About Me

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

No-knead Ciabatta

I'm not sure how I ended up on this Ciabatta recipe on this website, but the video made it seem like this was the easiest way one could ever make bread. It did not use any whole grain flour at all, but I wasn't willing to believe the claims of a good ciabatta bread that was so easy to make. So I had to try it. Also, I thought it would be a good bread to share with colleagues at work.

This recipe involves the minimum of ingredients for bread: flour (4 cups bread flour), only a tiny amount of yeast (¼ tsp, I've never made bread with such little yeast before), salt (1½ tsp) and water (2 cups). The trick is in letting the dough ferment and rise for a whole 18 hours at room temperature. So it does take a little planning and implementing before the bread is ready to eat.

The ingredients for Ciabatta

All the ingredients put together and mixed well

After 18 hours of rising, lots of bubbles of gas have developed

Dough out on a piece of saran wrap on a wet counter

I wasn't going to make this bread often (unless I can find a whole grain recipe with similar results... unlikely), so this was my (only) chance to do some experiments. I decided to split the dough and add some garlic infused olive oil and some cheese to smaller pieces of dough. Peter Reinhart gives some variations to the basic Ciabatta recipe in his 'The Bread Baker's Apprentice' book.

In the picture below, the piece farthest away and to the left had the garlic infused oil. I patted down the dough, added the oil and folded the dough over itself several times in different directions trying to enclose the oil in but it kept seeping out. The piece farthest away to the right had a shredded cheese filling (a mix of Cheddar, Parmesan and Pepper Jack). The small piece in the center has a mix of oil and cheese. The piece closest is the basic dough, roughly rounded. The shape is usually not important.

Different experiments in progress.

As expected, the dough spread horizontally, and unfortunately, the pieces blended into one another. The right way to handle multiple pieces of dough, or to get nicely shaped bread, is to use a proofing cloth as shown in this picture to control the shape of the dough as it rises. I don't own a couche, I could have used parchment paper but I was lazy. Oh well.
I should mention here my other big mistake; not greasing the baking sheet with enough olive oil and dusting with enough cornmeal. I think I used less flour on the dough as well.

After proofing for a little over two hours (pan rotated compared to the picture above)

This bread bakes in a 425° F for 35 minutes. It helps to have moisture in the oven, so I used PR's steaming technique; a cup of water poured in a preheated pan just before putting the dough in. As the water evaporates, it creates steam in the oven. This is a weak attempt to create conditions in a commercial baker's oven, but it helps for doughs that are not enriched (no dairy, sweetener or fats), especially free-form doughs.

Out of the 425° F after 35 minutes

Releasing the bread from the baking sheet was quite a task
with lots of scraping, coaxing and some anxious moments

The piece with oil and cheese split right open but was yummy

Cross section of one of the smaller pieces with some nice holes

Some very good sized holes in the big piece of basic dough

I was pleasantly surprised how well the crumb turned out. I should have taken a few more pictures of the crumb.The crust was thin and crackly. If consuming white flour bread fit my eating philosophy, I would be baking this bread all the time. There is a recipe in the King Arthur baking book I have, also described here, that uses part whole wheat flour (Thank you cellarguy for pointing me to it). I will be trying that recipe sometime soon.

Date: Feb 27, 2011
Recipe: No-knead Ciabatta from this website

Flours: Bread flour
Bread specific ingredients: None
Sweetener used: None
Liquid: Water

Long ferment: 18 hours at room temperature
Proofing time: A little over two hours
Comments:Very easy to put together, truly no knead, great crust and crumb. I should remember to grease the baking sheet liberally and use plenty of cornmeal / flour on it before placing the dough. If making multiple pieces I need to use a parchment paper couche to help the pieces rise a little more vertically.



  1. Some nice crumb and evident ovenspring in that last picture. Was that the loaf that didn't have anything extra folded in?

    It wasn't clear from your description when & where you divided the dough. From the pictures, I'd guess that it was after moving it with the plastic wrap, after it had reached the baking sheet.

    I think that Chef John's technique is all about being gentle with the dough during shaping. That is why he does all his folds in the bowl, and moves the dough with the plastic wrap. Any further cuts and folds is going to have a detrimental effect on the gluten cloak and the capturing of the yeast's gas.

    Lahey does an early fold on the counter, but he is working with slightly less dough (he uses 3 cups of flour, for instance).

    Did you happen to measure the ingredients by weight as you made this? If you want to have a smaller loaf, and one that is easier to handle than Chef John's, maybe the answer is to use less dough and for each experimental additional ingredient, let them rise in separate containers where you will do the folds. I'm not sure what Chef John's baker percentages are, but Lahey's are

    100% flour
    87.5% water
    0.25% yeast
    2% salt

    ... so you can easily adjust this for the size of bread you require.

    I'm afraid you will have to make this again at least once more! Your poor co-workers!

  2. Firstly, thanks for commenting. This is the first comment for my blog. :)
    Yes, the last picture with the big holes is the one with no additions and minimum handling.
    I divided (cut with scissors) the dough after I moved it to the plastic wrap and before moving it to the baking sheet. I get it now, about why Chef John moves it so delicately. Will look up Lahey's method too.
    I weighed the flour. I computed the weight for 4 C a some bread flour recipe in Reinhart's BBA book. I forget the exact number though. PR's method in BBA adds the extra stuff during the stretch and fold, but he doesn't do the long ferment (I haven't read his method all the way). I agree that letting them rise in separate containers would be helpful.
    Thanks for Lahey's baker's percentages, that will make it much more flexible to make smaller batches. I do want to try JMonkey's method for the 50-50 whole wheat recipe first :)
    This is such an easy bread to make, I think I can make it to share alongside my weekly bread (I made Laurel Robertson's Golden Date Bread same time as this Ciabatta, but haven't had time to blog about it)

  3. Check out Mebake's Ciabatta recently posted on 'The Fresh Loaf' blogs. He uses one of Hamelman's recipe - the one with the biga preferment of 12-16 hrs.

    The overall hydration of that recipe is only 73% but he still achieves some very nice holey crumb, and I think it is due to the handling of it. Hamelman's recipe calls for 2 folds.

    Hamelman's description of the fragility of the loaf when moving it to the oven is long and involved, and I would be certain to foul it up: Chef John's technique with the plastic wrap is far easier.

  4. I have made no-knead bread with whole wheat flour, using the Lahey recipe mentioned above, and gotten great results. (you can find the recipe in the nytimes, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/081mrex.html)
    i just replace the flour in the recipe with w/w and it works perfectly well. actually, my favorite is to use 2.5 cups whole wheat and 1/2 cup rye flour to replace the all-purpose flour. i also increase the salt to about 2 tsp. the first time i made this bread according to the recipe and found the flavor a little flat, but with these modifications i thought it was delicious.
    the other major difference with the lahey recipe is that you bake the bread in a pre-heated covered casserole (sometimes called a dutch oven). this replaces steaming and gives a really good crust.
    happy baking :)

  5. Thank you for the comment, the link and the suggestions. I definitely want to try a whole grain version. I don't own a covered casserole / Dutch oven, but I can try it with a baking sheet and some water spraying in the first few minutes.