At school, I’m known for “procrastibaking”—baking to avoid doing my work. Now, though, I’ve been doing a lot of “distractibaking”—baking to avoid, well, everything. Bread is one of my favorite escapes. Mixing dough is an intensely tactile experience, and watching it grow makes me feel like I’m nourishing something. Then, of course, the finished loaf feeds my family. Making bread nourishes the body and soul.
Below is a recipe for a 100% whole wheat ciabatta, an airy, rustic bread. It’s flexible in terms of timing and ingredients and creates a gorgeous loaf streaked with flour. It’s easy to double, too.
Recipe adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day
- 340g/2.75 cups whole wheat flour
- 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
- 3/8 teaspoon instant yeast
- 21g/1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (or 21g/1.5 tablespoons sugar)
- 270g/1 cup plus 2.5 tablespoons water
- 21g/1.5 tablespoons olive oil
Mix flour, salt, yeast, honey, and water together in a large bowl (or Tupperware or other vessel). Stir with a spoon or your hands for a minute until combined; the dough will be pretty gnarly. Let it sit for 5 minutes to hydrate the flour.
|2.||Drizzle the olive oil over the dough. Wet your hands and mix for a minute more to combine. The dough will be smoother but still sticky and rough. Cover the bowl and let it rest for another 10 minutes.|
|3.||Crack open a cold one.|
|4.||Now we’re going to fold the dough. Wet your hands and grab one edge of the dough. Stretch it up and fold it over the top of the dough. Repeat for each side (so four stretch-and-folds total). Flip the dough over, tuck it into a roundish shape, and put back in the bowl. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. Repeat three more times for a total of four rounds of folding. Admire how it get smoother and firmer with each round of folding.|
|5.||Now the dough needs a long nap. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days. The dough will double in size, so make sure your bowl is large enough.|
|6.||About three hours before you want to bake it, take the dough out of the fridge.|
|7.||1 hour after taking the dough out, line the underside of a baking sheet or pizza peel with parchment and dust it with flour. Carefully dump the dough onto the parchment, keeping as many bubbles in the dough as possible. Flour your hands and the top of the dough, and pat it into a rough rectangle about 9x4.5 inches, but no need to break out the measuring tape. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter and gently roll it in the flour, ending seam side down.|
|8.||Cover the dough with a towel and let it nap for another hour.|
|9.||Gently pick up the dough and coax it out to about 7 inches long. Be gentle! Place it seam side up this time.|
|10.||Cover and let it have one more hour-long nap. Since we’re an hour out from baking, it’s time to heat your oven as hot as it will go. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the middle rack of your oven. If you want to try baking with steam (this helps the dough rise), put a metal pan you don’t really care about on the lowest rack of your oven.|
|11.||Once the dough has had its nap and your oven is preheated, slide the parchment onto the pizza stone. If you don’t have a baking stone, just stick the entire sheet pan into the oven. If you’re baking with steam, cover the glass of your oven door with a towel, dump a cup of hot water into the steam pan, and close the door quickly. Lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees.||no in-oven photos because dealing with hot steam and a phone at the same time is a recipe for disaster|
|12.||Bake for 12 minutes, rotate, and base for 15-20 minutes more until the loaf is rich brown and puffed with a hard crust.|
|13.||Cool for 45 minutes before slicing. Eat with people you love (yourself included).|