First, I do recognize that the term “fanatic” should never follow the words “kind-of,” or “probably kind-of” in any given sentence. These qualifiers, or quantifiers of the degree of fanatisism are a way to leave an “out” or a quick stage-left exit for the person extolling these virtues of being a fanatic. Using this terminology is probably, kind-of wimpy on their part because either you are a fanatic or you are not.
Now, with that messy paragraph over with, I will say that I am infatuated with making ciabatta. I love push the limits of hydration, natural levening, pre-ferments and flours to produce the perfect cell-structure under the crunchiest crust and yank as much of the wheat taste out of the loaf as possible. I guess that makes me a ciabatta fanatic.
I think I’ve read every book on the subject of ciabatta and all the recipes seem as different as the bakers themselves! This is why a year ago, I decided to go my own way, take the ciabatta path less travelled, beat the bushes and mix the dough my way and then NEVER WRITE IT DOWN! This may sound utterly insane to the nitpicky and anal-retentive bakers and thier weight-based percentages but isn’t insanity approximately 84 percent of fanatisism?
I made the above mushroom pizza with a DOP Montasio cheese and porcini/white truffle pudding with my ciabatta dough fortified to a lesser hydration with some more high-protein flour, (left). My spinach, English Stilton and red pear schiacciata was rendered the same way, (right).
This weekend I kind-of came to the conclusion that my ciabatta fanatisism is deeply rooted in experimental lack of knowledge instead of the tried and true path of absolute, documented knowledge, (the latter path usually begins with; “never…” or “don’t…”). I still don’t understand why some bakers stick to thier mixing and baking routines in such tight parameters. Isn’t that freakin’ boring? Why not just do it by feel? What would the world be like without ugly people and animals?…freakin’ boring!
So I am here to tell anyone who is listening; To hell with negativity, measurments and conjecture, I’m just gonna feel the dough.
My ciabatta now talks to me in different ways every week when I cut into it. Either with a whimper saying, “I coulda been a contender…” or shouted out with a, “You a badass ciabatta man John!”
Doing bread and pizza dough by knowledged-based feel instead of recipe is so much more exciting because it’s about creation dude!
Crazy huh? Well here’s Phyllis, the ciabatta.