Recipe: Ciabatta with Fresh Marjoram

Ciabatta with Fresh Marjoram

Words by: Hilary McCandless-Beard

The flavor and keeping qualities of this loaf are enhanced by a yeasted pre-ferment called a biga, while a very wet dough and gentle shaping contribute to the open crumb and chewy texture of the bread.

Yield: 1 medium loaf

Time: 10 hours for fermentation, 3 hours to bake

Biga:

 

1 cup bread flour

½ cup cool water

pinch of active dry yeast

 

  1. Combine all ingredients, forming a soft dough.
  2. Place in a covered container and allow to ferment for 10 hours at warm room temperature. If your room is cool, the dough will ferment more slowly.

 

Final Dough:

 

¾ cup lukewarm water

all of Biga, fermented 10 hours or more

½ teaspoon active dry yeast

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup bread flour

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh marjoram

 

  1. Combine all ingredients into a rough dough; allow to rest 20 minutes in the mixing bowl.
  2. After 20 minutes, knead dough (it will be very soft and sticky—almost like a thick batter) in the bowl using one hand until it is smoother and somewhat elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and turn to coat.
  3. Allow dough to proof 60–100 minutes, folding it in on itself each 20 minutes to develop the gluten and even the temperature. It should be growing larger in volume between folds, and be full of large air pockets when proofed. The warmer the room, the faster it will proof.
  4. Meanwhile, heat oven to 500°F and place a covered dutch oven or other heavy pot and lid inside, which will hold the risen loaf to bake.
  5. When the dough is voluminous and airy, gently transfer it (without forming a loaf) into a well-floured proofing basket or well-floured, bowl lined with a cloth. Allow to proof a final 30–60 minutes, or until the indent left by a gentle poke disappears slowly.
  6. When the loaf is risen, turn it gently out into the preheated Dutch oven and replace cover. Bake 30 minutes before removing the lid. After 30 minutes, uncover and continue baking another 5–10 minutes or until the crust is very dark in places and the loaf sounds hollow when drummed on the bottom.

 

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