Hope you are having a wonderful spring! Food adventures (#adventuresineating) have been in full effect for me and I hope that the spring time gives you a chance to get out and try some delicious food or better yet, BAKE some delicious food.
It’s the continuation of #breadweek. After my long post about rye rolls, this post, in comparison, will be short and sweet. Today we are baking Ciabatta. Ciabatta is a fairly new Italian bread. Being known for pasta wasn’t enough for the Italians, they wanted to make sure they could compete with the French and their famous baguette. Thus, Ciabatta was born out of the oven.
According to Wikipedia Ciabatta was created in 1982 by a baker in Italy, in response to the notoriety of the French baguette. Since then Ciabatta has been baked into various different forms with slight variations in dough. You might know ciabatta from delicious eats such as paninis or from the light, airy structure of the bread. The word ciabatta literally means slipper in Italian. But why would you put these on your feet and not in your mouth?? #getinmybelly
Aside from eating ciabatta, I didn’t know much about it until I watched The Show (The Great British Bake Off is the show of course). As I began this #technicalchallenge, the word “patience” kept repeating in my head. Mr. Paul Hollywood’s infamous words of wisdom during the episode (which, baker Kate heeded, and came in first for the technical (spoiler alert)). I decided that I would be as patient as I could be while I delved into Mr Hollywood’s recipe (from the How to Bake).
Bread making, in general, can cause anxiety. You know... that kneading, that proofing, that I-hope-that-is-a-hollow-sound when you are tapping the bottom of the loaf to check if it is done. Since I was putting ciabatta and baguette on the same plane, I began to get a little nervous for this challenge. I have only made baguettes once (but recently started to feel the urge to make them again, now that I am more learned). However baguettes were the ultimate finicky bread and an exercise in the value of PATIENCE. Ciabatta, the Baguette rival, must be the same way, right?
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my How to Bake book to the ciabatta recipe and found that it was surprisingly simple. In fact, the recipe called to ONLY use an electric mixer since the dough is a very wet dough. The proofing time listed was 1-2 hours (making sure the dough double or even trebled (oh, those Brits!) in size).
The tricky part is after the proofing, to NOT knock the air out from the dough, as many bread recipes will tell you to do. The air that is created from the yeast is what gives the ciabatta that light, airy texture.
Ok, for those of you that are following along (Thank you!), there is no crazy Pantry Caper during this ciabatta technical bake. Simple ingredients that anyone would have on hand: bread flour, olive oil, salt, yeast. No eggs, no butter. I would definitely spring for some good olive oil to infuse some delicious taste since you oil a square plastic tub to proof the dough in.
Square? The shape is specifically requested by Mr. Hollywood in order to help with the shaping. Well, Paul, I only had a round tub so my round tub will have to make due. I oiled my ROUND tub and felt satisfied.
I followed the directions as listed by the recipe and my dough doubled within an hour so I decided to cut and shape and not wait another hour.
(Patience, out the window, btw).
Definitely a wet dough! I gave it almost an extra 10 minutes of “kneading” in the electric mixer (#kitchenaid, if you are asking...see selfie of me and my mixer on my instagram account @dana.does.things), even though the recipe only called for 5-8 minutes. I decided to add the extra 10 minutes because the dough didn’t look like it was fully “together” and smooth. The kneading time and the round tub were my only diversions from this recipe.
A Bonus look at my delicious lunch :) You are WELCOME.
So, after baking and writing this blog... I rewatched the season 1 Bread episode... and kept my eyes and ears open for more tips about ciabatta. I think when I bake some more ciabatta next time, I will let the first proof go a little longer (going up to 2 hours, if I dare), not in a proofing drawer or overly warm area because I don't want to over activate the yeast, and still let the dough rest a little longer than 10 minutes after shaping. I loved my golden color and the chew of my ciabatta, so I think my bake time was right (less than 20 min), but less stretching for the shaping and keeping with the slipper shape may help me. I'll let you know when . I bake it again. But for now, it's onto the #showstopper.
I feel so accomplished in FINALLY finishing my first biscuit showstopper. I am not going to lie, I was feeling a lot of resistance to doing this bake… even though I practiced this biscuit bake, which is not always the case.
The reason I was feeling a lot of resistance to this, is that I am just not that kind of baker. You’ve heard me write about it before but I am not that strong at decorating in detail. And I think contributed to the anxiety of this showstopper.
But the good news (!) is that I feel like I learned a lot by doing this bake. And I learned a lot about myself as a baker.
Things I learned:
I knew that my constructing skills were going to be pretty rudimentary, so I decided to take some pressure off of myself and do A SECTION of Hogwarts, instead of trying to do a whole silhouette. I even thought at one point I would do the same section on the front and back so you would see it either way… but I realized that I wouldn’t have enough biscuit dough to do that. And honestly, I didn’t want to make more (and I didn't have the time).
I decided that I would fake some relief work and cut out windows and such and paste them on the sides of the sculpture so it would add a little extra somethin-somethin to it. Confused by the syntax of "relief work?" This is what I mean: Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term relief is from the Latin verb relevo, to raise. To create asculpture in relief is to give the impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane. (Brought to you by: Wikipedia). Can I just tell you how cool meringue powder is?! Totally awesome to use as a edible and delicious (and highly sugared) glue. Helping my “relief work” to stay in place.
You can find the recipe I used for the royal icing below as well. I opted for a recipe that did NOT use corn syrup because... gross. And I did not have any corn syrup in my pantry (I definitely did not have time for another Pantry Caper). As I was doing research about royal icing, because that is what one does when embarking on making a 3D sculpture scene, I learned a trick to keep royal icing from drying out: place a damp paper towel on top of the icing when not in use and (!) add coloring before thinning out to decorate so that you don’t over-thin the icing. Love learning #bakehacks. I kept my royal icing pretty thick as I was using it to paste together biscuits. I had enough left over for any decorating that I would need to do. In theory I would have then added a tablespoon of water at a time to thin the royal icing out, but... I didn’t need it for further decorating (keep reading). But I stored the rest of the icing in a mason jar so I can use it on some cookies (that I WILL NOT be making a sculpture out of) later.
Not only did I get to learn some #bakehacks but I also got to use my new baking toys: my rolling spacers! These are the ones that I got and I think they worked great! I felt that my biscuit thickness came out really even… I am super excited to use it while rolling pastry. More excuses to bake. #bakerproblems
You can see in my video documenting my construction, the moments when I was trying to figure it out on the fly. There are a lot of those moments. Also, see if you can pinpoint the actual moment when I just decided to say "good enough" to figuring out what to do with the inside of the structure. If you don't blink you can see when I pop a little biscuit in my mouth too. :)
Confession time. By the time I was done with constructing it… I honestly was like, “I’m good” and I didn’t even bother with making cream cheese frosting to do some decorations. I had a notion to make it Hogwarts in winter because who doesn’t love Hogwarts in winter?! Instead, the end product is a little more like a vague representation of a castle made out of edible things. To paraphrase a classic movie: "It's a little like a Monet...looks good from afar, but up close it's a bit of a mess. #clueless.
BUT I AM STILL PROUD. Remember all the anxiety I had about doing this bake. Well, I did it! Do I wish that I had the follow through to make it as pretty as it could be? A little. Do I feel bad about it? Not really. I know that I have grown as a baker and I know that I don’t ever want to do a 3D biscuit anything again… but I am excited to have the holidays roll around again so I can make awesome gingerbread cookies with treacle and the cream cheese frosting...mmmmm.
In case you are wondering...the biscuit structure is STILL standing 24+ hours later. It didn’t collapse! No, I am still not going to eat it. But I do feel like making more shortbread biscuits (perhaps, blueberry shortbread?!) and those I WILL eat.
Bread Week is next. Until then, Happy Baking. Happy Eating. Happy Repeating.
I hadn’t planned to write an entry to answer this question. Because I ASSUMED that all awesome, informed 21st century-living-breathing people know what this magical show is. Imagine my surprise when I texted one of my besties (and one part of girlintheworldproductions) and asked for help editing my wordiness. Below is a summary of conversation.
Me: help me! I’m going to bake a lot of things.
Her: Yes! Are you sending me British baked things?
Me: Yes. If I figure out how.
Her: One question….what is the Great British Bake Off?
That got me to thinking… some people may not actually know about this little piece of TV heaven. Maybe some of you are wondering why do I love GBBO, as well? Therefore, I decided to write a little background for anyone that cares to read. Please if you have more detailed information (or corrections), comment below. But this is what Wikipedia tells me:
“The Great British Bake Off (often referred to as Bake Off or GBBO) is a British television baking competition produced by Love Productions, in which a group of amateur bakers compete against each other in a series of rounds, attempting to impress a group of judges with their baking skills, with a contestant being eliminated in each round, with the winner being selected from the remaining contestants that make it to the finals. The show's first episode was aired on 17 August 2010, with its first four series broadcast on BBC Two, until its growing popularity led the BBC to move it to BBC One for the next three series. After its seventh series, Love Productions signed a three-year deal with Channel 4 to produce the show for the broadcaster.
The programme was originally presented by Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, with judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood.”
I won’t give you spoliers about who the winners are, since you can binge watch it on Netflix (while eating pie). Then, after negotiations it moved the series to Channel 4, the original presenters (the awesome duo) Mel and Sue decided not to the make the transition. Mary Berry also decided it was best for her to leave the series as well. Old Blue Eyes, Paul Hollywood has stayed on as judge with new judge Prue Leith. The current hosts are Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig.
The format of the show is a nice consumable hunk of crusty bread. Twelve amateur bakers (I think on occasion 13), are picked from thousands and thousands of submissions throughout the country. For ten weeks, they travel to the “tent” in the English countryside, complete with sheep, and bake THREE bakes over the course of a weekend. Each week is themed ie. cake, bread, etc. One day they complete a SIGNATURE BAKE, which they have gotten to practice throughout the week in the comfort of their own homes. They also complete a TECHNICAL CHALLENGE - which they have no clue what they will be baking- and often times I have no clue too ...since I have NEVER heard of 90% of the technical challenges (Kouign Amann?! (which is delicious btw, I recently had my first one, now I have to bake it)). The Technical Challenge is especially difficult because the recipe the bakers are supplied is a pared down version- meaning no directions!!! Often with no proofing or baking times or even how to combine the ingredients! The third and final bake of the weekend is the SHOWSTOPPER (insert jazz hands). And it is exactly as it sounds: complicated, beautiful, delicious (kinda like me). The bakers have had the chance to practice this as well, which leads me to believe that none of these bakers sleep while they are in the competition. This bake needs to be nothing short of sensational.
A baker leaves every week until the Final, where the last three bakers battle it out or bake it out to be the GREAT BRITISH BAKER! (#ironbaker)
WHY DO I LOVE GBBO, INQUIRING MINDS LIKE YOUR WANT TO KNOW.
Now that you know what I am up against… maybe you will have some sympathy when a bake of mine collapses. Not being negative...but it’s most likely (will) going to happen. The way the show came to be seems like an idyllic dream… it was pitched to emulate quaint village fetes that have community bake offs (In the words of Liz Lemon of 30Rock, “I want to go to there.”) and, surprisingly, inspired the baking competitions as seen on TV in the United States. One of the main reasons I find this “reality” show of the cooking genre so endearing, is that there is no drama, at least none of that manufactured drama to pit one baker against the other. There is a camaraderie amongst the bakers and I find that refreshing. I heard a rumor that when a baker was having a difficult and emotional time with the oven, Mel and Sue would stand by them and say all sorts of things that you can’t say on TV so that editors couldn’t use potentially embarrassing moments in the broadcast. Drama free reality TV? Yes, please. Of course all the nail biting (or cake biting) moments come from bakes toppling over the benches or the male judge poking his fingers through an underbaked bread. (#bakinghorror). The newest hosts, Noel and Sandi, often are emotionally choked up when they have to announce the next baker to leave... everyone truly becomes friends. I LOVE THAT. Probably because I am a nicer person when I am baking…
As far as I know, the winner of GBBO doesn’t receive loads of money or a contract to their own cookbook or anything like that… they get the title, a cool little cake stand and huge bouquet of flowers. So these bakers are literally just doing it out of their own passion and gumption. Again, AMAZING. Of course, many of the winners have gone on to write books or host other TV shows and things like that… but the main goal of all the bakers is to bake well and share it with people.
The show is like a mini baking school. I learn SO. MUCH. every time I watch it. I can only imagine the breadth of knowledge you absorb when you are actually in that tent. Maybe one day… one can only hope.
There you have it. A glimpse into my own baking addiction. Totally yummy and deliciously awesome. Or as Prue (and my husband) would say, “worth the calories.”