Sourdough Ciabatta Rolls

I needed to feed my sourdough starter after storing it in the fridge for a month. Since Alex isn’t eating bread with me at the moment, I need to experiment with making individual rolls or smaller loaves of bread that I can polish off myself. This time, I decided to make Sourdough Ciabatta Rolls.

I’ve learned a few things from my experience making these rolls, but they’re actually things I should really know by now. Really, I should really follow directions exactly if I’m going to make bread. I’ve made some excellent bread by following directions very closely. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to do things a little differently, only to realize after the fact why it didn’t work out that well.

For this recipe, Susan mixes the ciabatta dough by hand. I opted for my stand mixer and dough hook because I was a little lazy and originally didn’t feel like getting my hands dirty. Honestly, I don’t think that was a major problem with my method of this recipe – it’s not why it didn’t turn out that well. I think I did over-knead it in the mixer, though. I didn’t add all of the water at first, and I couldn’t tell how developed the dough was with such a slack dough. I eventually decided to add the rest of the water and let the mixer incorporate it into the dough.

The next step is where I messed up with my bread. I was supposed to put it in a bowl; dump it out onto a floured surface at 30, 60, and 120 minutes to fold (knead) the bread before storing it in the fridge overnight for a longer fermentation. I didn’t feel like the mess of dumping such a wet flour out onto a floured surface, so I decided to put the dough in a large plastic container and do the folds directly in it, without turning the dough out. As I think about it now, it’s obvious that (some amount of) flour would be incorporated into the dough in the process of turning it out onto a floured surface 3 times. I just didn’t think about it at the time.

So, my ciabatta dough was excessively wet, more like a batter than anything else.

After it sat in the fridge for about 12 hours, I pulled it out to warm up. After a few hours, I turned the dough onto a floured surface so I could dust it with more flour and cut it into pieces. I didn’t have to stretch out my dough because it just spread out into the appropriate size on its own. I cut it into 12 pieces, but they were uneven so I combined the small pieces to yield 10 rolls total. I used a spatula to move them onto floured Silpats, which I would also bake them on; I didn’t want to chance moving them and having them become even more misshapen. The dough was so incredibly slack still that I folded it over onto itself to try to yield larger rolls without degassing the dough. The dough still oozed together as it rose for 2 hours.

Even if I hadn’t made the mistake of not incorporating enough flour into my dough, I would have been a little disappointed in my final product because I overcrowded my oven and didn’t create enough steam at the onset of baking. I had great luck when I made the French Bread before Christmas. I tried it again this time, but didn’t do it how I should have.

I had 2 baking sheets of dough and wanted to bake them at the same time. I also only have 2 baking racks and didn’t want to place a pan of water on the floor of my oven. When I preheated my oven, I also preheated a metal pan on the bottom rack so that I could pour water in it right when I started baking. However, I also planned to remove the pan once baking started so I could get the second pan of bread in the oven. Doesn’t it make sense that I would have problems if I made steam in the oven only to immediately remove the steam from the oven? Once the bread was in, I also sprayed water inside the oven (avoiding the oven door) to create steam, but it really wasn’t sufficient. My bread didn’t rise like it should have as a result, and it also didn’t brown like it should have. I baked the bread for a little longer since the rolls were a little bigger and I wanted them to brown more.

My rolls didn’t look pretty. They were flat and misshapen. They were pale, except along the outside edges where they browned excessively. But they actually tasted pretty good. Although thin, they had a great texture in the center. They were chewy and had some good-sized holes given their height. I don’t have any pictures to show you – trust me, they were ugly. You’ll just have to take my word on it.

So far, I ate 3 of the rolls and froze the rest so I can have bread whenever I’m ready for it. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again once I’m through with those. I really liked the texture, so I want to master this bread. I think I’ll really enjoy it once I can make ciabatta at the right height and with a good crust.

3 thoughts on “Sourdough Ciabatta Rolls”

    1. I actually got my starter from a friend last year, so I’m ashamed to say I’m not entirely sure how she started it. She wrote a little bit about it on her blog. She also references the blog I got the rolls recipe from. I really like the way Susan at Wild Yeast Blog lays out her instructions and recipes, so I’m sure that her sourdough starter tutorial would be great as well.

      At some point in the future I’m hoping to write a little bit about maintaining my starter. I did a lot of trial and error with it until I got a digital scale, which I adore.

  1. I also tried this ciabatta recipe and I had poor results as well… mine were fine until just before baking, then they imploded as soon as I moved them to bake. I can’t blame this recipe though because unfortunately I don’t get along with wet dough in general!

    BTW, if you want instructions on how to start a starter, I posted about all my internet sourdough resources here. The rye + pineapple juice methor is the most reliable. 🙂

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