If your principal acquaintance with the miracle of ciabatta is via what grocery stores think it should be, you are in for a wonderful surprise. I refer to ciabatta as miraculous, but, well, it is. You’d never believe the mixing instructions if you didn’t see the dough for yourself. And the dough is like juggling water balloons. It’s almost inconceivable that it would yield an airy-yet-resilient bread with a crust that is at once tender yet chewy. I love, I absolutely love, love, love teaching people how to make this bread at home. You’ll never again cast a glance at the grocery story variety.
First, we need to make a poolish. A poolish is a preferment that contains a minuscule amount of yeast in a wet mixture with just enough flour to hold it together and grant the yeast some food. Make it this afternoon or evening, and let sit, covered, at room temperature overnight. Tomorrow we’ll turn it into a dough that will give you a perfect bread just in time for dinner.
POOLISH FOR CIABATTA
2 cups unbleached bread flour (read more about bread flour here)
16 ounces water, 80 degrees
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast)
- Measure the flour into a mixing bowl large enough to allow for some rising (proofing). Add the yeast and water. Stir to blend with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture will look lumpy and shaggy; that’s fine.
- Cover tightly with plastic and let proof at room temperature overnight.