Posts Tagged ‘poolish’

Bread of the Week, Ciabatta (Italian Slipper Bread)

There’s nothing I like better than slicing into a great big freshly cooked ciabatta and creating a great big dagwood sandwich before stuffing it into my great big mouth. With protruding cheeks stuffed with this Italian slipper bread, I mumble thanks to the guy who made this happen, Arnaldo Cavallari.

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In 1982, Arnaldo retired from car racing to work at his family’s flour mill in Adria, in the Veneto. He probably wasn’t the first to start making ciabatta. Similar breads are made around Lake Como (ciabatta di como) but Arnaldo was the first to set up the methodology and authentication of the Ciabatta Italia.

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Ciabatta warming.

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Smaller ciabatta for sale.

Traditional ciabatta is made with tipo 1 italia, a soft flour. This flour is like a strong all-purpose flour or American bread flour, but a tad darker and a bit less refined than the famous “tipo 00″ flour used for authentic Italian wood- fired pizza. The protein content of tipo 1 is 10 percent.

My “scaletta” or ladder sticks made with ciabatta dough and baked with pressed green and black Cerignola olives

These days there are (so-called) ciabatta everywhere. The grocery store has small hockey pucks that taste of chalk and chemicals (watch out for that  “TBHQ added for freshness”*) but these can easily pass through the gullet with a bucket of water. I’ve even had “Eye-talian” slipper bread in West Virginia that was used to make “house special” garlic bread. Unfortunately, the shape and the way it was cut belied the fact that it was just a hot dog bun.

Making ciabatta is great fun and most rewarding. After 4 days nurturing starters, old dough pre-ferments, a poolish, then mixing the heavily-hydrated mass perfectly, performing due-dillegence in proofing, (rising) and standing by my Impinger pizza ovens, spritzing, peeking and turning, the final product is amazing.  Making and cooking ciabatta is like having a kid…that you can eat. Sometimes I vary the way I cook this dough and make variations on the ciabatta theme. Below are two more examples.

Mr. Stipey, Manchego and nettle pizzas (left). Small schiacciata (right); Romagna (above) and local aged cheddar (below)

Sometimes making caprese sandwiches is like laying railroad tracks.

It’s usually 6 a.m. when I finish the ciabatta. The sun is starting to peek through my pizzeria window and Garrison Keeler is performing “Guy Noir- Private Detective” on the radio. I can cook 5 ciabatta at a time. I usually eye one that I save just for me. After slicing some room temperature Brie, Genoa salami, prosciutto di Parma, arugula and fresh tomato, I am in heaven.

If you want my recipe for ciabatta, just send $1000 dollars (Canadian) to me. Or if you want a really great recipe, just go to Peter Reinhart’s blog.

*TBHQ is a by product of butane. It is banned in Europe and Japan because of its proven relationship with ADHD and hyperactivity in children. Its use has grown since large food corporations have stopped using trans-fats in their foods. This means that they have to use real oils instead. To store these oils in massive quantities, they spike them with TBHQ. Unfortunately for us, because of lobbying efforts by large corporations, if a chemical is less than 5% of the product, the food companies do not have to put it on the label.

Local Corn Flour for Pizza and Bread

On a cold December morning, I ducked out of my pizza business long enough to accompany Brandon Jaeger to Chesterhill Ohio see some “Dent corn”  stripped off the stalk by our Amish friends. This same corn was used by the Fort Ancient Native Americans, and kernels have been found in several burial mounds right in this region. Brandon would process it, and I will have a chance to make a non-gluten bread with it.

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The horses bring in the corn, and the (slightly) modified “Farmall M” is ready to strip the corn off the stalks.

I met Brandon  last summer, when I trekked to Joe’s farm to get some Northern Ohio Spelt for my Purple People Eater, a combination of 20% high-gluten pre-ferment, (poolish) with 70% spelt flour and 10% stone ground whole wheat. This bread has similarities to those annoying but delicious Christmas cookies that stick to your teeth, especially as I put a sticky blueberry, mango, apricot compote on top before the bake.

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Purple People Eaters, and the Goon (Sounds like a new Harry Potter movie) in Chesterhill.

Brandon and his partner Michelle Ajamian have dedictated themselves to the long-forgotton growth, production and use of local high-nutrition bean, grain and seed crops.

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Michelle Ajamian prepping soil for buckwheat planting. Brandon and Michelle’s field of amaranth.

Through Appalachian Staple Foods Collabrative (ASFC) they’ve forged a new way for small businesses like mine to offer these local, fresh, foods. Plus, they keep the money local at the same time. This team has a laser-beam focus on bringing local sustainable grains and beans to the people and businesses in the area.

That summer, as I approached the Hirshberger acreage, Joe was on his 4-horse binder contraption that looked like it was from the 18th century. This machine cut the spelt, gathered up the stalks and bound them with string. As my eyes followed this wild rig driven by Joe in his buttoned up white shirt, black overcoat, black hat, rolled up pants and bare feet, I saw someone following him who was not Amish. It was Brandon, grabbing the bundles and stacking them in the hot late-day steam.

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Brandon Jaeger stacking spelt after Joe cuts it the old-fashioned way.

“That job sucks,” I said to myself as I watched both men work toward the horizon. I walked into the field of spelt, hoping that they wouldn’t ask me to help, and introduced myself to Brandon and waved to Joe. He looked familiar and I remembered that I’d read about him in the newspapers. Ever since, he had tweeked my interest in using local grains in my day-to-day menu mix.

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Summer harvested spelt, and Brandon stacking the spelt bundles for drying.

As you can see in the video, it was winter now, and I was watching the corn being stripped off the stalks by an ingenious contraption that takes the stalks right up to the top of the barn for use later. This is done with the engine of a “Farmall M” and alot of back-breaking work, which is par for the course for these guys.

When we got back to Michelle and Brandon’s mill, he took me on a quick tour of his new milling equipment and showed me some of the corn he was going to turn into flour.

I am truly grateful for Michelle, Brandon and all the people bringing back locally sourced grains for small businesses to choose to serve their customers. Soon I’ll have some recipes using this local corn flour for pizzas and breads. Yum.

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From raw corn kernels too usable corn flour.