Ciabatta Ciabatta

Posted by Lacey October 3rd, 2010

If you’ve read this blog or know me in any way, you may be aware that I have this obsession with/love for baking bread. Despite reading numerous books and taking bread baking classes, I am still far from perfecting the art form. A few months ago, I ran into Chef Laurie Pfalzer. We used to work together, but she in the kitchen and I in marketing. She was starting her own business, Pastry Craft, to teach home bakers that they too can make seemingly complicated breads and pastries in their own kitchens. We’ve been saying for quite some time that we need to get together for a day of bread baking, that she would teach me a few tips and tricks to get closer to a perfect loaf of bread.

Yesterday was the day. On Friday night, Laurie sent me the recipe for the poolish, the starter that would bring the ciabatta to life. Keep in mind, I’ve never made ciabatta. I’ve always tried whole wheat breads and baguettes. Turns out those simple baguettes are the most difficult to get right. Tip #1 from Laurie: Stick to the Ciabatta – no shaping or scoring involved!

Laurie arrived at 11am and we quickly jumped into making the dough. We used the ciabatta recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread, dumping in the poolish, water, salt, and flour. Tip #2 from Laurie: Always use bread flour! (I’m guilty of not doing this… my regular grocery store doesn’t carry bread flour and I often substitute all purpose. Of course, I’m never happy with the result!)

I measured the ingredients for my recipe with measuring cups and spoons while Laurie used a scale to measure the ingredients for her baguette recipe. I should have followed her lead because somewhere along the way, I must have mis-measured and the dough was way too stiff. Without a blink, Laurie said no worries and fixed the dough by adding a bit more water and flour to get it to the right texture. Tip #3 from Laurie: Always use a scale for measuring bread ingredients!

We let the dough proof in their bowls for an hour then flipped them onto the counter and stretched and folded them before letting them rest for another hour.

Ciabatta Dough

At this point, the baguettes were ready to be shaped while the easy breezy ciabatta just needed one more round of stretching, folding, and resting. We shaped the baguette dough into small rolls, round loafs, and long skinny loafs.

Baguette Dough

When the ciabatta was ready to become ciabatta, we dusted the counter with a thick layer of flour, simply cut the dough into the size of loaves we wanted, then flipped them over onto the flour. (See, no shaping involved… this is way too easy.)

We fired the oven up to 550 degrees with a baking stone set on the top rack and a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack. We pre-steamed the oven by pouring a half cup of water or so into the cast iron skillet and quickly shut the oven door. Using the back of a sheet pan and parchment paper, we slid the first round of rolls into the oven and added more water to the cast iron skillet to create more steam. The bread was baked within ten minutes, the ciabatta looking beautifully rustic and the baguettes, well, we both agreed they could use some improvement on the scoring, but the texture was better than any baguette I’ve attempted to make in the past (hence, the sticking to ciabatta!).

Ciabatta Rolls

Baguettes

It took a while to get all of the bread in and out of the oven, but I was glowing as the rolls and loaves stacked up on my counter.

Stacks of Bread

I admired the texture of the ciabatta, snapping pictures and picking it up for further inspections.

Ciabatta

This may be the best bread I’ve ever baked. It’s amazing how a few tips and tricks from a pastry chef can get you just a bit closer to that perfect loaf of bread.

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Fresh Mint Ice Cream

Posted by Lacey July 13th, 2010

I may have mentioned that I’m currently addicted to my ice cream maker. I’m not sure if the addiction will be wearing off any time soon so you may start seeing a slew of creamy frozen dessert recipes. Here’s one I adapted slightly from Cooking Light using fresh mint.

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Huckleberry Strawberry Peach Sorbet

Posted by Lacey June 13th, 2010

Ripe strawberries, fresh peaches, and Northwest huckleberries blended and frozen – couldn’t ask for a more refreshing dessert. My husband and I bought a hand-me-down ice cream maker at a club auction over three years ago and it hasn’t moved from its spot in the cupboard until just recently (and for the record, since I broke it out it has now been used three times…). I had some strawberries on their last breath, a couple of peaches, and some frozen huckleberries. I looked around to see what I could make and landed on a sorbet recipe from Full Circle Farms. I changed it up a bit to fit my fruit and here’s what I came up with.

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Cascade Huckleberry Crisp

Posted by Lacey May 9th, 2010

When I was a kid my mom and I would take walks up to the woods during the summer. If we were lucky enough, we could snatch a few juneberries ripe on the shrub. My mom always had plans for them – crisps, sauces, jams – but my mission was to eat them all before we returned home. I popped the tiny berries in between my teeth and my face would scrunch as the tart juice hit my tongue. Far from the Midwest and closer now to the Cascades, I’ve set my eyes on huckleberries. Yet to wander into the forest and forage on my own (although this is absolutely something I need to do!), I have recently discovered locally picked Wild Harvest frozen huckleberries at the Metropolitan Market. I have a weakness for fruit crisps; naturally this is where the huckleberries ended up.

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Lake Chelanagain

Posted by Lacey April 29th, 2010

This was our third trip to Lake Chelan this past year. Can you tell we like the place? Mostly we are attracted to the wine from the region, but the views are quite the draw too. Charlie and I booked the weekend as a Christmas gift for his mom and brother and we were ecstatic to show them our new favorite vacation spot… and possible future home of Cairdeas Winery.

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Eat Local Easter

Posted by Lacey April 7th, 2010

I missed out on the Eat Local for Thanksgiving campaign. Merely a participant in the eating festivities, I refrained from being too involved in dictating the meal’s ingredients. For Easter, I was called in to be the back-up family cook as my husband’s grandma had recently undergone knee replacement surgery. Thrilled to help, I also took the opportunity to make it an Eat Local Easter, managing to fill up the menu with approximately 65 percent Pacific Northwest ingredients.

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Tillicum Village Salmon Bake

Posted by Lacey March 21st, 2010

For Christmas this past year, my husband and I decided to give experiences instead of gifts. For his dad and his dad’s wife, who love boating and eating salmon, we bought tickets to the Tillicum Village Salmon Bake on Blake Island. We took the 45-minute trip aboard an Argosy Cruise vessel on a sunny Sunday and enjoyed the narration of the history of Tillicum Village, Blake Island, and its native tribes.

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Chef and Cook Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Posted by Lacey February 23rd, 2010

For Valentine’s Day, Chef (that would be my husband) and Cook (that would be me) decided to spend the lover’s holiday at home. We both adore the kitchen and decided on a four-course dinner. Flipping coins for the courses, he pulled the starter and meat course, I, pasta and dessert.

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Spiced Autumn Pot Roast

Posted by Lacey February 7th, 2010

I promised Jerry Stokesberry I would cook it slowly. And cook that grass-fed chuck roast slowly I did. I had picked up some sweet potatoes from the market and imagined the two would marry well.

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Market Basket Meals for the Week

Posted by Lacey January 31st, 2010

This was my first visit to the West Seattle Farmers Market in weeks. I had missed the fresh vegetables, sustainable proteins, and the vendor smiles as they share their knowledge and tips for preparing their goods. I grabbed my Flip ‘n Tumble shopping and produce bags and headed to the market sans husband.

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