I’ve wanted to make bread for a while now but I’ve always been put off because of how long it takes and also because I don’t have a stand mixer so I would have to do it all by hand.
I received the Great British Bake Off – Perfect Cakes & Bakes To Make At Home book for my birthday last year and I’ve been wanting to try some of the recipes out for some time now. I came across the recipe for Parmesan and Prosciutto Ciabatta and I thought I’d give it a go seeing as it included two of my favourite things.
Making Ciabatta at home involves a lot of waiting around whilst it proves for hours and hours. I was so close to giving up and just going up to the local shop and buying one but I knew it would all be worth it. Honestly, it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever made. It felt amazing knowing that I had actually been able to make my first loaf of bread and it tasted great.
Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a go:
For the ‘biga’
- 200g strong white bread flour
- 50g plain white flour
- 1 teaspoon fast-action dried yeast (from a 7g sachet)
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 200ml lukewarm water
To finish the dough
- 350ml lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 400g strong white bread flour
- 100g plain white flour
- 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
- 8g fine sea salt
- 85g prosciutto, in a thick slice
- 60g parmesan cheese
- First make the ‘biga’. Put both of the flours, the yeast and sugar into a very large mixing bowl. Mix well with your hand, then pour in the lukewarm water and mix it in to make a fairly sticky dough. Beat this dough with your hand, slapping it against the sides of the bowl for 2 minutes. Cover the bowl tightly with clingfilm and leave to ferment at normal room temperature for 8-12 hours – the dough will rise and then collapse. I did this the night before so I could carry on with the process in the morning.
- Next day, to finish the dough, uncover the bowl and pour in the lukewarm water and olive oil. Work the liquids into the dough with your hand by squeezing it through your fingers and beating with your hand until you have a smooth batter.
- In another bowl, mix the bread flour with the plain flour, then tip half into a third bowl. Add the yeast to the flour in one bowl, and the salt to the flour in the other bowl.
- Add the flour with the yeast to the bowl containing the biga and mix with your hand to make a thick, sticky batter-like dough. Beat this dough in the bowl with your hand, slapping it up and down for about 5 minutes until it has been thoroughly stretched and becomes very elastic. Cover the bowl tightly with clingfilm and leave in a warm spot to rise for 1 1/2-2 hours until the dough is about 2 1/2 times its original size. I put the bowl in my airing cupboard because that’s the warmest place I could think of.
- Meanwhile, cut away any rind from the prosciutto, then chop in a food processor to make small gravel-like chunks. Repeat with the cheese. Set the prosciutto and cheese aside on the worktop to come to room temperature. I hand cut the prosciutto because I bought thinner slices than recommended and if I had used a food processor, it would have gone to a paste.
- Uncover the dough and add the flour/salt mixture. Work in with your hand to make a soft, sticky dough. Work the dough in the bowl for a couple of minutes until you can turn it out on to the unfloured worktop.
- Knead the dough thoroughly by gathering it up and slapping or throwing it back down on to the worktop. Do this energetically for a good 10 minutes until the dough feels silky smooth and is extremely elastic. It will still be soft and sticky, though firmer than before.
- Scatter the chopped prosciutto and cheese over the dough and work in until evenly distributed. Shape into a ball. Return the dough to the bowl, cover again and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size. Towards the end of this time, gently warm the baking sheets and then line them with baking paper, dust generously with cornmeal or polenta – I just used plain flour.
- Using a dough scraper, carefully ease the risen dough out on to the lightly floured worktop – don’t punch down or deflate the dough but treat it very delicately. Using the well-floured dough scraper or a knife, divide the mass of dough into 3 roughly equal strips. With the help of the scraper, carefully transfer the strips of dough to the warmed lined baking sheets – 2 on one sheet, spaced well apart. Use your fingers to gently stretch, not press, each strip of dough into the characteristic slipper-like shape.
- Sprinkle lightly with flour; then slip the sheets into a large plastic bag, inflate it so the plastic won’t stick to the rising dough, and close the ends tightly. Leave in a warm place for 30 minutes until almost doubled in size.
- Towards the end of the rising time, heat the over to 230C/450F/Gas 8.
- Uncover the loaves and bake in the heated oven for about 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Eat warm or the same day.
Can you see what I mean now? It takes a lot of time and effort but so worth it at the end!
Let me know if you give it a go!