Related post: All About Ciabatta: notes from a class
Okay, so with Valentine’s Day in mind, I test-baked a version of this festive ciabatta (inspired by the Breakfast Ciabatta with chocolate pieces and bits of candied orange that Didier Rosada demoed during the All about Ciabatta class). The chocolate and cherries combo is one of the Man’s favorites and when you add roasted hazelnuts to the mix, well, you’d think he had died and gone to heaven from the blissful look on his face. Since ciabatta has become one of my favorite breads to make, I thought it would be just perfect for the occasion.
But I needed a test run because I wasn’t sure of the percentage of cherries and hazelnuts to use. Good thing I did because, as it turned out, I didn’t put in nearly enough of either that first time. Also I had been so concerned that the ciabattas might stick to the couche when proofing that I had used way too much flour (as can be seen from image below) and they came out looking more like rustic Yule logs than Valentine Day treats!
I had made four ciabattas. I brushed one of them clear of flour, which made it less Christmassy but gave it the sorry look of a legless and jaundiced platypus (minus the tail and the bill but you know what I mean)…
Nevertheless I resolutely sliced into it…
…and was rewarded by a wonderful fragrance of poolish, chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. I couldn’t smell the cherries but I could glimpse a few of them and certainly taste them and I resolved right then and there to make another batch.
At that point I was called away from the kitchen by some urgent task or other and the next time I caught a glimpse of the second piece of ciabatta I had sliced for further evaluation (no self-sacrifice being to great for my Valentine), it had hugely shrunk in size and was actually walking towards me, firmly grasped in the right hand of said Valentine. Before I could react, he beamed at me: “I love this cake!”
Cake? Seriously? The Man has been living with me for more than for thirty years and eating my bread for almost as long and he still mistakes bread for cake? I replied sternly that not only what he was devouring wasn’t a cake but that it was supposed to be his Valentine Day’s breakfast surprise. He remarked that if it weren’t a cake, it sure tasted like one and added judiciously that if it were a surprise, I shouldn’t have left it lying around on the kitchen counter. He further offered that, if I let him proceed with his tasting, he would gladly submit to a spot of amnesia and allow himself to be deliciously surprised on February 14th…
Since there is a (huge) lot to be said for regaling your Valentine with a treat you enjoy just as much as he does, I decided to forgive him his brief lapse of culinary judgment and proceed with the second test-bake. This time, I think I got the proportions right. The appearance is still rustic but nothing I can’t live with. Of course I could always use more chocolate and more cherries. But then why not just make a cake? The Man wouldn’t know the difference.
Yields four ciabattas, scaled raw at 500 g
Note: This bread is made over 24 hours and requires a mixer equipped with a dough hook (such as a Kitchen Aid).
The night before the bake
- Mix the poolish, cover it loosely and let it ferment overnight (12 hours) at 73°F/23°C
- Roast the hazelnuts in a 350°F/177°C oven for about 20 minutes (I keep all nuts in the freezer which is probably why they need 20 minutes to turn brown. If yours are room temperature, they may not need more than 10 or 12 minutes) until they turn a rich brown color and let them cool on a kitchen towel. When they are cool to the touch, rub them inside the kitchen towel until a good part of the skin has peeled off, then transfer them to a rimmed metal dish and break them roughly (I use the bottom of a heavy mug)
- Cut the butter in small pieces and reserve
- Scale the sugar and the honey
- If possible, keep above ingredients overnight at same temperature as the poolish but leave the eggs in the refrigerator
Desired dough temperature (DDT): 73°F/23°C to 76°FF/24°C
(Depending on the room and the flour temperatures, you will need to use cooler or warmer water in the final dough to obtain the DDT at the end of the mixing process)
- Half-an-hour before mixing time, take the eggs out of the refrigerator, scale them, beat them lightly and reserve
- Scale water 2 and bring to a boil
- Combine the dried cherries and chopped up hazelnuts, quick-soak them with the boiling water, drain and reserve the resulting tea (it will be brownish-looking and quite fragrant), letting it cool down to room temperature. This water remains your water 2 (I didn’t top it off to make up for what the cherries and hazelnuts retained but you might have to if your flour is very thirsty)
- Scale the flour, yeast and salt. Whisk yeast and salt into the flour and reserve
- Place the poolish, the eggs and water 1 in the bowl of the mixer
- Add sugar and honey (if using 10% or less combined, it can be added at the beginning)
- Add the butter (if using 10% or less, it can be added at the beginning)
- Add the dry mix (flour + yeast + salt)
- Mix on first speed (on a spiral mixer) or speed 4 (on a Kitchen Aid) for 4 or 5 minutes
- Mix on second speed (on a spiral mixer) or speed 8 (on a Kitchen Aid) for 2-3 minutes
- Check gluten development. When gluten is 80% developed, add water 2 by increments on first speed (4 on Kitchen Aid) and mix for about 3 minutes
- Add the cherry-hazelnut mixture and the chocolate chips. Mix on first speed (4 on Kitchen Aid) until just incorporated
- Transfer into oiled dough tub, cover and let ferment at 73°F/23°C – 76°FF/24°C for 2 hours and 30 minutes
- Transfer the dough to a generously floured surface (see relevant video in All About Ciabatta: Notes from a Class), taking care not to let it fold over itself
- Divide and scale at 500 g (you should have four ciabattas (again please refer to the relevant video) (Note that in class, Didier scaled the breakfast ciabatta at 200 g and all the others at 400 g)
- Proof on floured linen, top down, for one hour
- Bake with steam on a baking stone in a 420°F – 216°C oven for 30 minutes (turning oven down to 400°F-204°C after 10 minutes, tenting with foil if over browning after 20 minutes and propping the oven door open (with a wooden spoon) for the last five minutes
- Cool on a rack