Here’s another recipe for the brick oven Alfa Pizza. This time I made simple ciabatta bread without the use of a stand mixer. It’s a simple recipe I had already made in my home oven.
Video Recipe for Ciabatta Bread baked in a brick oven
This is the first time I use my brick oven to bake bread and I have taken the following steps.
Preparing the oven
Bear in mind that the leavening process for this ciabatta bread requires about 90 minutes, so take this into consideration when lighting the fire and preparing the embers.
About one hour before baking, I lit up the fire using only 5 pieces of wood. When the fire got to a lively flame, I left the door ajar, to keep all the heat inside. When the oven got up to 500°C, I opened the door to lower the temperature and give way to the formation of embers.
Ideally, you could use the oven to bake a few pizzas at 400-500°C and then, when the temperature drops, bake bread.
The brick oven is a very dry environment and it’s important to create a little humidity so that during the first few minutes of baking, the surface of the bread stays soft; that way the carbon dioxide trapped in the dough can expand and make the bread rise. Check out this episode about bread leavening on VivaLaFocaccia TV .
To increase humidity, when the temperature reached 250°C, I placed a pot of water inside the oven. I also sprayed some water inside the oven just before putting in the bread.
Temperature and Baking
Before baking, I moved the embers to one side, I made sure there weren’t any flames left and I put the bread in the oven. The baking temperature leveled off at around 200-220°C.
It’s important there isn’t a live fire in the oven or the bread surface will burn right away and the bread won’t cook inside. I think this is the most common mistake when baking bread in a brick oven.
- Dissolve the yeast in the water
- Add honey (or sugar)
- Add 3/4 of the flour and mix
- Add salt
- Stir thoroughly to incorporate the salt
- Add the remaining flour
- Mix well. You don’t have to over mix, when the flour is absorbed it’s done.
- Cover the dough and let it rise for 90 minutes away from drafts at a temperature of 25°C or above (you can put it in your home oven with just the light turned on)
- The dough has to rise for about 90 minutes or until it has doubled in volume
Prepping the oven
Here’s how I got my AlfaPizza 4 Pizze oven to the right temperature. Obviously every oven is different, so these are only general guidelines and in time you will learn to adapt them to your oven through experience.
- About an hour before baking the bread, light up some paper and small sticks of wood inside the oven. The first few times, work a little ahead of time so you don’t risk the bread being already risen and the oven still too hot.
- Add 5-6 medium size sticks
- When the fire gets to a lively flame, leave the door ajar, to allow enough air to circulate and to keep all the heat inside. We are trying to heat up the oven while creating the embers we need.
- Open the door when the temperature exceeds 300°C.
- When you have enough embers, move them to one side
- Place a small pot of water near the embers to increase humidity inside the oven
- Open or close the door (whichever is needed) to bring the temperature to 220-240°
- You have to try to synchronize the moment when the bread dough is ready and the oven temperature is 220-240°C, without any flames inside, just embers. If there are still a few flames, you can simply remove the sticks that are still burning.
Shaping the Ciabatta
This dough is rather moist and sticky. We are going to use the following procedure to shape it into a ciabatta and give it the traditional flour creases by handling it as little as possible.
- Sprinkle a little water onto your worktop to allow the plastic film to stick to it and not move while you work
- Place two large pieces of plastic wrap onto your worktop
- Sprinkle them generously with flour
- Here’s what the dough looks like after rising
- Gently turn out the dough onto the floured surface trying not to fold it
- Grease your fingers and gently straighten up the dough, giving it a ciabatta like shape (ciabattas are slippers, by the way)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle it with corn flour. This allows a little air to circulate under the bread and makes it cook better on the bottom part.
- Now lift the plastic wrap and turn out the dough in one smooth motion
- Flipping the dough over is essential to form the flour creases on the surface and to redistribute the air pockets on the inside.
- Gently straighten up the shape again if necessary
- Your oven should now be at a temperature of about 220°
- Spray a little water on the oven ceiling to increase humidity. This keeps the surface of the bread nice and soft so that the heat can penetrate the dough without it immediately forming a crust. This way, the carbon dioxide in the dough expands and makes the bread rise. Then, when the crust begins to form, the bread doesn’t deflate. Also the bread cooks better on the inside. The sooner you remove the pot of water from the oven, the thicker crust you’ll get on your bread.
- Gently place the dough in the oven, far from the embers
- Leave the oven door ajar to keep the temperature level.
- Bake at 200-220° for about 35-40 minutes
- Here’s what the ciabatta looks like after about 10 minutes. If the surface tends to brown up too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil
Half way through baking, turn the pan by 180° to ensure the bread bakes on all sides.
After the first 10-20 minutes, when the bread has risen, you may remove the pot of water. The sooner you remove it, the thicker the crust will be. In my case, I left the pot inside the entire time.
Here are the air pockets. They aren’t very big, due to the rather short leavening time, but it’s still a respectable sight.
Remember to let the bread cool on a griddle, so that air can circulate underneath and the bread doesn’t become soggy.
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‘Till the next recipe.