Oh Lordy, Lordy. The most shapeless ciabatta in the world. This was one of those rare moments when I was about to throw in the towel, bin the lot and give up. Unmanageable. Courtesy of Hugh Fernley-Whitingstall from the Book of Bread. I’ll try the Paul Hollywood method next. Probably just as unmanageable.
The dough ran circles around me, literally, merrily spreading all over and out of the worktop, no matter what amounts of semolina I threw at it. ‘Fold into an oblong shape’ – you’re having a laugh, Hugh. I might as well try to fold soup into an oblong shape.
The end product tasted great though, definitely authentic, even though it looked like nothing at all. Excellent toasted. Delishhh hot-pressed into a panino. It is a ‘panino’, mind – you only ever order a single one, don’t you? Well, it’s a ‘panino’ in singular, ‘panini’ what the place has on offer, plural. Language purists of the world, unite.
ciabattaServings: 6 loavesTime: about 4 hours
- 750g type ‘00’ flour
- 250g fine semolina plus much more for shaping the loaves
- 30g fresh or 10g instant yeast
- 25g fine salt
- 800ml warm water
- 1 generous tbsp. extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
1. Don’t attempt to knead it by hand. You might as well try to knead soup. If you don’t have a standing mixer, use a hand held one with dough hooks or ordinary paddles.
2. Place the flour, semolina and salt in a very large bowl. Dissolve the fresh yeast in the warm water, the instant yeast can be added straight to the flour mix. Add the water to the flours little by little, mixing it in well. If you add it all at once it will never combine and end up lumpy. When it’s all absorbed, add the generous glug of oil and mix for about 5 minutes until perfectly smooth.
3. Cover the bowl and leave for half an hour. It rises dramatically so watch that it doesn’t escape from the bowl. Drizzle the dough with oil, then using dough scrapers or a large spatula try to fold the dough onto itself from the bottom a couple of times – you’ll invariably end up just stirring it ineffectually, but after a couple more times, every half an hour (preferably six times in total) it will become a bit more cohesive.
4. Prepare three baking trays lined with parchment and sprinkled generously with semolina. Prepare the work surface also sprinkling it very liberally with semolina. Tip the dough out. It will be so runny that shaping it is next to impossible. Dust everything with more semolina and try to scrape a sixth of the dough into an oblong shape and transfer it with the scrapers or baker’s peel onto the baking tray. Stretch it as much as possible on the parchment.
5. Repeat with the rest of the dough, forming six baton shaped loaves, two on each tray. Fold the parchment between each pair of the loaves to prevent them sticking to each other. Do not attempt to cover them, just dust with more semolina and leave to prove for about half an hour.
6. Preheat a baking stone or a heavy baking sheet in the oven set to maximum temperature. Slide the first pair of loaves off the baking tray it was proving on, but with the parchment, onto the baking stone. Bake at highest temperature for 10 minutes, then for 15 minutes more at 200C/400F/gas 6. Remove from the oven onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment and drizzle with olive oil if you like.