Focaccia + Ciabatta

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This recipe is from Bread. It’s an adaptation of a Ciabatta recipe that I split into thirds, one of which I made ciabatta with and the other two focaccia. Ciabatta is a bread defined by an airy crumb and hard crust. These two things are achieved by using an extremely hydrated dough – imagine kneading and folding muffin batter because that’s pretty much how it went. It’s not ideal for novice bakers, mostly because the trick is not in the ingredients, but the procedure. I would recommend trying the Rustic Bread recipe before this one.

First thing to know, the recipe I used gave the measurements in U.S. weights, but I converted to grams because it is more accurate. As a result of this, as well as splitting the dough for ciabatta and focaccia, I have no idea what the volume measurements are. If you need to convert, 135g = 1C flour

Second, this recipe used a pre-ferment, which I divided into 1/3 and 2/3 as noted before. I will try to make this as clear as possible but because it’s so fresh in my mind I might forget a step, so don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions.

Third, I made these recipes simultaneously, with the focaccia approx 30 mins behind the ciabatta. Here we go:

PRE-FERMENT (it’s called a poolish when it’s equal parts flour and water like this)
272g bread flour
272g water
1/4t instant yeast
(TOTAL WEIGHT = 543g)

-Disperse yeast in water, mix in flour until absorbed. Cover and allow to ripen for 12-16 hours.

Ciabatta

181g poolish
211g bread flour
130g water
5g salt
1g yeast

1) Place all ingredients in mixing bowl, stir until combined, then mix 3 mins on first speed and 3 mins on second speed. Dough will be like pancake batter, but when pulled, gluten will be noticeable (the “batter” will seem to pull around in strands)
2) Pour dough into HEAVILY floured bowl or surface, and ferment for 3 hours covered. Fold after the 1st and 2nd hour, always keeping the seam side up. Fold quickly and vigorously, with floured hands, but make sure not to incorporate too much dry flour between folds – just a dusting (meaning you will have to brush off a little flour after each fold). After the second fold, lightly stretch dough towards a rectangular shape. Stop stretching if/when you feel the surface rip.
3) After 3 hour ferment and folding, allow to rise for 1.5 hours. Every 30 minutes you need to lightly stretch dough into a longer rectangle as before. Go slowly each time, always with lots of flour to ensure no sticking to ANYTHING. Aim for approx 4in in width. The seam side should still be up.
4) When 30 minutes of the final rise remain, preheat oven to 460*. When rise is complete and oven preheated, quickly flip dough over onto floured sheet pan (do not slash). Splash 1oz water into oven and bake for 25 mins. Color should be medium to dark. Do not cover as it cools. Enjoy!

Focaccia

One thing to note: I made Alton Brown’s focaccia a few weeks ago and it was pretty good, but I vowed that I would use more cornmeal than he called for. Hamelman actually does not use any cornmeal, and what I’m learning is that “focaccia” has been Americanized to mean a soft, dry-crumb, herby bread. Apparently real Italian focaccia is basically ciabatta with pizza toppings. So I’m sorry to all you cantankerous Italians who are mad at me for besmirching your good bread, but here’s what I made:

362g poolish
90g cornmeal
334g bread flour
261 g water
11g salt
2g yeast
1T fresh rosemary, chopped
3T EV olive oil

1) Add all but rosemary and oil to mixer, stir to combine. Mix 3 mins on first speed. Mix 3 mins on second speed, adding rosemary and olive oil. Dough will be less sticky than ciabatta, but still pretty sticky. Look for similar gluten development.
2) Pour dough onto HEAVILY floured surface or bowl. Ferment for 3 hours, covered. Fold after 1st hour and 2nd hour. Same deal with the seam side up, heavily floured hands and surface. Instead of stretching into a thin rectangle like the ciabatta, with the focaccia we’re looking for a broad rectangle (look at the pictures).
3) The final rise is 1.5 hours again, and every 30 mins you should lightly stretch the dough into the desired rectangle, but make sure not to rip the dough.
4) With 30 minutes remaining (hopefully your ciabatta is in the oven right now), flip the dough seam side down onto a pan. I used a jelly-roll pan, 10.5 x 15.5 and it was the perfect size. Ten minutes before baking, dimple the surface every 2 inches with a floured finger. Then pour 1.5T olive oil over the surface. Bake for 25 mins, with same “steam” tactic, until deep brown in color. Cover as it cools. Yum!

ATTENTION: The recipes above are what I did. There is one change I would make to the focaccia: I would only put 1T olive oil in the dough, and drizzle 2.5T on top (or maybe none in the dough and lots on top). This will slightly reduce the calories, and I don’t think the oil in the dough had much of an effect. ALSO, I wish I had put 2T of chopped rosemary – it just wasn’t enough. That stuff is so fragrant, but the actual taste is very bitter, so I erred on the lower side.

I wish you luck!

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