Thursday, 29 December 2011
Secret Santa at work is a little different for us.  Being English teachers, there is nothing more appealing than a good book.  Those of you that may have known me from my bookcrossing days (or if you have gifted me books in the past) will know that I always have a lot more fiction books to read than I seem to have the time to.  (The pile is currently in the low 80s...meaning that at the current rate of reading, I'll be done by 2017.)

Anyway, luckily, my secret Santa got me Gino D'Acampo's Italian home baking, obviously being aware of my bread making.  I still haven't worked out who that lovely person was but I'm extremely grateful.  It's an amazing book, filled with lots of gorgeous photos of my favourite place in the world.  

I've been toying with the idea of doing some bread making without the bread maker and the beginning of the book seemed like a good place to start.  So, ciabatta.  

Ciabatta is amazingly simple, in some ways, requiring only five ingredients - flour, yeast, oil, water and salt.  I'm a huge fan of Carr's bread flour.  Filippo Berio seems to be the brand that I buy for olive oil, probably partially for aesthetic reasons.  I prefer Dove's Quick Action Yeast but as I use very little dried active yeast, I'm still using the one I bought for sourdough starter.  The recipe calls for fresh yeast but Allinson suggest that this can be used instead.  Allinson's say to use half the quantity of dried active yeast to the required fresh yeast and then go on to tell you how to make up using 15g of yeast.  The recipe calls for 5g of fresh yeast.  The calculations were interesting.  Trying to work out what less than a gram of sugar should look like, also interesting.  (Sugar is not one of the ingredients but has to be used to activate the yeast)
So, step one is to create the starter.  It's a mixture of flour, yeast and water that stays in a non-drafty place overnight and grows.  

On the right, expanded after only an hour or two.
Below, expansion overnight.  

Next step is to add more flour, more yeast, water and salt.  This is where things went a bit wrong.  It looked like some kind of genetic experiment. It was way too sticky and gloopy.  There was need for far more flour. Once it got to the right consistency though - so satisfying to knead.

Eventually, I got to the 'smooth ball' required in the recipe, and left it for it's next bit of rising.

And rise it did....

The dough sort of flopped out of the bowl, again, much like some strange experiment.  Thankfully though, not sticky as before.

Next, to shape the dough into the slipper shape called for.  This involves folding and folding again.

 Then, more rising time.  

Finally, into the oven to cook.


 This was a successful bake.  I've got enough bread to last the three of us a month but it's ohsotasty.  It's light and airy and just scrummy.  I'm thinking the additional flour has probably made this all a lot bigger than intended but I can live with that.  I love the little air pockets - something which is lacking with the bread machine.

I'm a convert.  The time taken wasn't so bad all in all and it wasn't that hard.

So, secret Santa, if you're reading, thank you very much.  

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