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james 10-10-2008 06:51 PM

Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
I have made the Hamelman ciabatta with the 12-16 hour poolish twice in the past week. I feel like I am learning a lot.

The poolish is 300gr flour, 300gr water and a pinch of yeast for overnight fermentation, and then a 3 hour bulk fermentation of the finished dough. It is 73% hyrdration (thought I was measuring fast and went over on the water).

You fold the wet dough twice during bulk fermenation to give it some structure to make those big holes.

I used cold water, and ran a 3 minute mix, 3 minute knead on #2, and then a fast knead on high for 1 minute. The dough never got over 66.

I cut each batch into four pieces, and folded two into a dog bone and left two unshaped. I will report if I think the fold helps -- as I have seen recipes with both techniques.

All a lot of fun. These two batches have been on my FB Stone, and I will move outside into the wood oven when I really feel like I have the dough technique under control.


Pdiff 10-30-2008 09:52 AM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
I've been playing with this one too. My Hammelman says the recipe is 3 loaves, although the directions seem to lead to four. First time I tried it, I cut the recipe by a third for one loaf. Came out well on a stone (no WFO for me yet!). I tried the full recipe again the other day. Definitely much more challenging to maneuver and fold! These came out a bit flat with smaller crumb, but I had to rush the poolish a bit (12hr instead of 16) and I think this made a big difference. I notice you are going for cooler temps (66). I don't have the book in front of me, but seem to remember him recommending 75. Why cooler? Do you increase the bulk time?


james 11-03-2008 09:43 PM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
Hey Pdiff,

I don't think the shorter poolish should have that big of an impact. What else do you think might account for less oven spring or final proof? Room or dough temperature could do it. Still, even in the upper 60's, my yeast doughs still get there. Sourdough is a different set of issues.

Do you think your yeast is alive and consistent?

A 12 hour poolish and a cooler room temperature bulk fermentation really should give you the lift you want.

Let me know what happens.

Dutchoven 11-04-2008 04:41 AM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
James is correct, the shorter poolish ferment time should not have been the issue. It is not really a starter but more of a natural conditioner and flavor additive IMHO. Was there a possibility that you could have deflated the loaves when transferring them to the oven? I know you said you were in a bit of a hurry and that the dough was a bit more challenging to fold an maneuver so my mind tends to move in the direction of handling.
Let us know!

CanuckJim 11-04-2008 06:48 AM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
Dutch, James,

I think you're on the right track. One of the maxims I offer the participants in my WFO workshops, among others, is this: "If you can find any way to reduce the amount of dough handling and still get satisfactory results, do it." Most of the problems I've seen among the many people who have attended at Mary G's come down to overhandling the dough in a misguided attempt at perfection. Perfection, or something near enough, comes from repetition, practice. Speed of handling is the first principle.


Pdiff 11-04-2008 11:22 AM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
Thanks for the reply, James. I think you may be right on the poolish times. I ran another batch with similar results. The bread tastes fine, but not quite what I'm aiming for volume wise. The yeast are definitely active - lots of bubbling and the dough at least doubles between folds. I may be having some issues with moving proofed loaves to the peel, however. That may be deflating things before they get going. Any hints there?

I'll keep at it, though :-) On a positive note, I think I have a connection for some free fire bricks, so the building process (or preparation, anyway) can begin!


Pdiff 11-04-2008 11:30 AM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
Ok. I think you guys are right. Any ideas for improvement on handling? Would it be better to proof on parchment on the peel (remember, I'm still working with a conventional electric oven here, IR on the stone reads 450-500* before loading). That would allow me to skip the pre-loading handling and pop the loaf straight to the stone. Getting adequate steam is a challenge too. Hammelman suggests that can effect spring (as well as color and crust).

Thanks for any leads,


MoonshineBaker 11-10-2008 11:04 AM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
An interesting aside: While recently on vacation in Umbria, every day a fresh, warm loaf of ciabatta was delivered to the agriturismo place my wife and I were staying at - near Montefalco. The ciabatta had a wonderful cruncy crust and a soft, silky interior with lots of holes. I went to the "panificio" / bakery and asked for their formula and technique. They used a soft wheat (grano tenero), tipo 0, a normal yeast and a beer yeast, water and no salt. They did an over night preferment and baked in a gas oven at about 450*F. What I found to be interesting is the use of a lower protein (~9%), coarser flour vs Hamelman's King Arthur Bread flour (~13%) AND- the use of two different yeasts. (The lack of salt is the tradition in Tuscany and Umbria.) I will try this soon. Does anyone have any thoughts on using all-purpose or even a pastry/all-purpose flour and a good beer yeast- or maybe a sourdough??? Richard

james 11-10-2008 12:03 PM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
Nice find Richard -- sounds like a great trip. Sigh.

Lots of good info here. The Italians definitely use a lower gluten flour than most U.S. bakeries -- there is a thread in the forum on the differences between using KA general purpose flour and KA bread flour for Ciabatta. I've been using KA general purpose and often I use the Caputo flour, which is nice and light. I wouldn't describe Tipo 0 as course, but rather that Tipo 00 is very fine. I've seen a lot of Ciabatta made using Tipo 00 as well.

There is a difference between Pane Toscano, which does not have salt, and Ciabatta, which does. Do you remember eating a denser, drier crusty bread -- without any holes? It's what you get in just about every restaurant, and it makes up about 85% of the bread in the stores. You might call it an acquired taste, but everyone we know (other than people born in Tuscany) just flat out don't like it. The locals get really defensive. :-)

You would find yourself walking into a bakery and asking if they had any bread with salt! C'e qualcosa con sale? Qualcosa?

Definitely give it a shot with lighter flour and see if it tastes like your memory. I think it is pretty difficult finding brewers yeast for bread here -- it's all you can find in Italy. I'm not sure how much of an impact yeast has -- but I asked Peter Reinhart once, and he thought it was pretty far down the list of things that have the great effect on your bread.

Let us know how it goes.

MoonshineBaker 11-10-2008 02:00 PM

Re: Hamelman's Poolish Ciabatta
James, Thank you for the perspective on flours. I have the Caputo tipo 000 from FornoBravo which I'll use with KA general purpose and see. Based on what your feedback from Reinhart was, I'll stick with a single yeast. In Tuscany and Umbria, many bakeries have a Ciabatta style bread that is made without salt. Pane Toscano is a different, denser bread; it is the norm throughout those regions. We got use to eating bread without salt; the fresh warm Ciabatta we got was heavenly- the textures far outshone the bread not having salt. Richard

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