Childhood memories: Ciabatta

Every time I think about a good Italian meal, my mind drives me to the perfume and flavour of a good slice of bread.
I remember when I was younger, my dad used to collect me from school and while driving back home he stopped in front of the bakery shop (aka panificio), dropping me off to get some bread for lunch. There was no other good choice than “Ciabatta” for him. “Rosette”, “spighe”, “tartarughe” (which are all names for other kinds of Italian bread) could not compare with the crunchy crust Ciabatta had and with its light inner texture (‘holes’ in its crumb are a natural sign of this characteristic).

Therefore, feeling a little homesick, few days ago I decided to make this marvellous bread at home. I followed a recipe I found in the great book called “Breads” by Paul Hollywood. Needless to say it worked out just perfect! It could take a bit to make, but the result is the taste and the perfume of a real Italian Ciabatta….the same I used to get at the bakery shop when I was a kid and that works just as a warm remembrance, whenever I need to feel a little closer to home  🙂

Ciabatta Bread Top

Ingredients
– 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
– 10g salt
– 10g instant yeast
– 40ml olive oil
– 400 ml lukewarm water

Directions
1.Lightly oil a 2-3 litre square plastic container. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough).

2. Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Add the olive oil and three-quarters of the water and begin mixing on a slow speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water. Then mix for a further 5-8 minutes on a medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

3. Tip the dough into the prepared tub, cover with a tea towel and leave until at least doubled, even trebled in size – 1-2 hours or longer.

4. Heat your oven to 220°C and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment or silicone paper.

5. Dust your work surface heavily with flour – add some semolina too, if you have some. Carefully tip out the dough (it will be very wet) onto the work surface, trying to retain a rough square shape. Rather than knocking it back, handle it gently so you can keep as much air in the dough as possible. Coat the top of the dough with more flour and/or semolina. Cut the dough in half lengthways and divide each half lengthways into 2 strips. You should now have 4 pieces of dough. Stretch each piece of dough lengthways a little and place on prepared baking trays.

6. Leave the ciabatta dough to rest for a further 10 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

Ciabatta Bread

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