No, I didn’t confuse my (non-existent) French and Italian. This formula for Italian ciabatta uses French terminology because it’s from Eric Kayser, well-renowned in Paris for his breads and pastries. In a city saturated with driven artisans dedicated to their craft, Maison Kayser still manages to consistently rank high among the best Parisian bakeries.
Even more impressive, for bread nerds like me at least, are his somewhat accessible bread formulas that share a common thread in liquid levain, wild yeast starter fed with equal weights water and flour. Used with commercial yeast to bring dough to life, the liquid starter also adds a very subtle acidity, a quality lacking in bread raised exclusively with commercial yeast.
After trying several ciabatta formulas, I can’t quite pinpoint why this method produces results better than the rest. All of the ciabatta formulas I tried had an airy interior but the most noticeable difference is the crust. It not so much crunches but shatters audibly as bitten, as opposed to the other formulas that yielded a slightly thicker and chewier crust.
Eric Kayser’s Ciabatta au Levain Liquide
makes 4 small ciabatta loaves
- I used Bernard Clayton’s suggestion for approximating French T65 flour by using 3 parts all-purpose flour and 1 part bread flour. I used King Arthur Flour.
- Gentle handling is essential to get the characteristic irregular holes and open crumb of ciabatta.
For the Final Dough:
Ingredients Volume Ounces Grams liquid levain (100% hydration) 5.3 150 all-purpose flour 13.25 375 bread flour 4.4 125 water, at room temperature 350 ml instant yeast 1/4 tsp sea salt 2 tsp .5 14
Final Dough Instructions:
Mix Mix all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated Knead 10 to 12 minutes Ferment #1 60 minutes at room temperature Stretch and Fold Ferment #2 60 minutes at room temperature
Divide 4 pieces
Rest 45 minutes at room temperature Shape Stretch gently into a rectangular shape
Preheat Oven 500ºF/260ºC Final Proof 45 minutes at room temperature Steam 1 cup of boiling water poured in a heavy steam pan (preferably cast iron) Bake Bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 500ºF/260ºC Cool At least 15 minutes