I was wondering what was going on with my physical and mental state recently, as since we came home from our voyages, I feel rather on the blue side of things. Mind you, I’m fighting what A. calls my case of the Spanish flue, just because I contracted the bug as we were returning from Spain, and since then I’m challenged to find my regular level of energy through my coughing fits and congested sinuses. But there are other reasons, I’m sure. The typical fall weather is here in Vancouver, with rain, and clouds, and then some more rain. Add to this the fact that I’ve felt uninspired to hold the camera in my hand recently, or when I did I disliked every picture I took. To top that, I’m without my laptop (had to give it up for the warranty repairs) and, this said laptop of mine, turns out to be like the extension of me, evidently essential for my daily existence. Though A. put together a desktop computer for me, it being the collection of all the spare computer parts he’s been faithfully collecting over the years, it’s slow, it’s barren of my files, it’s noisy, and too big to be hug-able. Oh yes, I shouldn’t complain – I’m grateful I have a computer at all, I love the fact that it’s warm and cozy in my home, and the cold will pass eventually, but I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself for a few days, before I decided yesterday to be done with this kind of melancholy. What helped was the quote I came across on Wild Yeast where I went for some bread eye candy, and where these words jumped out at me:
“… no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation … will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.
–M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating”
I received the much-needed kick, and I got my strut back. I turned on the oven and baked some gorgeous ciabatta, the formula for which I’ll gladly share if anyone is interested.
By the way, the Wild Yeast is my favourite bread-baking go-to resource and the place to see some beautifully styled bread images. I know how difficult it is to make bread look good on pictures. With all its brown, orange and yellow tones, it’s a challenge to make the bread stand out and yet tell the “bread story” with the addition of photo props that wouldn’t compete for attention with the subject of the shot. Susan knows how to do it and if you want to take good bread photos I urge you to visit her wonderful blog for some good bread-styling lessons.
Recipe By: Bill Wraith (Note: The following write-up is copied almost word-by-word from Bill’s original recipe tha can be found here. The changes I’ve incorporated appear in italics)
Preparation Time: approximately 8 hours
Categories : Breads – Sourdough
Amount Measure Ingredient
——– ———— ——————————–
482 grams bread flour (13.2% protein)
340 grams water
454 grams sourdough starter, 100% hydration
14 grams salt
Mix the flours and water together in a bowl using a dough hook. Let sit for about 30 minutes.
Mix flours and water above with all the starter and salt. Mix for a few minutes, switching between low and medium speeds – just long enough to thoroughly mix the starter and salt with the mixture from the autolyse step. The dough should be quite “wet”, meaning it will not clear the bottom or even much of the sides of the mixer bowl. It should be fairly sticky and already have a fair amount of gluten development.
Bulk Fermentation and Folding: (about 4.5 hours)
Make a fairly thick bed of flour on the counter about 12 inches square. Using a dough scraper, pour the dough out into the middle of the bed of flour. Allow it to rest for a few minutes. Then, fold the dough by flouring or wetting your hands, then grabbing one side of the dough and lifting and stretching it, folding it over itself like a letter. Do this for all 4 sides. Brush flour off the dough as you fold over the sides that were in contact with the bed of flour. You don’t want to incorporate much flour into the dough as you fold. After folding, shape it gently back into a rectangle or square, spray it with a light coating of olive oil or some other oil spray, and dust very lightly with flour. Then cover it with a large glass bowl. Repeat the folds approximately every 45 minutes two more times. After three folds, let the dough rise for another 2.5 hours, at which point, the dough should have doubled roughly in volume.
Divide the dough into 3 pieces of equal size, roll them in the bed of flour to dust the cut ends, and let them rest a few minutes. The dough is wet and will quickly resume its flat, rectangular shape by itself. Gently place the pieces on the couche. Use the couche to create folds for the ciabatta.
Let the breads rise in the couche for about 2 hours, until they are puffy and have increased significantly in volume.
Prepare to Bake:
Preheat oven to 525F (convection oven). While that is going on, take each loaf out of the couche. Invert each loaf onto a peel fitted with parchment paper. Press down on the dough with your fingers fairly firmly to feel the peel underneath. It sounds crazy, but the loaf will bounce back just fine in the oven if it is not overproofed. This step is important to avoid “separation of crust and crumb” or “one gigantic hole” instead of many holes. It also evens out the loaf so it has a nicer shape after baking.