Ciabatta

Sometimes all I want is a good sandwich. Versatile and delicious, I could probably eat a sandwich every day. And we all know (I hope) that a good sandwich demands excellent bread. Sub-par, stale grocery store bread just doesn't do it for me anymore. I need something better. For me, that means I have two options; head to the bakery (which, trust me, I do a lot!) or make some of my own. One of these options is more convenient and, let's be honest, probably better, but the other option is super cheap, absolutely delicious, and extremely satisfying. Pulling warm loaves of homemade bread out of my oven only 4 ingredients later is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon. I highly recommend it!

This recipe is easy, and simple, although it does take some advanced planning and to be honest, some practice (at least for me). It turned out 3 beautiful loaves of ciabatta that were perfect for my sandwich craving. 

Ciabatta

From

The Bread Baker's Apprentice

 by Peter Reinhart

Ingredients

Poolish

  • 2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

Dough

  • 3 1/4 cups (22.75 ounces) poolish
  • 3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons to 3/4 cup (3 to 6 ounces) water, lukewarm

Directions

For the Poolish: stir together the flour, water and yeast until all the flour is moistened. It will be soft and sticky, like very thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic and let sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until bubbly and foamy, then place in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to 3 days.

For the ciabatta: remove the poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour before starting. Stir together flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment. Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of the water and mix on low speed until the ingredients form a sticky ball, adding additional water as needed. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and sticky. Switch to the dough hook and mix for 2 more minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom. You may need to add additional flour, but don't add too much, the final dough should be quite soft and sticky.

Spray about an 8-inch square part of your counter with cooking spray. Using a dough scraper, transfer the dough to the counter. Dust the top of the dough liberally with flour, patting it into a rectangle. Wait 2 minutes for the dough to relax. Coat your hands with flour, lift the dough from each end, stretching it to twice its size. Fold the dough over onto itself, like folding a letter, returning it to its originally shape. Dust the top of the dough with flour, and loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap.

Let rest for 30 minutes. The repeat the stretch and fold as above. Dust with flour and cover with plastic again. Let the dough ferment and rise on the counter for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It should swell, but won't necessarily double in size.

Set up a couch with a cotton dish towel, sprayed with oil and generously floured. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Using a pastry scraper, divide the dough into 3 rectangles, making sure not to degas the dough. Sprinkle the dough generously with flour and use the scraper to gently lift each piece from the counter and lay it on the floured cloth, folding each piece of dough from left to rich, letter-style, into an oblong about 6 inches long. Bunch the cloth between the pieces to provide a wall.

Proof for 45 to 60 minutes at room temperature, or until the dough has noticeably swelled. Meanwhile, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees, placing an old heavy duty sheet on the lower rack.

When the dough is ready, gently transfer each piece of dough to a 9x12-inch piece of parchment paper, lifting from each end and gently tugging the dough out to just smaller than the piece of parchment. Slide the dough, parchment and all, onto the preheated baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the sheet pan and close the door. After 30 seconds, open the door and spray the sides of the oven with water from a spray can. Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals. After the last spray, turn the oven temperature down to 450 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees and continue baking for 5-10 minutes, or until done, the bread should register 205 degrees in the center and be golden brown. Allow loaves to cool at least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.

Bagels

In case you haven't noticed, I have a rather large sweet tooth and enjoy having a nice sweet for breakfast on a regular basis. Hence, a lot of my baking tends to lean towards the sugar filled finished product. This does not mean however, that I always need to have something sweet in the morning, this recipe proves that. I've been wanting to make both bagels and English muffins for some time now, and I can finally cross one of those off my baking to-do list. Who doesn't love a fat, chewy bagel, covered in butter, cream cheese or my personal favorite, topped with a couple of slices of swiss cheese and then toasted in the toaster oven. Savory and delicious and oh so delectable, even if they aren't loaded with sugar.

These bagels were fun to make, but they definitely aren't quick to put together. They take two days to complete, with most of the work done on day 1. Making the dough, letting it rise, and shaping are all done on this first day, and then the shaped bagels are left to sit in the fridge overnight and develop a lot of yummy flavor. Day two is just for boiling and baking, the fun part!

I ended up making 10 bagels from this recipe but the recipe says it makes 12 large or 24 mini bagels, so you can really make however many you want. However many you end up making, you won't be disappointed. These bagels ended up full off flavor, chewy and not at all dry; they toasted up beautifully and were perfect for breakfast, finished off with your favorite topping. I would for sure make these again, they really were wonderful. As fresh as you'll find anywhere, and just as good, if not better.

Getting the sponge ready

Mix it together and let it do its magic for 2 hours

2 hours later, nice and poofy

Add in the rest of the dough ingredients

Knead it up until smooth

Divide the dough

Shape into bagels, aren't they cute?

Into the fridge for an overnight retard

The next day, time to boil

All done swimming and ready for the oven

Out of the oven and ready to eat!

Yum, ready for toasting and buttering

Bagels
From The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
Ingredients
Sponge

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast 
  • 4 cups bread flour 
  • 2 1/2 cups water 

Dough

  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast 
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour 
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons salt 
  • 2 teaspoons malt powder or 1 tablespoon brown sugar 

To Finish

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda 
  • cornmeal for dusting 
  • Any toppings of your choosing (sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt etc.) 

Directions
Start by making the sponge: mix together the yeast and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the water and stir only until it forms a smooth batter (like pancake batter). Cover the bowl and let sit for about 2 hours at room temperature until the mixture is bubbly and foamy and swells to about double the original size.

Make the dough: int eh same bowl, add the additional yeast to the sponge and stir to combine. Add 3 cups of flour and all of the salt and malt or brown sugar. Mix on low speed until the ingredients form a ball, all the while mixing in the additional 3/4 cup of flour.

Knead the dough for about 6 minutes in the mixer until firm and stiff but still pliable and smooth with no traces of flour remaining. Add more water or flour as needed. The dough should be satiny and pliable but not tacky. Immediately divide the dough into equal size pieces and form them into rolls. Cover the rolls and allow them to rest for about 20 minutes.

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment and mist with oil. Shape the bagels either by poking a hole in the dough and rotating you thumb around inside the hole to widen it to about 2 1/2 inches in diameter (try to stretch the dough as evenly as possible) or by rolling the dough into a 8 inch rope and wrapping the rope around the palm of your hand, overlapping the ends and pressing the ends into the counter, rocking your hand back and forth to seal.

Place each shaped bagel onto the parchment lined pans. Mist them lightly with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let the pans sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.

Use the float test to see if the bagels are ready to go into the fridge to be retarded. Fill a bowl with cool water. Drop the bagels into the water. If they float within 10 seconds they are ready for the fridge. If they don't float, return the bagel to the pan, dry it off, and check again in 10 to 20 minutes. Once the bagels pass the float test place the covered pans in the fridge overnight (or up to 2 days).

The next day, or whenever you are ready to make the bagels, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the baking soda. Remove the bagels from the fridge and gently drop them into the water, don't overcrowd the pot. After 1 minute, turn them over and boil for another minute (if you like really chewy bagels, let them boil for 2 minutes a side). While the bagels are boiling, sprinkle cornmeal on the parchment paper. Return the boiled bagels to the cornmeal lined parchment paper and repeat with remaining bagels. If you want to top your bagels, do so right after they come out of the water.

When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans in the middle of the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the pans and switch shelves and lower the oven to 450 degrees and continue baking for about 5 minutes, or a little longer if you prefer them darker.

Remove pans from oven and let bagels rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Classic White Bread

While I love baking anything and everything, there will always be a special place in my heart for a simple loaf of soft white bread. There is almost nothing better than a slice of fresh from the oven, still warm, homemade bread slathered in salted butter. The yeasty flavor mixes with the heavenly aroma still emanating from the oven to produce the bliss that is freshly baked bread. I've made several different white bread recipes over the past few years and while I don't vividly remember them all, I know this one is right up there at the top of the list. Buttery, light and tender, this bread is ready for anything: sandwiches, toast, or a simple afternoon snack with some almond butter, really whatever you can think of, it's up to you.

This recipe was straightforward without any unusual ingredients. The basic cast of flour, salt and yeast along with some milk, some butter, an egg, and a hint of sweetness via the addition of a little sugar. That's how I like my bread, simple but with a little enrichment to really take it over the top. To finish it all off I brushed the loaves with melted butter when they came out of the oven (instead of the egg wash suggested) to produce a soft and buttery crust, yum!

I didn't have the size bread pans the recipe calls for (something I've since remedied) but it didn't seem to matter one bit. The loaves didn't get as tall as they would have in a slightly smaller pan but they still turned out beautifully. I've been eating this bread daily in the days since making it and I absolutely love it. Last night it made the best Texas toast, and this morning it was perfect slathered in homemade jam. I can't wait to find out what it will be good for next; whatever that is I know it will be delicious.

Start mixing it all together

 When smooth and supple, place in an 

oiled bowl to rise

 Doubled and ready to shape

 Cut the dough in half

 Shape into two nice loaves

 Nicely risen and ready to hit the oven

 Straight from the oven, golden and beautiful

 Pull out of the loaf pans and let cool on wire racks

 Slice it up, making sure you have a nice snack

along the way

Ready for anything

Classic White Bread
From The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
Ingredients

  • 4¼ cups (19 ounces) unbleached bread flour
  • 1½ teaspoons (.38 ounces) salt
  • 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (.22 ounce) instant yeast
  • 1 large (1.65 ounces) egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) butter, margarine, or shortening, at room temperature, or vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups (12 ounces) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)
  • sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)

Directions
Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Pour in the egg, butter, and milk and mix with a large metal spoon (or on low speed of the electric mixer with the paddle attachment) until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle in more milk until the dough is soft and supple.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. Continue kneading (or mixing) for 6 to 8 minutes. (In the electric mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever to slightly to the bottom.) The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 80° F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Ferment at room temperature for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size (the length of time will depend on the room temperature).

Remove the fermented dough from the bowl and divide it in half for sandwich loaves, into eighteen 2-ounce pieces for dinner rolls, or twelve 3-ounce pieces for burger or hot dog buns. Shape the pieces into boules for loaves or tight rounds for dinner rolls or buns. Mist the dough lightly with spray oil and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rest for about 20 minutes.

For loaves, shape as shown on page 81. Lightly oil two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans and place the loaves in the pans. For rolls and buns, line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment. Rolls require no further shaping. For hamburger buns, gently press down on the rolls to form the desired shape. For hot dog buns, shape as shown on page 80, although without tapering the ends. Transfer the rolls or buns to the sheet pans.

Mist the tops of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it nearly doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 350° F for loaves or 400° F for roll and buns. Brush the rolls or buns with the egg wash and garnish with poppy or sesame seeds. Sandwich loaves also may be washed and garnished, or score them down the center and rub a little vegetable oil in the slit.

Bake the rolls or buns for approximately 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown and register just above 180° F in the center. Bake loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through for even baking, if needed. The tops should be golden brown and the sides, when removed from the pan, should also be golden. The internal temperature of the loaves should be close to 190° F, and the loaves should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

When the loaves have finished baking, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving. Rolls should cool for at least 15 minutes on a rack before serving.