I’ve been watching PBS’s Best British Baking Show, and I was surprised to learn that I have a baking book from one of the host’s, Paul Hollywood. I got this book years ago, and I’ve actually not used it much, but decided to pull it out and take a look. On the show, the contestants made Hollywood’s ciabatta, but it certainly wasn’t the recipe I have, since I think they only gave them 4 hours to complete it. Four hours to get good rise and develop flavor and nicely sized air-pockets? Doesn’t seem possible to me. On the other hand, the recipe in his cookbook seemed way more legit: nice rise times, time to develop flavor, etc. Plus, it works so perfectly for my day’s schedule and it doesn’t take long to bake. It’s also a great bread for mingles and parties, because it’s quite short and squatty (think, bruschetta). The timeline for me is that I start it at 7:30 a.m., and it’s usually done about 5:00, right in time for dinner. I think I’ve made it 8 times in the last 3 weeks, and usually all four loaves are gone by the next morning! This recipe comes from 100 Great Breads.
4 c. flour, divided
1 1/2 c. tepid water, divided
1/2 c. sourdough starter or 2 1/4 t. instant yeast (I think. I’ve only tried this with my starter, so this might need a little adjusting, but this is the amount Hollywood suggests in his book)
1 T. salt
2 T. olive oil
1.(7:30 a.m.) In a bowl, combine a scant 2 c. flour with a generous 3/4 c. water and the yeast or starter. Whisk for five minutes. The wetter, the better, so add a tablespoon or two of water if the dough is dry. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 hours.
2. (11:30 a.m.) Add the remaining 2 c. flour, 3/4 c. water, salt and olive oil. Whisk again for five minutes. Cover and set aside for 2 hours.
3. (1:30 p.m.) Gently tip the dough onto a floured surface and cut it in half with a sharp knife or pastry cutter. Loosely shape each half into a long rectangle. Dust with flour, then spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and place loosely on top of the two rectangles. Let rest for 1 hour.
4. (2:30 p.m.) Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut each rectangle into 2 pieces again (so you now have 4 rectangles), and gently pull them, and then place two of the loaves onto each of the prepared baking sheets. They should be approximately 8 inches long by 3-4 inches wide. Don’t shape any more than necessary to keep the air inside the dough. Cover again with greased plastic wrap and let rest another hour.
5. (3:30-4:00 p.m.) Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove plastic and dust the loaves with flour. Bake for about 30 minutes on the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching halfway through. Remove when browned on top and bottom and let cool on a rack before serving.