Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lazy Coder Cuisine: Making Ciabatta -- lots of work, tasty rewards

Here is something different within culinary domain. I love good bread, and at times it has been challenging to find good stuff in this continent. But while I have not located all kinds of good breads that exist in northern parts of the old continent, I have found new good things over here. One of those things is ciabatta, which is actually a fairly recent invention, despite coming from established culinary superpower of Italy.

Anyway: while it is possible to find good ciabatta here in Seattle area, it can be bit pricey. And beside economy, freshness is still a challenge. So I figured that perhaps it might not be beyond my capabilities (or rather, team Saloranta's capabilities -- my wife is a superior chef these days) to bake a decent load of ciabatta.

Ok: we settled for about the first Google hit, and specifically on this recipe. Reading through it, it became clear that this is not one of Lazy Coder's recipes; process is surprisingly lengthy for bread making (granted, variance for kinds of breads is huge), if nothing extra-ordinary. Specifically it's actually possible to get it all done within a day.

Long story short: following recipe closely, and using a 20$ pizza stone from Bed Bath & Beyond (pre-heating for bit over suggested 45 minutes) produced 2 rather tasty instances. Even 2 steps that felt tricky (kneading by hand -- I suspect that time mentioned is way overestimate, 2 minutes is probably fine -- maybe machines have less torque or something; and getting the thing on pizza stone from parchment paper, should have added flour on parchment) failed to ruin the results. So two thumbs up for the recipe and the idea, as long as you have time and energy to do it.

One thing I would suggest for anyone who tries this is to just double the dose and make 4 Ciabattas: effort is not doubled, and so if you go through the trouble, might as well get enough to eat for a while, or to offer for good friends.

And lastly: one nice thing about Ciabatta is that it is delicious with very little else: for example, with melted butter. Yum.

ps. On somewhat related note; another late pleasant finding was that US "genoa salami" is close enough to old world "metwurst" (almost as close as "gypsy salami" which is the best US match so far). Couple this with good cheese (sharp cheddar, emmentaler [aka "swiss cheese"], gouda), and you get pretty close to perfect "default topping" for all kinds of breads -- not just dark sourdough ryebread (finnish specialty), but all kinds of white wheat-based breads too.

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