Lest I have somehow fooled you into thinking I am foolishly wasting my cooking and photography talents by having a different career, I present this incredibly flat ciabatta bread.
I had a few hours between brunch and an impromptu party, and as I flipped through the latest Food and Wine, I conjured an image of wafting into said party bearing delicious loaves of ciabatta bread, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, flavored with tomatoes and onions. It didn’t quite go as planned.
I hate to blame the recipe, BUT I am going to blame the recipe unless any baking warriors out there can take a look at this and go “no, Allison, it’s definitely you.” I have made a lot of bread in my time, and my friends, this dough is wet. Incredibly wet and incredibly sticky. There is a very high water-flour ratio. The vegetables that get added into the dough are cooked in olive oil and not drained, which adds extra moisture to the dough. (I did think, wow, this is a lot of oil into already stick dough, did try to avoid getting most of the olive oil into the dough.) I quadruple checked the measurements to make sure I was correct.
Whenever I follow a baking recipe for the first time, I try to follow the recipe exactly. The recipe said “IT WILL BE QUITE WET,” so despite contemplating adding more flour, I decided to trust the recipe.
That was a mistake. The loaves didn’t retain their shape in the oven but spreeeaaaaaad out, resulting in a flat, fococcia-like loaf that transported terribly. I tried to wrap the bread in parchment, then foil, but nothing worked. Finally, I gave up and Christopher cradled the bread in his arms like a baby while we drove to the party.
However, despite my declaration of “Ugh, this bread is terrible and squishy,” upon slicing it, the bread was delicious. The partygoers turned bread guinea pigs were pleased by the texture (“YOU HAD ME AT SQUISHY!” my friend Anna declared) and the flavor of the bread is great. The cooked onions, olives, cherry tomatoes, and tomato paste give the bread the flavors of your favorite pizza. If I were to make it again, I’d add a half cup of parmesan cheese to the dough.
I would absolutely love to make this again, but I’d like some advice from anyone with bread experience. What’s wrong with this recipe? Is it the amount of flour? The water? The amount of yeast?
Tomato Ciabatta with Olives and Onions
(Recipe by Ylenia Sambati, Food and Wine)
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
- 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- Kosher salt
- Three 1/4-oz packages active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 3/4 cups warm water
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
- 3/4 cup fine semolina
- In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately high heat until lightly caramelized, 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and crushed red pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the olives and tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper and let cool.
- In a bowl, whisk the yeast, sugar and water; let stand until foamy, 10 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in the 2 1/2 cups of flour and the semolina until the dough comes together; it will be quite wet. Stir in the cooled olive mixture. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Shape it into 2 rough 14-by-3 1/2-inch loaves and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, until the loaves are lightly browned and risen; transfer to a rack and let cool completely.