After the flurry of bellies and birthday and some dear out-of-town visitors and a guest post over at Simple Bites (about pizza sauce, three ways—check it out!), things are finally beginning to settle down around here.
My henna tattoo is fading and now I keep my tummy covered most demurely. I’ve ceased wildly waving veils and tick-tocking my way around the house (though once in a while I’ll triple shimmy down the hall, just for anyhow). The birthday flowers are sprinkling their petals, the birthday balloon (that we tied to the door of the refrigerator freezer so that the kids would be less likely to bop it every time they walked past) is starting to droop, the next to last piece of birthday chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting just slipped down my gullet, yum-yum.
And it’s cold outside. Or at least it feels that way after the close-to-100 degree temps we had this past weekend. This morning found Miss Beccaboo dressed in her new winter coat (thanks, Grandma!) furiously peddling her bike all over the yard with a skirt stuck on her head.
Mr. Handsome glanced out the window, saw her, and stated flatly, “There goes the flying nun.”
But really, what I want to talk to you about is bread.
A person might wonder just how many bread recipes are necessary to have up one’s sleeve. Seeing as I have a bunch already listed on this blog as well as another whole blog dedicated to the subject of sourdough, my answer is this: there is no such thing as too much bread. Ever.
I love bread.
In fact, when we were at my aunt’s soiree and went out to dinner that evening, as we waited for our platters of Indian curry and filet mignon to arrive, we went around the table and took turns listing off our favorite food—something that brought us comfort and joy and unending happiness. My answer was sourdough bread, fresh from the oven and thickly spread with butter and grape jelly.
So see, bread is my comfort food, the source of unending toothsome pleasure.
That my belly and bottom are squishy like bread dough is perhaps no coincidence.
Anyway, let’s talk about bread. A new bread. A bread that will cause you, as soon as you’re done reading this post, to stand up and walk out to the kitchen and mix it up. Because, as you will see, this bread is easier than a two-bit floozy and more delicious than mother’s milk.
(Not that most of us remember what our mother’s milk tasted like. But we’ve all seen babies breastfeed. It goes something like this: first they wait watchfully, hands wildly a-waving, as the shirt gets hoisted and the bra unhooked, and while they wait, they pant. Take too long unhooking the bra and you end up with a hyperventilating baby on your lap. It’s one of the risks of breastfeeding. And then when the child latches on, well—hold on to your hats people ‘cause that baby is going to town. There’s gasping and snorting, gulping, the I’m-drowning-but-please-don’t-save-me sounds, lip smacking, heavy breathing, and underneath all the ruckus there’s the steady hum, the sound of a contented baby peacefully purring. Yes, babies purr. Considering that I did this thing called breastfeeding for ten years and spent hours upon hours watching as my babies’ eyes rolled back in their heads in contented blissment, I think I might understand the magnitude of the “more delicious than mother’s milk” statement.)
I got this bread recipe from a friend of mine who borrowed my steam juicer to turn grapes into communion juice. (Loaning it to him made me feel holy, once removed.) In his thank you email he pointed me to a youtube video of a guy making bread. It was the best food video I have ever seen. I showed it to the kids (they were concerned because the dude took the Lord’s name in vain, twice) and then I showed it to Mr. Handsome just because it was so stinkin’ entertaining.
The gist of the recipe is this: mix together flour, salt, yeast, and water. Let it ferment for 18 hours. Shape it and let it sit for another two. Bake. Eat. The end. If you get up right now and make it, you’ll be pulling a loaf of bread out of the oven come suppertime tomorrow night.
Well, what are you waiting for? GET MOVING!
Besides its simplicity and deliciousness, the other cool thing about this bread is its name: ciabatta. I’ve seen the word all over the place, but I’ve never known how to say it. (The curse of the TV-less.) Turns out, it’s a blast to say—cha-BAH-ttah. It means “carpet slipper.” But hey, don’t take my word for it—listen to how the youtube dude describes it. He’s much more entertaining than I am.
I’ve made this bread nearly a half-dozen times so far. I wanted to see how it handled a higher percentage of whole wheat flour (freshly ground Prairie Gold wheat, for those interested in the nitty gritty). It works, I’ve learned, not all that great. Every time I increased the whole wheat, the bread got a little flatter and a little heavier so I’ve decided it’s best to stick with the original proportions (though maybe you’ll learn otherwise).
The only other change I’ve made to the recipe is that I sometimes skip the plastic wrap step and just dump it directly onto the baking sheet. And I upped the salt just a tad ‘cause I’m a salt fiend.
From the youtube dude, otherwise known as Chef John (I think)
3 ½ cups bread flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 cups warm water
Combine all ingredients and stir. The dough will be wet and sticky and beautiful. Cover the bowl with plastic or foil, making sure there is plenty of room for the dough to bubble and double. Set it aside at room temperature for 18 hours.
After 18 hours has passed, and 2 hours before baking (or 3 before eating), stir down the dough using a rubber spatula. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Dump the dough on to the pan so that it makes an oblong shape, like a carpet slipper. Flour the dough and cover it with a clean towel. Let it rise for two hours. Bake it for 25-35 minutes at 425 degrees.
Yield: one loaf that is best eaten fresh, though leftovers make excellent toast.