Sourdough Ciabatta

Ciabtta

Ciabatta. Old Italien baking tradition. Did you think so?
Well, I did. But to my surprise, I could read a few days ago, that it was invented as late as 1982 by a gentleman called Francesco Favaron.
He thought that the shape reminded about his wife’s slippers. Therefore, he baptized the bread to the Ciabatta, slipper in Italian.
Despite the low age, the bread has been very successful. You can find it almost all around the world.
And that is not so strange. It is a real crowd pleaser with its thin crispy crust and soft crumb filled with oversized air pockets.
It’s the number one choice for all sorts of grilled sandwiches. After reading this, I realized that It was quite som time since I baked Ciabatta. I couldn’t understand why.

A “real” ciabatta always begins with a Biga. A Biga is a starter based on flour, water, and yeast that is left to ferment for at least 12 hours. Some recipes use commercial yeast, but I don’t. I prefer to use a mature and lively sourdough starter instead.
Making a Biga is easy. You just mix water with flour and starter in a kitchen bowl. Be sure that all flour is hydrated.
Cover it with clingfilm and let it ferment for 12 hours at room temperature.
When it’s ready, it should look something like this.

Biga

Now it’s time to add the rest of the ingredients, except salt.
Mix everything thoroughly and let the dough rest for an hour.

Dough
Mixed and ready for autolyse.
After autolys
After autolyse.

There is one thing you should know before you start baking this Ciabatta.
The dough is wet. Very wet. If you hate dealing with wet sticky doughs, you should probably try something else.
The easiest way to deal with it is probably with a dough mixer, which I recommend.
But not everybody has a dough mixer. Therefore I decided to use the stretch and fold technique.
It worked pretty well. Just dip your hands in some water now and then. It will prevent the dough sticking to your fingers.

Stretch
Stretch
Fold
Fold

I repeated the stretching and folding once an hour during the bulk fermentation process. I added the salt during the first stretch and folding session.
After the last session, I let the dough ferment for an additional hour.
Now it’s time to stretch out the dough. Spread flour on your working surface. Don’t make the same mistake as I did. Don’t skimp with the flour. You will regret that later. I thought I had spread out tons of flour. But it was still not enough. I’ll come back to that later.

Dough ready

Stretch out the dough to a flat rectangular shape. Be careful not to pressure out too much gas out of the dough.
Let it rise for an hour.

Dough stretched

Now it’s time to cut the dough into pieces. Cut the dough in half lengthways and divide each half into stripes.

Dough cut

It was at this point I started to face some problems. The dough was sticking to the surface despite all the flour I had spread on it. It also stuck to the bench knife I was using. The first Ciabattas looked like something made by an ape. And suddenly I remembered why it was so long ago since I baked Ciabatta.
But I didn’t give up. I cut the rest of the Ciabattas with a knife dipped in water while I scraped them loose with the bench knife. The last ones looked pretty decent.

Ciabatta

Lessons learned.

Next time I will use a bread mixer. The stretch and folding worked pretty well, but I think the structure of the dough will improve if you run it in a mixer.

Use more flour on the working surface.

About flour.

The hydration of this dough is about 70%. That may not sound like much for some of you readers. Especially if you’re living in US or Canada. Remember that your bread flour is stronger than what we are used to here in Europe. The flour I used has 11.5 % protein. You may have to increase the water amount to get the same result if you are using a much stronger flour. I have found recipes from the US with 80% hydration.

Print Recipe
Sourdough Ciabatta
A sourdough Ciabatta that is perfect for all kind of Italien dishes or grilled sandwiches.
Ciabtta
Servings
large Ciabattas
Ingredients
Biga
Ciabatta dough
Servings
large Ciabattas
Ingredients
Biga
Ciabatta dough
Ciabtta
Instructions
Biga
  1. Mix water with flour and starter. Be sure that all flour is hydrated. Cover it with cling film and let it ferment for 12 hours at room temperature.
Ciabatta
  1. Mix all ingredients except salt. Be sure that all flour is hydrated. Let it rest for an hour.
  2. Add the salt and stretch and fold if you don't have a dough mixer. I repeated every hour, 3 times in total. I normally stretch 30 times each session. Total time for bulk fermentation was 3 hours. If you have a mixer you just run it on a medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy.
  3. Scrape out the dough onto a floured working surface. Stretch out the dough to a rectangular shape. Let it rise for 1 hour. Pre heat the oven to 480ºF / 250ºC with two oven plates. If you have a baking stone you should place it on the upper plate.
  4. Cut the dough in half lengthways and divide each half into strips. Transfer the dough stripes to a parchment paper. Slide the dough stripes and parchment paper into the oven and bake for approx. 20 minutes. Pour water on the bottom plate to get some steam.
  5. Let the ciabattas cool on a wire rack.
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Chicken fillet with creamy ricotta, pesto and tomato vinaigrette

Chicken with ricotta and pesto
Chicken with ricotta and pesto

Chicken with ricotta and tomato vinaigrette. That sounds very Italien/Mediterranean, doesn’t it? The chives also give a little Scandinavian touch.
I know. Chives are used in Italy too, though maybe not as much. Chives feel very “Swedish” for me.
But I found this recipe in an old cookbook named The Mediterranean kitchen, so let’s call it Italien.

This is a perfect recipe if you’re planning to invite some friends for dinner.
You can prepare everything in advance. When your guests arrive, you just have to put everything into the oven.
Then you can enjoy a welcome drink with your friends while you are waiting for the food to be ready. The only thing you have to check now and then is the temperature of the chicken. Overcooked chicken is boring, even if it’s stuffed with ricotta.
All your guests may tell you how delicious it tastes, but you know that they are lying. You can see it in their faces. They are desperately trying to find a polite excuse to avoid eating that dry piece of chicken.
To avoid this, use a thermometer. Always be sure that the inner temperature is more than 158ºF / 70ºC and less than 167ºF / 75ºC.

Let’s start with the tomato vinaigrette.

Ingredients vinaigrette
I know it can be hard to find decent tomatoes at this time of year,
especially if you’re living in the northern parts of the world like I do.

Try to drain them with salt. Salt reduces the amount of liquid in the tomatoes and gives them a more concentrated flavor.
Cut the tomatoes into small cubes and place them in a strainer. Add some salt and let them drain for 15 minutes.

Draining tomatoes. Picture fro another recipe.

While you are waiting for the tomatoes to drain you can mix the chive with the olive oil with a hand mixer or a blender. Add the tomatoes together with some lime juice and zest and put the vinaigrette in the fridge.

Combine the ricotta cheese with pesto. If you want to go the extra mile you do your own pesto. You will find a good recipe here.

PestoRicotta

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry them on both sides a minute or two, until they have a nice golden brown color.
Cut a pocket into each chicken breast and fill it with ricotta and pesto mixture.

You can prepare this far.

A suitable side dish may be potato wedges because they can be cooked in the oven together with the chicken. Just let them get 10 to 15 minutes in the oven before you let the chicken join them.

When the chicken is ready, you just pour some vinaigrette over it and serve it with your preferred side dish and perhaps a salad.

 

 

PS. Why not serve with a glass of with wine. Perhaps a Sauvignon Blanc.
Or a glass of Chianti if you prefer red wine.

Print Recipe
Chicken fillet with creamy ricotta, pesto and tomato vinaigrette
Chicken fillet filled with creamy ricotta and pesto. Served with a delicious tomato and chives vinaigrette.
Chicken with ricotta and pesto
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15-20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Tomato vinaigrette
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15-20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Tomato vinaigrette
Chicken with ricotta and pesto
Instructions
  1. Cut tomatoes in pieces and put them in a strainer. Add a teaspoon salt and let them drain for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Mix olive oil with chives. Add the tomatoes, lime juice, and zest. Combine everything and put in the fridge.
  3. Fry the chicken on both sides a few minutes. It should just get some nice golden brown color.
  4. Place the chicken on a cutting board. Cut a deep pocket into each piece and fill it with pesto and ricotta mixture.
  5. Pre heat the oven to 450ºF / 220ºC. Roast the chicken in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The inner temperature should be at least 158ºF / 70ºC.
  6. Place tthe chicken breasts on a plate and pour the vinaigrette over it.
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