Focaccia and Ciabatta

Focaccia and Ciabatta

Posted on 17. Mar, 2011 by in Bread and conversation, International bread adventures

Received an urgent request from a reader living in France for great ciabatta and focaccia recipes.  It is hard to give a recipe because flour is all different and dough texture is everything.  So, just reading a recipe you kind of have to feel your way.  I lie, texture is not everything.  With these two kinds of Italian bread, shaping is everything.  So, persevere.

My guide, as always, is Carol Field's The Italian Baker.  So, with thanks to her and without further ado.

Ciabatta

The number one thing to realise with ciabatta is that the dough is very very wet.  You cannot succumb to temptation and add more flour.  If you do you will have a great loaf of bread but it will not be ciabatta.  Ciabatta loaves are very flat indeed and, when cut open, have great big air holes and a lovely wispy crumb.  The following recipe makes four loaves.

3 grams dry yeast or 6 grams fresh yeast
230 mls warm water
1 big spoon of olive oil
500 grams of a biga that is at least 12 hours old*
500 grams of white 00 flour
15 grams of salt

Proof the yeast in the water and then add the oil and the biga and mix this until the water is white and the biga is as dissolved as it is going to get.

Add the flour and the salt and knead for a good 10 minutes.

Let the dough rest until it has doubled:  1-2 hrs.  When it is done it will be full of air holes, and very elastic and sticky.

Turn the dough out onto the counter (avoid flouring) and cut into four pieces.  Flour four pieces of greaseproof paper.  Roll each piece into a sausage as best you can and the stretch the sausage out into a rectangle - as large as you want your loaf.  Place the rectangles on the floured greaseproof papers and dimple them vigerously with your fingertips so that they don't rise too much.  Cover wtih damp towels and let rest for 1.5-2 hrs until they are puffy but not doubled.  If you let them rise too much, the crumb will come away from the crust during the baking period.  To that end, after and hour turn the oven on to 230 degrees C.

If you have a baking stone, great.  Put it in and then pull it out, sprinkle cornmeal all over it and carefully invert the loaves onto the stone.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  If you don't have a stone, heat up a baking tray and sprinkle it with corn meal before placing the loaves on it.  In both cases, spray the loaves with water before you put them in the oven.

* to make a biga:

3 grams dry yeast (6 grams fresh)
250 mls warm water
330 g 00 flour

Proof the yeast and then knead until a slightly sticky dough is formed.  No requirement to knead thoroughly.  Cover well and let sit for 12 hours until you use it.  This makes 580 grams.  Put the left over in an airtight container and pop it in the fridge.  Use it within a few days to any loaf of bread to add flavour and character.

Focaccia

9 g dry yeast (18 g fresh)
575 ml warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 kg 00 flour
15 grams salt

Proof the yeast in a bit of the water and then add the rest of the water and the oil and blend well.  Knead the dough for a good ten minutes.  It should be velvety and elastic.

Let the dough rest for 1-2 hours until it has doubled.

Tip the dough out onto the (unfloured) counter and divide into two or three pieces depending on how big you want the focacce.  Oil your containers well - round, square, or rectangular, shallow baking trays that are about 1.5-2 inches (5 cim) deep.  Roll out our dough to fit the containers and then place them in the containers and cover with damp towels for 30 minutes.

Dimple the dough  and let rise for 2 hours.  After 90 minutes, pre heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Top with olive oil and salt or fresh sage or tomatoes or whatever you want.  Only 2-3 tablespoons of oil per focacce.

Place the baking trays with the bread in them on to a hot stone or hot baking tray (you have heated in the oven) and bake for 20-25 minutes.  When they are done, immediately invert them onto cooling racks so they don't get mushy.  Eat them at room temperature the same day you bake.  They don't keep.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

5 Responses to “Focaccia and Ciabatta”

  1. Alessio

    22. Nov, 2011

    Hi!!! I'm complimenting for the nice site, but, being Italian, allow me some (little) criticism...

    Italy, as you say somewhere, is not even a country... Just a bunch of noisy silly people happening to share a peninsula... :D
    For there are 20 regions, there are 20 (or more!) ways to make every baked product!

    My little complain is for FOCACCIA (or CIACCIA as we Tuscans call it).

    Unfortunately, almost nobody outside Italy understand the very soul of FOCACCIA, and that soul is called EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL :)

    And a lot of it!!!

    But the biggest difference is the amount of WATER.

    Try to bake with a ratio close to 1:1
    (eg. 1kg flour, 900 ml COLD water, 5 tbsp XV Olive oil)

    Never add flour later! When kneading on a surface, OIL the surface abbundantly.

    FInally, presentation-wise, the ideal FOCACCIA should be not more than 1 inch high (but even less is better).

    I have never written books, but believe me, try this once and you'll thank me!!! :D

    Cheers!

    Alessio

  2. virtuousbread

    22. Nov, 2011

    Hey! thank you for this comment - I love comments and I agree that olive oil is the key! I love small, flat and OILY focaccia personally and I love it when the top is a little crispy and you really get sticky fingers eating it. I will try the oil technique and report back to you! Kind regards, Jane

  3. virtuousbread

    24. Nov, 2011

    I love this comment! I will try this very soon and report back. Jane

  4. Iva

    20. Jul, 2015

    Hi! First of all, thank you so much for your website! I have accidentally found it and then almost started dancing of joy when finding all this useful information about flours, list of mills, techniques and recipes :)
    Last week I made ciabatta for the first time in my life, albeit with the Allinson strong flour instead of Italian one, also following Carol Field's recipe. Since I did not have time for the hand kneading the dough from start I put the mixture into bread machine and it turned out just fine. Of course, I did the folding by hand and in the process discovered that, like Alessio said above, the trick was in oiled surface and hands.
    Also, I left the dough in the fridge to rise overnight since I wanted freshly baked ciabatta rolls for the early afternoon barbecue. I was a bit sceptical whether it would rise but it did. I think it also made the structure stronger and more bubbly, and it was easier to fold and shape before the final proving.
    Could you please give me some advice about freezing bread doughs? I work full time so I cannot be home for enough time during the day to properly make bread.
    Many thanks again for your wonderful website, I look forward to learning from it :)

  5. virtuousbread

    28. Jul, 2015

    Dear Iva

    I am so pleased you had a great result. I use the fridge to "retard" the rising process all the time. The difference is that when you rise something in the fridge the end result is a little tougher than if it rises outside the fridge. And, of course, as you say, when dough is cold it is a lot easier to manage. When it comes to ciabatta - yay! - I like chewy bread. When it comes to something like brioche, well, ideally you want a nice, soft brioche so it's not the best idea but it's not a train wreck.

    I freeze dough and I also freeze bread. If you are making a white bread - or a simple bread (no fats, not a lot of rye or other less glutenous flour) what I do is either freeze the dough once you have done the first knead and then you have to take it out of the freezer and leave it more or less over night to get it to defrost and rise. OR I shape the dough, put it in a tin or on a tray and freeze it - again you have to leave it more or less over night to get it to defrost and rise OR I bake it partially (like 20 mins) just so it gets a structure and then I let it cool completely, wrap it and freeze it. You can then take it out and - if it is something small you can put it from frozen in the oven or let it defrost and then put it in the oven to "bake off". High fat content dough does not do well when frozen as the consistency of the fat changes and does not seem to change back so well. Butter is especially tricky. I don't know if you have ever tried to refrigerate focaccia? It's terrible. Best to eat it all rather than put it in the fridge. It loses any lightness.

    I hope that is helpful? Thanks again for writing in so kindly!

Leave a Reply