Monday, May 3, 2010

NO NEED TO KNEAD - No knead ciabatta

There is no smell quite like the aroma of baking bread filling your home. That sweet, yeasty fragrance of unadulterated carbo loading potential, warm and crusty with New Zealand’s golden butter just melting into it. I cannot begin to describe what a weakness this is for me.

I know the idea of bread baking can terrify people, handling yeast, rising it just enough, kneading it properly. It can be a fine art and for those among us who bake bread truly skillfully, collecting natural yeasts from the air or experimenting with different flours, it can be a serious passion.

Winter is a great time for bread baking, a big pot of soup sitting on the stovetop with a loaf of homemade bread happily feeds a family for several nights in a row. It’s a wonderful addition to brunch with friends, or with a cheese platter. I serve slices of homemade ciabatta on an entrĂ©e plate with fresh sliced prosciutto, goats cheese and lemon oil.

If you’re ever in Christchurch and get in early enough, a wonderful treat is a quick lunch at The Canterbury Cheesemongers. Fresh ciabatta rolls still warm from the oven, a slab of the cheese of your choice and a fantastic local roast flat white. It’s heaven.

At White Tie Catering however we often need to bake enough bread for 500 people in one weekend and because we’re also preparing everything else on the menu, we simply don’t have the luxury of time for a long bread baking process. One of our event supervisors, Karyn Bird gave us a recipe of hers that has since become a serious staple in the White Tie kitchen. It’s a no-knead ciabatta that is as good as any ciabatta we can buy, and because we bake it, we can serve it fresh from the oven, warm and still bursting with fragrance at the table.

This bread is easy, manageable and the results are simply outstanding. It’s not technical nor do you need the gift of the pastry hand to pull it off. Bake it once and you’ll be a convert. Best of all, it will literally cost you about a quarter of the price of a loaf of bread. It’s fresh, without preservatives or additives so by the second day it is quite rightly, stale. It’s really very good toast as well….
Cook it & Love it.

Makes 4 loaves

7 cups high grade flour
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups warm water

Mix yeast with warm water and leave for 10 minutes. Add salt, sugar and 3 cups of the flour. Combine, cover and leave overnight.

Mix in remaining 4 cups of flour, cover and leave for a further 2 – 3 hours. Preheat over to 230°C. Dump dough onto very well floured board and cut into 4 portions. Stretch out onto baking tray into flat ciabatta loaves. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes.