Recipe: Easy Ciabatta by Scott Megee of the Artisan Crust

Like many baking enthusiasts, during the pandemic lockdown, I watched A LOT of baking videos to learn different bread baking techniques. I started out watching regular YouTubers. Some are great like Sune, the Foodgeek, but as with any social media platform, the real good stuff takes some searching. So eventually, I found pros like Markus Farbinger, Jeffrey Hamelman, and Chad Robertson (I read the latter two’ book as well). But then I discovered and also followed Scott Megee, Master Baker of Australia and owner/proprietor of The Artisan Crust in Victoria, Australia. And I tried out his easy version of ciabatta.

In short, this bread rocks! Not only is it easy to make, but despite not using a preferment at all, it’s delicious! The trick is using really good olive oil – first cold-pressed is the best. Don’t make the mistake of using “first pressed” or “cold-pressed” olive oil. It has to be “first cold-pressed” as that is the real deal extra virgin olive oil. Of course, there’s lots of chicanery in the olive oil business, so it’s never entirely clear.

For me, I use California extra virgin olive oil produced by the Sciabica family. I originally became familiar with them through the Dominican Sisters. Each year, they have the olives harvested from the grounds of their convent in Mission San Jose, and the Sciabica family presses and processes their olive oil.

As for the Sciabica family olive oil, though I usually purchase 1.5-liter boxes directly from them, in California, you can also find their oil in grocery stores under the “Mission Trail” brand. This is a very nice oil made from olive trees in Northern California. It’s wonderfully fruity with a peppery finish.

Okay, let’s get to the important stuff!

Overall Formula

Flour
AP Flour: 50%
Bread Flour: 25%
Kamut Flour: 25%
100.00%
Water76.00%
Salt2.00%
Yeast0.50%
Olive Oil3.00%
Total %181.50%

Final Dough

Flour*
AP Flour: 501g
Kamut Flour: 167g
668g
Water508g
Salt13g
Yeast3g
Olive Oil20g
Total Yield1212g
2 X 600g loaves
Optimal Dough Temp82°F (28°C)
*You can use your own blend or just use AP flour. I wouldn’t recommend 100% high-protein bread flour as it would make the crumb chewy.

Mix: Mix all the dry ingredients together thoroughly. Reserve 20% of the water and combine it with the oil. Then mix the dry ingredients together with 80% of the water. Mix until smooth and you achieve a bit of gluten development. Once the initial mix has come together, slowly add the oil and water mixture and work it into the dough (this is known as bassinage). Mix until smooth, then transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the container, then let the dough rest for 45 minutes.

Note: I recommend using a mixer for ciabatta (Hey! The Italians do!), but you can certainly mix the dough by hand.

Process. At this point, it’s a lot easier to learn Scott Megee’s technique by watching his video:

Note that where I started the video, Scott is measuring the temperature of the dough and it reads 23°C. But his recipe actually lists the optimal dough temp to be 28°C.

Bake. Bake with steam for 20 minutes at 450°F. Then finish baking for another 20 minutes without steam. If the crust color seems a little dark after the first 20 minutes, reduce oven temp to 400°F. Internal dough temp should be 200°F to ensure the dough is fully cooked.

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