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Ciabatta


I recently tried to make focaccia bread.  It was delicious so I decided to try to make other sandwich breads too, like ciabatta.  I looked at the recipe for ciabatta and saw that you needed something called a “biga” that you had to prepare a day in advanced.  “Nope, not for me.  Too advanced,” my brain said.  Then Adventurous Holly (who made her appearance after sampling the skittles vodka) impulsively decided to start the biga.  I’m now going to take this moment and thank Adventurous Holly.  This ciabatta was delicious and not as difficult as I thought it would be.  So, thanks, Adventurous Holly.  The lesson I learned is one you can too:  Making ciabatta is like making any other bread, but you start it much earlier than normal.

There are many breads that require starters like the biga for ciabatta.  Sourdough is probably the most well known.  In my searchings about biga, I found that a biga is used to make the bread chewier and add some flavor as well.

Making a biga is really simple.  It only sounds intimidating because it’s a weird word and requires planning.  It’s easy to plan though.  If you have a day off, start the biga the night before.  The biga takes 5 minutes to set up at the most so it isn’t a big deal.  I promise it’s fine.  The bread is so delicious, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort

This bread had the perfect light fluffy interior and a perfect crunchy outside.  I had never had homemade ciabatta and it’s infinitely better than store bought. I think the main difference is the crust.  This crust has a great texture and has that crunching sound you want to hear when you bite into ciabatta.  Perfection in bread.

Recipe: (original here, but I found this to be confusing and I hope I can clarify things here)

Ingredients:

Printable Version

Biga:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup water

1/4 tsp yeast

Dough:

1/4 cup water (plus extra if dough is dry)

2 tbsp olive oil

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp nonfat dry milk

1 tsp yeast

Active time: 25 minutes

Inactive time: 20 hours

Servings: 12 servings

Cooking Instructions:

Start the biga about 12-15 hours before you want to begin making the bread.  In a bread machine or an electric mixer combine the ingredients for the biga.  Mix until fully combined (about 5 minutes).  If using a bread machine, set to dough and then stop once combined.  Allow to rest for 12-15 hours.  It will rise a bit and then start to sink.  This is when you want to use the biga.  The biga will big liquidy and bubbly.

To start the dough, combine the biga and the other dough ingredients into the bread machine pan or the electric mixer bowl.  If using a bread machine, set to dough cycle and start.  If using an electric mixer, use a dough hook and a low setting to mix for 5-8 minutes and then let rise for 1 hour.  The dough should be sticky and tacky.  It should not be liquid, but it should be close.  Add water or flour as necessary.  Whenever you handle the dough, wet your hands with water or oil to prevent it from sticking to you.  Half way through the rising time turn the dough over in the pan or bowl.  This will be tricky because it’s so sticky, but just do your best.

Cover a cutting board in plastic wrap and cover the plastic wrap with oil.  Cover two cookie sheets with oil (I only had one and all my bread baked into each other.  Bad call, use two).  Remove the bread from the bread machine or mixing bowl after the rising cycle is complete or it has risen for 1 hour and place on the cutting board.  Divide the dough into 6 equal parts for large sandwich rounds or 12 for smaller sandwich rounds.  Place half on one cookie sheet and the other half on the other cookie sheet.  Shape the dough by pushing and pulling the edges of the dough until it is shaped how you want.  It won’t be perfect, so don’t try.

Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.  Uncover and (with wet fingers) poke holes gently into the dough.  This will give it a more rustic look.  Recover with freshly oiled plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from the baking sheet and turn off the oven.  Place the bread back in the oven and crack the oven open while it cools.  Allowing the bread to bake this way will create a crunchier crust (maybe take one out to munch on while the rest crisp up).  Remove from oven and enjoy.  And don’t forget to go for second helpings!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough


Delicious whole wheat pizza

I love pizza.  I think that pretty much everyone loves pizza.  The major problem with pizza is that it’s too delicious and has about a zillion calories.  I tried to create a pizza dough that you can use with any toppings that’s healthier than a frozen pizza or take out but just as yummy.   At first, I was just using regular flour, but I thought today that I’d try to make it a little healthier by making it whole wheat.  It turned out really well!  It didn’t taste different from the white crust and it’s healthier.

Delicious whole wheat pizza

Do you know why whole wheat items are healthier for you than white items?  This is a little bit of biology so if you are scared of science, you can just skip this paragraph and get right to the recipe.  If you want to know, read on.  While they can have the same amount of calories, whole wheat items have a lower glycemic index (GI) than white.  This means that  it takes longer to break down the carbohydrates and release glucose (sugar) into the blood stream.  Then your pancreas doesn’t have to work as hard to make insulin to break down that glucose so you are less likely to get diabetes later.  Basically whole wheat = less diabetes.  Hooray!

Enjoy this pizza, and don’t be worried about going in for second helpings.

Special tips are in italics.  Nutrition facts are at the bottom.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough:

1-1/3 cup lukewarm water (warm to touch, but not too hot)

1/4 cup oil (I used olive oil)

1-3/4 cups all purpose flour

1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour (if you don’t have this, you can use all purpose flour)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tsp salt

3 tsp sugar

3 tsp active dry yeast

Prep time: 30 minutes

Inactive time: 1.5 hours

Servings: Makes 4-12″ pizzas.  1 serving = 1/2 pizza

If you have a bread machine, put all the ingredients in the pan.  Most suggest doing it wet first then dry and yeast last.  You can just dump them in the pan in the order that I listed them above and that should work.  If you don’t have a bread machine then here’s what Bobby Flay has to say about the matter in his pizza dough recipe on foodnetwork.com (this is the recipe I started with).  Or you could just do what my bread machine does: slow knead for 10 minutes,  knead quickly for 20 minutes,  let rise for 1 hour in a warm area.

After your dough has risen remove it from the pan or bowl and knock it back (punch it a little).  Now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 450°F.  Divide the dough into 4 equal parts.  Roll or pat each part into a ball.  I find that patting by holding it in one hand and hitting it with the other it works better than rolling it.  Maybe I’m a bad ball roller, but patting it works for me.  If your dough is a little dry at this point, moisten your hands with a little water and then work with the dough.  Next, I use a rolling pin and try my hardest to flatten it into a circle.  I always seem to mess this up.  My pizzas are lopsided.  As long as the dough is an even thickness, then it should be fine.  Roll up the ends a little to make a crust if you want.  At this point I recommend putting the extra pizza dough in the freezer.  I separate the crusts with some wax paper so they don’t stick and then put them in a ziplock bag.

Now top the pizza with sauce, cheese, and whatever goodies you want.  If you want part of it to be veggie and part of it to be meat, you can do that since you’re making it yourself!  So convenient, isn’t it?  And you know that no one is going to mess it up.  I did a red sauce I bought from Fresh & Easy, mozzarella cheese, sliced crimini mushrooms, and turkey on half.  If you use mushrooms, you will end up with water on your pizza since the mushrooms dry out and leak a little.  Don’t worry, you can just dab it off.   Sprinkle some more corn meal on a pizza stone or a baking sheet and place your pizza on the stone/sheet.  Place in the oven for 15 minutes.  Let the pizza cool before you cut it.  Seriously.  Pizza burns hurt.

Now you can enjoy your awesome creation.

Pizza slice

Nutrition Facts

8 Servings (1 serving = ½ pizza, crust only)

Amount Per Serving:

Calories  –  282

Total Fat  –  8 g

          Saturated Fat  –  1 g

Cholesterol  –  0 mg

Sodium  –  585 mg

Potassium  –  51 mg

Total Carbohydrate  –  47 g

          Dietary Fiber  –  4.5 g

          Sugars  –  0.6 g

Protein  –  7.4 g

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