Ciabatta

I started baking bread about 10 years ago using Carol Field’s The Italian Baker as my reference. That is where I learned about using a starter or biga to improve the flavor of my bread. The next important book in my bread baking education was The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. An essential volume for anybody serious about baking bread, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, taught me much more about the science of bread baking and introduced me to different types of starters and other pre-fermenting methods that help extract maximum flavor from the combination of flour, water and yeast.

Bread baking can be a time consuming task. Mixing, rising, shaping, and baking bread can take hours depending on the type of bread. In recent years an answer to this problem for home bakers has appeared in the person of no-knead bread recipes, like the techniques in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. These recipes cut down on the active time required to bake bread, the principle being that you make a large batch of very wet dough with minimal kneading, place it in the refrigerator to ferment, take the dough out the day you want to bake, shape, proof for forty minutes or so and bake. While the results can be very good, especially considering the amount of time and effort put in, I find the breads are not quite as good as the ones I make when I use Reinhart and Field’s formulas.

In his latest book, Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, America’s bread guru comes through with a solution. In this book Reinhart takes the basic principles behind no-knead bread and applies them to his own formulas and techniques. The result is a sort of hybrid that, while a bit more involved than other no-knead recipes, still cuts down on active time, and results in some of the best breads you will ever make.

The book starts off with some science, talking about streamlining the baking process by replacing pre-ferments with overnight fermentation. After that the author talks about tools and ingredients then goes into some of the basic techniques that are used throughout the book such as the stretch and fold technique.

The recipes follow, starting with classic French bread, then moving to a Pain a l’Ancienne Rustic dough than can be used to make ciabatta and focaccia. I have tried many ciabatta recipes at home with varying levels of success and this is definitely my new go to recipe, my results have been consistently awesome every time. A nice open crumb, slightly sour flavor and crisp crust. There are also several pizza dough recipes, including a great Neo-Neopolitan Pizza dough that is so easy to make, you will never need to buy pre-made dough again.

The recipes I have mentioned just scratch the surface. Formulas for everything from bagels to whole wheat sourdough to chocolate croissants should be able to satisfy just about every baker’s tastes. Peter Reinhart has done it again giving us yet another indispensible resource for making excellent breads at home.

Recipe:
Neo-Neopolitan Pizza Dough

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