I had a long weekend, being just before Easter, so I decided to try some of the breads in the Mellow Bakers Hamelman Challenge that I had passed over while moving across the country over the last few months. Looking thought the list of bread we had scheduled, I saw that Ciabatta was one of the breads from December; this would then be this weekend’s bread. There were three varieties offered: Ciabatta with Stiff Biga, with Poolish or a with Olive Oil & Wheat Germ. Based on the descriptions in Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, I chose the Poolish version as it hinted it would be the most flavourful because of the longer pre-ferment of the Poolish.
Ciabatta is one of the more popular Artisanal breads in North America, after the standards like French and Italian. According to Jeffrey Hamelman, it got its popularity boost when it won first place in the prestigious bread competition in Paris, La Coupe du Pain (look this up) and has since been produced and enjoyed by bakers and bread fans alike in North America .
Its thin, crispy crust and soft, holey texture and milder, pleasant taste makes it a good accompaniment to many meals, allowing it to reach more tables than other exotic breads.
The fact it is a very wet dough may detract home bakers from attempting it but you should think of it as a small challenge and give it a go; it may be on the opposite end of bagels and their very stiff dough but the results working with this 80% hydration dough is well worthwhile. And really, it’s not all that much more challenging than most bread recipes you might do.