Makes 2 loaves
Credit: The Italian Baker
Originally from Marc 2013 on my old blog
Don’t bother reading this introduction. I just wrote it to make the recipe look pretty. Just make this bread, now. I promise you won’t regret it.
While this cibatta is a labor of love, it is worth it a thousand times over. It uses “Biga” starter dough, which I have the recipe for posted on my blog. Be aware: the Biga dough takes 6 hours to rise, so you should probably make the Biga the day before, let it rise overnight (it can rise more than 6 hours; up to 24) and then start making the cibatta the next day.
~2 cups (500 grams) Biga, fully risen and ready to go (the recipe is posted on my blog. Just follow the recipe for 2 1/3 cups and then use all but 1/3 of a cup of it in the dough)
~1 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast (or 1/3 small cake of fresh yeast; about 6 grams)
~5 tablespoons warm milk (if using instant yeast, just room temperature)
~1 tablespoon olive oil
~3 ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (use regular white if that’s all you have)
~1 tablespoon salt~Cornmeal, for dusting
If using active dry yeast or fresh yeast: Stir the yeast into the warm milk in a bowl and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the water, oil and starter (biga dough that has fully risen) and mix with a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or by hand, until blended. Mix the flour and salt, add to the bowl, and ,mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Change to the dough hook if using a mixer (if mixing by hand, just toss the spoon away and get in there with your hands) and knead for 2 minutes on low speed, then 2 minutes at medium speed). Knead briefly on a well-floured surface, adding as little flour as possible, until the dough is velvety, supple, very springy, and moist.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 ¼ hours. The dough should be full of air bubbles, very supple, elastic, and sticky.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces on a well-floured surface. Roll up each piece into a cylinder, then stretch each into a rectangle, about 10 by 4 inches, pulling with your fingers to get it long and wide enough.
Place a piece of parchment paper on each of 2 baking sheets and flour generously. Place 2 loaves, seam side up (if you can find the seam, if not, it’s fine) on each sheet. Dimple the loaves vigorously with your knuckles and fingertips so that they won’t rise too much. Cover loosely with dampened towels and let rise until almost doubled, 1 12/ to 2 hours. They probably will look like they haven’t risen very much. DON’T WORRY: they rise a lot in the oven. They turn out perfect. Just keep going!
If you have a baking stone, preheat the oven 30 minutes before baking to 425 F and place the baking stone in the oven after preheating to get them hot. Just before baking, sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and invert each loaf onto a stone.
If you don’t have a baking stone, just preheat the oven to 425 F and place the risen loaves on cornmeal-dusted baking sheets (I just took the parchment paper off the sheets I already used and dusted them with cornmeal).
Bake for 20-30 minutes. Spray the loaves with water 3 times during the first 10 minutes of baking. This creates a great crust on the outside, which is essential. I just used a spray bottle filled with some other substance I don’t remember, cleaned it out very well, and filled it with water. You could use an empty spray butter bottle, perfume bottle, (wash it out very well!) whatever you have. If you seriously don’t have one, you could skip it, but, I highly recommend it.
I served these with Coq Au Vin, which I will post next. It tastes absolutely amazing fresh out of the oven sliced and spread with some butter You could also freeze it; it will probably last a month or so. I used the left overs to make myself a fantastic turkey sandwich for lunch. YUM.