Sunday, December 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Ciabatta Bread

Turns out, I can cook--and I'm pretty excited about it.

Here's the story--

While on my hunt for any vegetarian recipe that I can get my hands on, I've come across a number of panini recipes. I'm all for a good panini, however, a panini maker is a bit out of my price range; instead of rushing to the store to get the necessary appliance to make the delicious sandwiches I keep finding, I made a mental note to get a George Forman, one of these days. My rational behind that alternative was that a George Forman could make paninis and a plethora of other things.
But--this was all a plan for one day.
In the future.
When I had a handful of cash I could donate to the panini cause.

Well, I mentioned this plan, off hand, to my mom and stepdad when I talked to them on Thanksgiving. I didn't think anything of it--I've been filling my mom in on pretty much all of my food endeavors, and this was just one more.

Turns out, they were paying very close attention to what I was saying.

This past Friday I'm at work, going about my day as usual, when I get a text from my roommate. She has informed me, with lots of exclamation points, that I have received a George Forman in the mail. My reply? "Shut up!!" When she assures me that she is not kidding, I rush away from my workstation and immediately dial my mother.

"Did you get me a George Forman?" I ask.
"Yes," she answers. "Well, technically V bought you one."
--insert lots of squealing and thank-you's here--
"Merry Christmas," she says.
"Wait, I thought we weren't doing gifts?"
"That's what I said! But when we were on the phone with you, he bought it. That's why he asked for your address. And when he hit submit, I told him I thought we weren't doing gifts. He said, 'It's not a Christmas gift. She said she needed it."
"Oh, I'm so excited!"
"You need to thank him; he's at home so you should be able to get a hold of him there."
"Okay, I will."

And I did--there was more squealing and thank you's, of course--and the rest of my day I was floating on a cloud. When I got home, there was jumping and squealing because by george, my George is beautiful.

The problem? You can't make a panini if you don't have any bread. And--you know me--I'm not just going to go to the store and buy bread, I needed to make it. So, before I went to bed, I found myself searching the internet for a ciabatta bread recipe. Ciabatta bread has been rumored to be the best bread for a panini. Well, I found one--and this is where I got creative.

I'm a whole wheat kind of girl, now. The recipe I found called for only all-purpose flour, so I took it upon myself to alter the recipe. Before I tucked myself in, I made the starter. The next afternoon, I began the process of making the bread. Things didn't go exactly how they should have gone, which made me nervous about how it would turn out, but it actually turned out pretty delicious. My roommate and I had paninis for dinner--and I'm thinking that'll happen more than a few times in our future. I put cream cheese, sauteed squash and red bell pepper with avocado on mine--one word: yum.

Anyway, here is my adapted recipe for Ciabatta bread! It's great for sandwiches and would probably be delicious sliced and dipped in some sort of dip or sauce--the possibilities are endless.

Whole Wheat Ciabatta Bread:

Overnight starter:
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

all of the starter (from above)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
¾ cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the starter:
1. Mix the starter ingredients in a small bowl until well combined. Cover the starter and let it rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours. It will become slightly bubbly and puffy.

For the bread:
1. Place all of the dough ingredients, including the starter, into a large mixing bowl; stir until all the ingredients form a hunk of dough (about 5-7 minutes. It’s a great workout and well worth the effort.) After mixing, the dough will be smooth and soft.
2. Using greased or lightly oiled hands, transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for 2 hours.
3. Lightly grease your work surface/counter, and a half-sheet baking pan or similar large baking sheet or line it with parchment. Grease your hands, as well.
4. Very gently turn the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface; you don’t want to deflate it. It’ll lose a bit of volume, but don’t actively punch it down. Using a bowl scraper, bench knife, or your fingers, divide the dough in half. You should have two fat logs, each about 10″ long x 4″ wide.
5. Handling the dough gently, transfer each piece to the baking sheet, laying them down crosswise on the sheet. Lightly cover the dough with heavily oiled plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow it to rise for 60 to 90 minutes.
6. Midway through, gently but firmly dimple the dough with your fingers, making fairly deep pockets. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
7. Spritz the risen loaves with lukewarm water. You’ll see that the dimples have filled in somewhat, but haven’t entirely disappeared. Bake the loaves until they are golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

That's all for me tonight--Rosalyn

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