I have decided that I really enjoy baking bread. I want to open a bakery someday, and I think that bread will definitely be a major part of it. I just find it really fascinating, and the dough is so much fun to work with. I wish that I had the time to make it more often because I am a bread junkie. I get so excited at restaurants when they give you a basket of bread before your meal, especially if it’s with the dipping oil at an Italian reason. To be honest, sometimes I want to go to Italian restaurants JUST for the bread.
My boyfriend, Kevin, and I love to make flatbread pizza for dinner. We just buy a loaf of Ciabatta bread, slice it in half, and make a pizza out of it. It’s super simple, but we always have a blast making it. It is a much better alternative to frozen pizza, and I am pretty sure that it came about because his mom always makes it. We decided to have flatbread pizza this weekend, and Kevin asked if it was too simple for me to write a blog entry about it. That’s when I had the brilliant idea to make the bread myself! The last couple of times we have had this, we haven’t even been able to find Ciabatta bread at HEB so baking it seemed like a good alternative to driving all over San Antonio on a quest for Ciabatta bread/using some poor substitute from HEB.
The recipe that I used requires the use of a sponge. I have never made bread like this before so I did a bit of research on the sponge method of bread baking. It turns out that a sponge is just a starter made from flour, yeast, and water about a day before you make the bread. The purpose of it is to add flavour and texture to the bread, and it basically gives your dough an extra rise. The sponge gets all bubbly and wonderfully aromatic overnight, and you just mix it in with the rest of your ingredients for the bread dough. It only takes about ten minutes to make so there really isn’t anything more difficult about a bread that requires the use of a sponge. You just have to remember to make it a day ahead of time.
The bread turned out perfectly, and our pizza was FANTASTIC! I am now sitting at my computer enjoying a lovely Sunday morning with a buttered piece of toast made from the Ciabatta bread. I feel inspired to make more bread now! Next on my list: Focaccia bread.
Homemade Ciabatta Bread
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp warm water (110 degrees F)
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup bread flour
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp warm milk (110 degrees F)
2/3 cup warm water
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1. To Make Sponge: In a small bowl, stir together yeast and 2 Tbsp water and let stand 5 minutes or until creamy. In a bowl, stir together yeast mixture, 1/3 cup of the water, and 1 cup of the bread flour. Stir 4 minutes, then cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day. It will be all bubbly and sticky after sitting.
2. To Make Bread: In a small bowl, stir together yeast and milk and let stand 5 minutes or until creamy. In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook, blend together milk mixture, sponge, water, oil, and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened; add salt and mix until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can do all of the mixing with a wooden spoon and knead the dough with your hands; it’ll just take longer.
3. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough will be sticky and full of air bubbles.) Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and cut in half. Transfer each half to a parchment sheet and form into an irregular oval about 9 inches long. Dimple loaves with floured fingers and dust tops with flour. Cover loaves with a dampened kitchen towel. Let loaves rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
5. Transfer 1 loaf on its parchment to a rimless baking sheet with the long side of the loaf parallel to far edge of baking sheet. Line up far edge of baking sheet with far edge of stone or tiles and tilt baking sheet to slide loaf with parchment onto back half of stone or tiles. Transfer remaining loaf to front half of stone in a similar manner. I could only fit one loaf on the baking stone at a time so I just baked them separately. Bake ciabatta loaves 20 minutes, or until pale golden. Cool loaves on a wire rack.
6. If you want to make flatbread pizza out of one of your loaves of bread, just slice it in half and put any ingredients you want on it. I found this spicy pepperoni pizza sauce that was awesome, and it made the entire pizza taste like a giant pepperoni. Bake at 375 degrees F until the cheese melts. We never really pay attention to how long it takes so just keep an eye on it. I think it ended up being 15 minutes or so.