Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Carmelized Onion, Wild Mushroom and Cheese Ciabatta

Fresh ciabattas are crunchy on the outside, pillowy and tender on the inside.  What could make such an incredible bread better?  How about carmelized onions, wild mushrooms and Parmesan cheese?  That seems like an awful lot to pack into one batch of bread, but oh my, the flavor is awesome.   I used the biga version of the ciabatta recipe from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"  and combined three of the variations he listed.  I made a few adjustments on the filling only because I was using all three.  It is a two day process to make this bread.  But I think you will agree with me when I tell you that it is worth every minute.

Ciabatta, Biga Version
from the cookbook The Bread Baker's Apprentice
3 cups (16 ounces)  biga
2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (.37 ounces) salt
1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 ounces) instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons t 1 1/8 cups (7-9 ounces) water (or substitute milk or buttermilk for all or part of the water), lukewarm
1/4 cup(2 ounces) olive oil-optional

  • Remove biga from refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough.  Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife.  Cover witha towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour.

  • To make the dough, stir together the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the biga pieces and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water and the oil.  **If you are adding reconstitued wild mushrooms, you add them here. On low speed with the paddle attachment, mix until the ingredients form a sticky ball.  If there is still some loose flour, add the additional water as needed and continue to mix.

  • Mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth sticky dough.  Switch to the dough hook for the final 2 minutes of mixing.  The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom.  You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to lear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should be soft and sticky.

  • Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 8 inches square.  Using a bowl scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and proceed with the stretch and fold method. Divide the dough into 3 loaves.  Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

  • Let it rest for 30 minutes and stretch and fold again, mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover.  Allow the covered dough to ferment for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  It should swell but not necessarily double.

  • Set up a couche (towel covered in flour to use as separators for the loaves).  Carefully remove the plastic from the dough and shape the dough.  Mist the top of the dough with oil and dust the dough with more flour, the cover the cloth with a towel.

  • Proof for 45-60 minutes at room temp

  • Prepare the oven for hearth baking.  Preheat oven to 500F.  Make sure to have an empty steam pan in place.

  • Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the dough pieces to the peel or pan, using the pastry scraper if you need support.  Lift the dough frome each end and tug the dough our to a length of 9 to 12 inches.  if the dough bulges too high in the middle gently dimple it down with your fingertips to even out the height of the loaf.  Slide onto a baking stone or bake directly on the sheet pan.   Pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan and close the door.  After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the side walls of the oven with water and close the door.  Repeat twice more at 30 second intervals.  After the final spray, turn the oven setting down to 450F and bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the loaves 180 degrees, if necessary for even baking and continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes loger or until done.  The bread should register 205F in the center and should be golden in color (but the flour streaks willalso give it a dusty look).  The loaves will feel quite hard and crusty at first but will soften as they cool.

  • Transfer the bread from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for ath least 45 minutes before slicing and serving.
2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon (.055 ounces) instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 cup (7 to 8 ounces) water, at room temp

  • Stir together flour and yeast.  Ad 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, stirring until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball.  Adjust the flour or water, according to nedd, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (it is better to err on the sticky side, as you can adjust easier during kneading.)
  • Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer teh dought o the counter.  Knead for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the dough is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  The internal temp shou ne 77 to 81 F.
  • Lightly oil a bowl and trasfer the dough to the bow, rolling it around to coat it with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap andferment at room temp for 2 to 4 hours, or until it nearly doubles in size.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly to de-gas, and return it to the bowl.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator, covered overnight.  You can keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze it in an airtight plastic bag for up to 3 months.

***5 dried shitake or porcini mushrooms, broken into pieces and reconstitued with 6 tablespoons warm water***If you are going to use these, they need to be added when you mix the dough for the ciabatta.
4 cups sliced onions
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 cup chopped fresh herb blend (I used thyme)
Salt and pepper
2 cups shredded parmesan

  • Prepare the onion herb mixture at least an hour before making the dough or the day before.  In a large pan, saute the onions in teh olive oil over medium heat until they start to caramelize or turn brown.  Add the sugar and continue to cook until until the sugar melts and the onions turn golden brown.  Add the balsamic vinegar and stir until the onions are evely coated.  Turn off teh heat and add the herbs, tossing just until they are evenly distributed and wilted.  Season with salt and peper.  Set aside to cool.
  • Make the dough as directed.  When performing the stretch and fold steps, spread some onions and cheese over each piece of dough each time and fold them in. 

If you have any questions about this recipe, the method or techniques, shoot me an email and I will try to explain it better:)


  1. I could eat this all by itself with nothing else.

    Your pictures are looking great BTW.

  2. Thanks Min! It is so good...too good to eat with anything else:)
    I didn't realize how hard it was to take pictures! It's harder than the actual cooking.

  3. What a tasty filling for some nice fresh homemade bread!


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