Sydney’s inner west suburb of Haberfield is known around these parts as Little Italy.
I’m at the Haberfield shops at least once a week, visiting Johnny’s cheese shop, drinking chai lattes at Manny’s cafe, or buying pasta from my friend Joe at Peppe’s Pasta. Lorraine at NQN did a great walking tour of the suburb – grab a cup of tea and check it out here.
At the heart of Little Italy is Lamonica’s IGA – a supermarket quite unlike any other in Sydney. As well as standard groceries, they also stock a wide range of imported Italian goods, including interesting pastas, deli items, cake ingredients, olive oils, vinegars and more.
When I was there last week, they had Italian flour on sale, including 5kg bags of Granoro 00 for $8.99, and Granoro durum semolina flour for just $2/kg.
Semola Rimacinata di Grano Duro is re-milled durum wheat semolina – a superfine flour with 12% protein content (more information here). It’s great for making egg pasta, but I also find it the perfect flour for my ciabatta loaves. This one nearly attained the desired “slipper” shape…
A disclaimer: this isn’t how ciabattas are traditionally made, nor is the end result an authentic representation of anything other than what I call a ciabatta. My apologies to any purists out there who are miffed by this.
Having said that, the loaves have a chewy, elastic texture which we find highly addictive, and my family will eat all four loaves within a couple of days. This is not light fluffy white bread, and the crumb has an intriguing, almost plasticky shine in the holes…
This is also the bread I make when my hands are sore, because it requires very little actual kneading or shaping. Unfortunately as I get older, these things all have to be taken into consideration!
A note to my fellow sourdough bakers – the hydration of the dough is approximately 77%, which is quite high, but the durum wheat flour seems to absorb more moisture than regular bakers’ flour. Don’t be tempted to use fine or coarse semolina instead of semolina (durum wheat) flour – the former is too coarse and won’t absorb enough water, and you’ll end up with a soggy mess. If you can’t find semolina flour, substitute more bread flour in its place and reduce the water by about 5%.
Ciabatta con Semola Rimacinata di Grano Duro
(an original Fig Jam and Lime Cordial recipe)
- 300g active sourdough starter (fed at a ratio of one cup water to one cup flour)
- 675g iced water (must be at least fridge cold – this is important)
- 500g bakers/bread flour
- 500g Semola Rimacinata di Grano Duro (fine durum wheat semolina flour)
- 18g fine sea salt
1. Measure all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
2. Squelch and scrape everything together to form a sticky dough. Scrape your fingers off and cover the bowl with clingfilm.
3. After about an hour, give the dough a quick knead in the bowl, and cover it up again. Repeat this procedure when you’re next in the kitchen (within the next hour or so). Then cover the dough up and allow it to rise until doubled in size. In our Sydney weather, the time from initial squelching to the photo you see below was about six hours.
Place pizza stones into the oven if you’re using them, and preheat the oven to maximum (about 250C with fan).
4. When the oven is hot, generously dust the bench with rye flour. Scrape the dough onto the bench, flour your hands and gently pat it into a large rectangle. Now fold one third into the middle, and the other third over the top of it, to create a long thick rectangle. You might need to use the scraper to help you, as the dough will be quite sticky and wet.
5. Cut the dough into four roughly equal pieces.
6. Tear off four sheets of parchment paper and with well floured hands and the scraper, gently transfer a cut slice of dough onto a sheet of parchment, giving it a little stretch as you go to emulate the “slipper” that ciabatta is so famously named after. The dough will be quite soft and a bit sticky, so dust it with a little more rye flour if necessary, and also make sure you’ve got plenty of flour on your hands.
If you don’t have pizza stones, you can place the loaves onto a parchment lined tray instead. The loaves are immediately ready to bake – there’s no need for a second prove. Note: please check your parchment paper instructions to ensure that it can cope with these oven temperatures.
7. Spritz the tops of the dough with water, and immediately slide them onto the pizza stones to bake. Reduce the oven temperature to 220C with fan and bake for 20 minutes, then further reduce to 175C with fan and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until the crust is set to your liking. After the first 10 minutes or so, I like to carefully remove the parchment paper from under the loaves to allow the bottoms to brown up (don’t bother with this if you’re baking on a lined tray).
My oven will take four loaves at the one time, but if yours isn’t quite as ginormous, you could halve the recipe, or shape the dough into larger loaves to begin with.
PS. A little bread trivia from my miller friend Kevin Sherrie – research has shown that including a small percentage of durum wheat flour into bread dough will keep the finished loaves fresher than bread made solely from soft wheat flour. More information here.
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Addendum: Maths isn’t my forte, but if you’re using a sourdough starter at 100% hydration, the following formula should work:
- 300g active sourdough starter (100%)
- 715g iced water
- 485g bakers/bread flour
- 485g Semola Rimacinata di Grano Duro (fine durum wheat semolina flour)
- 18g fine sea salt