Great British Bake Off Episode 3 — Bread
Episode 3 was bread week. The choices were rye bread rolls (signature), ciabatta (technical) and a filled centerpiece loaf (showstopper). I opted for the ciabatta. I had just made rye bread a few weeks ago, and nothing came to mind for the showstopper. But I’ve thought about making ciabatta before so this finally gave me an excuse to give it a try.
My first attempt was an abject failure. I tried to go old school using a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. He has two versions — one that starts with a poolish and the one that starts with a biga. The poolish is a bit simpler so I went that route. Mr. Reinhart says the poolish should be like a thick pancake batter but mine was much firmer. Instead of trusting my instincts and starting over I plunged ahead anyway. I’ll spare the details, but it wasn’t pretty — just a dense brick of bread without any lovely air holes.
I tried again this past weekend with much better results. I used this recipe from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. It’s made with a biga instead of a poolish, and although both the biga and the bread dough are made in the bread machine, the loaves are still formed by hand and baked in the oven. I was a little worried because they didn’t brown or rise very much, but when I cut into the first loaf it had actual air holes and ended up tasting just fine. The crust wasn’t very crisp, but I think I might be able to fix that by borrowing some techniques from the Reinhart book (namely increasing the baking temp and creating some steam early in the bake). I guess I cheated a little using the bread machine to do some of the work — I definitely wouldn’t have won the technical challenge — but I was tickled with the results.
We cut up the first loaf and dipped it in olive oil with herbs and garlic and some parmesan cheese, and ate the whole darn thing in one sitting. I threw the second loaf in the freezer and we’re going to use it to make sandwiches sometime soon.
Update — Italian sub on ciabatta: