Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Panda Blogging

This is Xi Lan the 9 month old Panda cub at Zoo Atlanta that I caught napping last week and she is demonstrating how I feel today. Not much energy for anything. Just spent a few minutes in the garden this morning and made a trip to Tractor Supply for bird seed. That's about it.

I do have one tomato ripening that I almost picked this morning but there was just a tinge of green at the stem so I decided to wait and give it another day. We'll see if the raccoons, squirrels, deer, chipmunks or whoever allows me to have it. Tomorrow it should be perfect so tonight is when it is most subject to wildlife harvest.

Since I appear to be pretty much useless for doing anything else today I decided to bake something other than my regular bread(which I did yesterday) and since I need to feed the sourdough starter I decided to experiment with a sourdough version of ciabatta. I have good luck with a regular yeast version and thought it would be worth a try. It's really a funny bread in that the basic dough is 95% hydrated (meaning there is almost as much water in it as flour. Makes for a very tricky dough and one that you have to knead forever to form the gluten bonds so that it will rise. Typically I have to knead it in the Kitchen Aid for about 30 minutes which is about 4 times as long as a regular bread dough. It barely holds its shape when you manage to stretch it into loaf shapes and you think it will never rise but after 45 minutes to an hour of rest and a very hot oven it springs into a beutiful loaf full of large holes and chewy crust. Makes a sandwich something special. Other than the fact that it is a very, very wet dough and hard to work with, it really is a forgiving bread and usually rewards even beginning bakers with a nice loaf...though sometimes not too pretty.
So anyhow I am going to adapt my yeast recipe to a sourdough one and see what happens. Even though the regular recipe produces a flavorful loaf I think sourdough will make it even better. I might also try retarding half the recipe in the fridge overnight to see what happens flavorwise. An overnight rise in the fridge is what makes all the difference in the world in flavor with the French baguette so it might help here as well since the yeast ciabatta recipe is 4-5 hours start to finish and there is not a long flavor developing rest. Between a sourdough starter and a retarded rise we might get an even better flavored bread.
If anyone wants to try their hand at ciabatta let me know in comments and I will post a recipe. BTW the dough makes a great pizza crust as well.

P.S. you can make a ciabatta loaf without a big fancy Kitchen Aid using the traditional "pull and slam" method of kneading but it is 20 -30 minutes of very hard work

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