This is my first stab at ciabatta, using the recipe in Richard Bertinet’s Dough.
Despite being somewhat misshapen, they turned out very tasty. But it was touch-and-go for a while there.
Bertinet’s technique here involves making a “ferment” a day earlier – basically some dough that sits around giving the yeast a chance to do its thing. It’s kinda like a junior leaven. Except the batch I made with the quantities in the recipe resulted in a pretty dry ferment (350g flour, 180g water, 1/2 t fresh yeast), which looked nothing like the nice bubbly affair picture in the book. So when it came to making the second dough (450g strong white or ’00’ flour – I did a mix; 10g yeast, 340g water, 50g olive oil, 15 salt), and combining them, it was hard going. The dry ferment and wet dough mix just refused to integrate. A lot of messy manipulation ensued.
Next time, I might experiment by just using my leaven instead of Bertinet’s ferment. It’ll make the dough even moister, but that’s good for ciabatta as I understand it from reading Dan Stevens’ recipe in the River Cottage Handbook 3: Bread.