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Ciabatta – Direct Method

Adapted from the Italian.

Ingredients

2 1/4 Tsp. Yeast – Active Dry or 9/10 small Cake Yeast (15 g)
1/4 Cup Water – Warm (60 ml)
3 3/4 Cups Flour – unbleached all purpose (500 g)
1/2 Tsp. Malt (2.5 g) – [See Note Below]
1 1/2 Tsp. Salt (7.5 g)
11/4 Cups + 1 Tbl. Water (315 ml)
Note: If liquid malt is used, dissolve it in the 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of water, before it is added to the dissolved yeast. If powdered malt is used, add it with the flour.

Procedure

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup water and allow it to stand for approximately 5-10 minutes. Combine the flour (3 3/4 cups), malt (1/2 teaspoon), and salt (1 1/2 teaspoons).  Place the flour mixture on the work surface (or in a large bowl), and make a well in the center.  Gradually add the dissolved yeast, and additional water (1 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons), mixing well. Continue to mix until the dough begins to hold together.  Knead the dough to a soft consistency.  Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.  The dough will feel sticky.

Place the dough in a lightly floured bowl, cover it with a cotton towel, and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled, about 30 – 40  minutes.

Turn the risen dough onto a flour dusted work surface. Divide it into two portions. Pat each portion into a rectangle approximately 4 by 8 inches long and dust each portion with flour. Dust a piece of canvas (untreated, 100% cotton) or a proofing board (lumber core plywood) with flour. Transfer the dough to the floured canvas or proofing board, and cover it with a cotton towel. Allow it to proof at room temperature for 30 – 35 minutes. 

Carefully lift each portion of dough by the ends, gently pulling and stretching them until they are 12-14 inches long, and return them to the floured canvas or proofing board. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and allow it to rise for an additional 40 – 50 minutes.

As the dough is rising, place a baking stone in the oven and set the temperature to 500 F. Allow the oven to heat for 30 minutes.

Turn each portion of dough onto a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, lengthening it slightly. Slide a baker’s peel beneath the parchment paper. Lower the oven temperature to 425 F. Slide the parchment paper from the peel onto the baking stone.  Introduce steam into the oven during the first 10 minutes of baking.  Allow the dough to bake until it is a deep golden color (approximately 10 more minutes).

Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

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