Saturday, 1 September 2007

Prosciutto, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato panini

Since my previous experiment with bread making went pretty well, I've been wanting to bake more bread. The problem, however, is that bread making usually requires quite a bit of advance planning since the starter typically has to be left overnight before the dough can be made. This week, I finally got my act together and started on my next bread experiment, home made ciabatta, Friday evening after I got home from work. Still, in order to be able to use the ciabatta for lunch today, I had to wake up pretty early today to mix the dough. Thankfully, that step only took about 20 minutes so I was able to get back to sleep to try to recover from my jet lag.

Although the recipe warned that the dough would be moist and sticky, I wasn't completely prepared for just how sticky it would be. I found myself sprinkling quite a liberal amount of flour on the dough to make it more manageable. Even so, at one point, I thought I had completely ruined the dough because I could not get the parchment paper off! With some patience though, I was able to save the dough and M and I were able to have home made ciabatta for lunch. This time, I chose to top our sandwiches with prosciutto, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes, and served the sandwiches with a side of watercress, spinach and rocket salad. M raved about the sandwiches so I think this recipe is a keeper. What toppings do you like on your sandwiches?

Whole Wheat Ciabatta
From HomeBaking

1/8 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup milk
1/2 cup hot water
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

To make the poolish, in a small bowl stir the yeast into the water until well dissolved. Stir in the flour to make a smooth batter. Cover and let stand overnight or for as long as 24 hours, at room temperature.

When ready to make the dough, stir the milk and hot water together in the bowl of a stand mixer. When the mixture is lukewarm, stir in the yeast to dissolve it completely.

Fit the stand mixer with the dough hook. Add the poolish and the 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour and mix at low speed until smooth. Sprinkle on the salt and 3 cups of all-purpose flour and mix for 1 minute. Add the oil and mix at medium speed for 3 minutes. The dough will be smooth, very moist, and soft.

Transfer the dough to a large clean bowl, cover with plastic, and let rise for 3 to 4 hours. It will double in volume, will not bounce back when prodded with a fingertip, and will probably have several large air bubbles on the top surface.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Use a dough scraper or a sharp knife to cut the dough into 4 pieces. Let rest a moment, loosely covered. Place four 12-inch lengths of parchments paper or wax paper on a work surface or on several baking sheets. Sprinkle each generously with all-purpose flour.

Flatten 1 piece of dough, then roll it up into a cylinder, jelly rol style. With the seam side down, flatten the dough back out into a rectangle about 10 inches long and 4 inches wide; you want it to have good square corners. Place seam side up on one sheet of parchment paper and dimple firmly all over with your fingertips. This will help the bread stay flattened and stretched. Cover with plastic wrap; roll and flatten the other pieces of dough, placing each on a sheet of floured paper. Let stand, well covered, for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until puffy-looking.

Meanwhile, place a baking stone on a rack in the center or upper third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 425F. Set a sprayer filled with fresh water and a bowl of water by your work surface.

Rub a peel well with all-purpose flour. Place the peel over one bread, then flip the paper over so the bread is resting on the peel. Lift off the paper (it will stick a little, so peel it off carefully). Wet your fingers well with water, then dimple the bread deeply all over with your fingertips. Place on the baking stone, leaving room for another bread. Repeat with a second bread.

Spritz the breads with water two or three times in the first 5 minutes of baking. They will be ready in about 20 minutes, golden on top, thin crusted, and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining breads.

When they're cool, cut crosswise in slices. Or, to use for sandwiches, slice crosswise in half, then split horizontally.

Makes 4 loaves