Friday, June 26, 2009

Caramelized Onion and Herb Ciabatta - BBA Challenge #7

I've been dreading this bread since the beginning of this challange. The thought of working with a wet dough was a bit intimidating. However, it turns out that it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Isn't that the way it always is? Let's pretend you said yes. We fear the unknown but once we do it, we wonder what the big deal was.

I had the choice of two pre-ferments to use with this ciabatta recipe... a poolish or a biga. I've never made either one so I chose the first one that appeared in the book. The poolish is made a day in advance and cools it's heels in in the fridge overnight while it develops all that wonderful flavor.

My first poolish. Isn't it cute? It's smells wonderful. ...well, for poolish anyway.
While the poolish was warming up from it's over night stay in coolville, I sliced 4 cups of vidalia onions and put them over medium heat to caramelize.
Once the onions started turning brown, I added a couple of TB of sugar, let them carmalize a little more, than added the balsamic vinegar.

While the onions were carmelizing, I chopped up parsley and basil fresh from my herb garden. I tossed them in with the onions and balsamic vinegar until they wilted. I put the mixture to the side to cool while I mixed up the dough.

The dough was fast and easy to mix. Stir the flour, salt and yeast together, add the poolish and water. Mix for 7 minutes. I had to use the maximum amount of water plus 6 more TBs to get the dough to clear the sides but stick to the bottom as Peter describes in his book.
I poured the wet stretchy dough onto a generously floured table.
I pushed it out into a rectangle, floured the top and made the first stretch & fold. I let it rest for 30 minutes.
The book says to fold the onion mixture in at the second stretch & fold 1/4 at a time depending on how many loafs you were making... Ummm, so he's assuming the dough is divided into separate loaves already. Yet the instruction do not divide the dough into loaves until the shaping stage. What to do, what to do? I decided to divide the dough before the second fold and folded in the onion mixture. In the picture below, I have 1/4 of the onion mixture under the flap and 1/4 on top of the flap. I folded the last flap on top of the onions and let it rest 2 hours
Should I have waited to fold the other 1/4 of the onion mixture in at the last stretch and fold after the 2 hour rest? I have no idea.

One more stretch & folded and onto the couche they go. Don't they look cute?
It was a little tricky getting the dough to the pan after the proofing stage on the couche. Next time I will use parchment paper under the dough before putting them on the couche. Since they were so big I had to bake them separately. One loaf proofed for 45 minutes, the other for 65.
The finished loaf
A crumb shot

and another

This was very tasty and had a great chew.

What I learned:
  • Use more water for bigger holes
  • Use AP flour for bigger holes
  • brush excess flour from dough before stretching & folding
  • Use a parchment sheet before putting them on the couche
  • Cut the recipe in half

For your viewing pleasure, here's someone demonstrating making ciabatta with a different recipe.


  1. Very nice ciabatta! Perfect holes and all. I hope I am so fortunate.

  2. WOW, WOW, WOW! Did I say WOW! That looks so very yummy.
    Great job and nice baking along with you,

  3. Thanks Haleysuzanne and susies1955! You make me blush. I just ate the last two piece for breakfast this morning. The sweet onions & herb mixture kept the bread nice and moist.

  4. Wonderful, big holes, and with the onions/basil I bet it was delicious. I must say I'm impressed with your pace- you're really moving through those BBA challenges!

  5. That's alotta ciabatta :)))))) Too funny! My mouth is watering... looks amazing!

  6. Thanks Julie! It was very tasty. It gets a little tricky keeping up sometimes. We're supposed to be finished with the book in February.

    Thanks ButterYum! It was a whole-lotta-ciabatta! The pictures of the ciabatta in the book looked small, cute and manageable. Boy was I surprised!

  7. I'm even more intimidated by the ciabatta process. I'm only halfway through challah right now and I feel very behind! Congrats on your ciabatta...

  8. Thanks Tiger. It's not hard to feel behind with everyone on different breads.... I'm glad Nicole lets us take our time. I learn a lot for the one forging ahead. :-) I'll be looking for your challah.

  9. This looks amazing. I bet it was fantastic!

  10. Thanks Wootton's! It was too good. :-) (not cinnamon roll good, but good. lol)

  11. The caramelized onion filling had an almost fruit-like taste to me. I wonder if an aromatically spiced fruit-filling would be good as well? ...especially if it contained 'raisins'!

  12. I bet it would. :-)

    LOL. I married a raisin nut! Not to worry Rick... a cinnamon walnut raisin bread is on the horizon....

    Thanks for stopping by to visit your wife. :-)

  13. I'm experiencing another bad case of "hole envy" as I look at your bread. It's lovely... and perfect... and holey! Great job.

  14. Your Ciabatta looks SO good! I am planning to make another batch next week when i go to the beach... now i am thinking about trying your onion version. Any additional tips in regards to the onions?

  15. LOL. Mags, you are too funny! Thanks for the compliment.

  16. Thanks twoskinnyjenkins! ...the onion mixture was pretty easy... it took me longer then 10-20 minutes to carmelize the onions but everything else was by the book. (I used sweet onions)
    The onion mixture kept the bread moist for several days.

  17. The bread looks so fabulous!

    I will have to start it too so I can eat it soon.

    Your Challah looks beautiful as well.

  18. Really good looking bread!!!

  19. Thanks for stopping by Laura. You'll like this one...It's very tasty.

  20. This is a wonderful and helpful description Tammy! I've been fearing the Ciabatta but you've given me new courage!

  21. Thanks strangerkiss. You can do it! :-)

  22. Wonderful post. Your bread is perfection. The crumb is amazing. Wish I'd read your post and watched that video before I made mine. I think mine was not wet enough.

  23. Thanks Cindy. I bet yours was tasty. I've read that a lot of people has issues with the crumb. I want to try this again only with the biga pre-ferment.

  24. You bread looks great. Thanks for adding the video. I want to remake that bread because I don't think I made chibatta. Great job, Sis.

  25. Thanks Mustang Terri! What did you make if you didn't make ciabatta? I popped over to your site,
    it looks like ciabatta to me...

  26. Okay, I did it! I baked the ciabatta and my results, while good, weren't quite as stellar as yours. I experimented a bit too...I baked 2 on a regular stone and one in a La Cloche. Interesting to experiment! (Results here:

    Thanks for all the information in your post - it really helped.