed gratification. If you're one of those instant gratification people (like me), this is hard. Being patient sucks.
Wednesday night I made the ciabatta sponge. The sponge consisted of flour, water and yeast. That's it. 

I used King Arthur Flour because I love them.  I love their recipes.  I love their blog.  And I love that they're on Twitter and they're super helpful with answering questions about bread and cooking. 
I used SAF bread machine yeast (because Josh said so and I'll do whatever he says).
Measure it all VERY PRECISELY. I had to buy a scale to make absolute sure I was measuring the ingredients right (which I wasn't, so its a good thing I did) (I'll explain measuring in Part 2).

Mix it all together.
And then put it in a plastic bowl/bucket and let it ferment/rest for 12-18 hour somewhere cool. Did you hear that? Somewhere cool? Yeah...I screwed that up. I just left it on the dining room table. Not cool. Not refrigerated. I didn't realize this until the next day when I re-read the recipe and flipped out.  I thought for shore that I messed the whole thing up. But I didn't throw it out.  I just held my breath and went for it.  If it failed, I learned my lesson.  If it worked, I would thank the bread gods.
Here's the sponge.
The next day, I took the sponge and added it to more flour (unbleached wheat and whole wheat King Arthur Flour), more water, more yeast and some salt to make the ciabatta dough. 
Mix it again and you've got a dough. 
Next comes the hard part...being patient.  And waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting.
After you mix, let it rest for 45 minutes.  This is the first fermentation.
Then you stretch and fold it.  About 3 stretches/fold.
And fold.
This shit is sticky!
Still sticky.
Real sticky.
And three.
(Please excuse my sweaty post-5 mile run work-out worn-out look.)

Ta da! 
One stretch/fold/rest period down...two more to go.
That's correct. 
After you mix, there's a 45 minute rest, followed by stretch/fold. 
Then 45 minute rest, stretch/fold. 
Then 45 minute rest, stretch/fold again! 
I promise, I'm not making this up to mess with you or to get you to be really proud of really is this hard!
Finally, you take it out of the bowl, shape it into a round circle and divide it in two. 
(In between all that resting and stretching, I showered and put on my PJs.)

Place each loaf on a piece of parchment paper.
Then let it rest for another 45 minutes!! This is the final proof.
See what I mean about being PATIENT! This takes for-ever!
By now it's practically 3:00 in the morning (geez!) and it still has to bake.  Seriously, remember to give yourself LOTS of time to make bread.  You need to devote a whole day to nothing but bread-making.  You can do laundry and dishes and watch TV and all kinds of stuff in between the rest periods, but you can't leave the house and you can't miss your stretch/folds.  Just plan accordingly, ok.  Consider yourself warned.

Anyway, now you stick the bread into the pre-heated (450 degree) oven on a pizza stone.  Place an empty cookie sheet on the rack below the pizza stone.  Right before you put the bread in the oven, give it a couple slash marks on top.  And then put the dough directly on the stone.  Put a handful of ice cubes on the cookie sheet and close the oven door immediately.  This moisture is super important in forming a good crust.

Ooops.  I forgot to make my slash marks. 
I was too busy worrying about the ice cubes and the oven temp and setting the timer. 
See, I told you I can't follow directions!
Put it in the oven.
About half an hour later, here's what you get.
Even without slash marks, you'll be convinced you died and went to bread heaven. 
I remembered to thank those bread gods for not screwing up my sponge. 
(Or maybe I did, but I couldn't taste the difference.) 
The recipe made a LOT of bread.
Plenty to share with your friends and family.
If I keep making this bread, I'm sure to gain a LOT of new friends!

Thanks again to Josh and Price at Companion Bakery for the recipe and ALL the great tips and advice.  I couldn't have done this without taking your class.  Let me know when you've got a position open for a baker!  I think I'm ready.


  1. Those are gorgeous, gorgeous breads. Yummmm.

    And I just thought I would let you know that at first glance, I thought this said "Adventures in BABY Making- Part 1". Haha! A different kind of bun in the oven...

  2. You remember to take pictures when you cook. You are awesome. I totally fail at that. Also, how stinking cute are you? You're totally on a step stool or something in the stretch and fold pictures!!! Ha! I love it. I think King Arthur flour should totally make you their new spokesperson. Your bread looks AMAZING. Can't wait to see Adventures in Sourdough.

    Note to self: Go home and take pictures of sourdough starter.

  3. I love the King Arthur blog too! And your bread makiing looks tiresome, but yummy!

  4. You put more effort into your posts than I do. Kudos!

  5. Love your bread making tutorial :) I've recently started making our own breads too...nothing fancy like this though! You have way more patience than me...I can barely wait the hour for the rise and the hour for the 2nd rise much less 2 days! But they are beautiful and look worth it!

  6. Sara, those are the MOST awesome folding pics I've ever seen. And yes, the dough's definitely sticky - but all that folding is supposed to "unstick" it - which you can see that it did, miraculously. Thanks for staying up till 3 a.m. to make ciabatta - love your style. And the bread looks awesome, though I was dying to see a picture of the inside - big holes? And thanks so much for your kind comments. Remember, we're here for you if you ever find yourself in a TRULY sticky situation! :) PJ Hamel, King Arthur Flour baker/blogger

  7. My inability to stick exactly to a recipe is what precludes me from baking. Also, my inability to show moderation when it comes to consuming carbs. . .

    Your bread looks super yummy!

  8. OMG, loved this post! I was so looking forward to it! You are so cute, umm, I wish I looked as cute as you do when I'm cooking! I *may* have to try this... if I ever get brave enough. I bet your house smelled heavenly after all that bread-making!

  9. Totally unrelated to bread, but I just realized I "know" your husband! I read your luau post and recognized his brother, Justin. I think he was a year behind me in grade school. Small world.

  10. Sara, you are a rock star! What a pleasure it was for all of us at the bakery to follow your adventures. If the lawyering gig doesn't work out, please give us a call.

    Josh (Companion)

  11. You're so cute standing on a chair or something. I bet the whole house smelled awesome too!!