January 18, 2010

Hearty Minestrone + Crusty Ciabatta Rolls on MLK day (Part 1)

What is a true B(i)G cook to do early in the morning after their hungry cat wakes them up with delicate (but quite desperate) meows and paw patting? While listening to Scratcho's crunching and munching in the kitchen (amidst a few satisfied purrs), I glanced over the biga, hastily prepared by me on Friday night with the grand ambitions of using it for a Saturday ciabatta.

With Saturday and Sunday now a distant memory, I let out a big sigh and nerviously lifted the plastic wrap from the bowl that was still sitting on the counter. To my big surprise, it appeared that time has stopped in yeast-water-and-flour land. I could tell that my first ever biga was still alive after more than 48 hours of sitting unattended. Luckily, the cold San Francisco weather, was my unsuspected ally. This meant one thing - Ciabatta time!!!

Step 1: Mix, knead and knead some more

Place biga and dough ingredients in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed until roughly combined and shaggy dough forms, about 1 minute; scrape down sides of bowl as necessary. Continue mixing on medium-low speed until dough becomes uniform mass that collects on paddle and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 6 minutes. Change to dough hook and knead bread on medium speed until smooth and shiny (dough will be very sticky), about 10 minutes.

Step 2: Let it Rise...and Rise Some More

Transfer dough to large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Spray rubber spatula or bowl scraper with nonstick cooking spray; fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough six more times (total of eight turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.

Repeat folding, replace plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes longer. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 450 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking.

Step 3: Cut and shape that sticky mess! (...and let it rise again!!!)

Cut two 12- by 6-inch pieces of parchment paper and liberally dust with flour. Transfer dough to liberally floured counter, being careful not to deflate completely. Following photos 6 through 9 above, liberally flour top of dough and divide in half. Turn 1 piece of dough so cut side is facing up and dust with flour. With well-floured hands, press dough into rough 12- by 6-inch shape. Fold shorter sides of dough toward center, overlapping them like business letter to form 7- by 4-inch loaf. Repeat with second dough piece. Gently transfer each loaf seam-side down to parchment sheets, dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let loaves sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (surfaces of loaves will develop small bubbles).

Step 4: Bake those babies!

Slide parchment with loaves onto inverted, rimmed baking sheet or pizza peel. Using floured fingertips, evenly poke entire surface of each loaf to form 10- by 6-inch rectangle; spray loaves lightly with water. Carefully slide parchment with loaves onto baking stone using jerking motion. Bake, spraying loaves with water twice more during first 5 minutes of baking time, until crust is deep golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of loaves registers 210 degrees, 22 to 27 minutes.

Step 5: Let 'em cool

Transfer to wire rack, discard parchment, and cool loaves to room temperature, before slicing and serving.

Step 6: Dig in

I served the ciabatta rolls with blue stilton cheese (a Cropwell Bishop Creamery Stilton quarter ring from Costco) and thinly sliced lukanka - yum!


  1. uhaaaaa, amazing!!! If I was closer to SF I will be driving your way right now to beg for a cibatta roll.

  2. can we come over and get some ? ;)

  3. Yes - only 2 rolls left but we have plenty of Minestrone

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