Ciabatta crust is too soft

Sep 24, 2019
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I make Ciabatta from time to time and it always come out well except that to me, the crust is too soft. The bread has an excellent flavor, large air holes, and is nice and chewy. I am guessing that a bread expert would suggest that it should have more chew but it's fine for me.

Below is the recipe that I use. Most of the bread I bake is enriched and so I start with a batter with all of the enriching ingredients, add the flour, and finish with plain water. This recipe isn't enriched so it's a little different from what I am most familiar with. My first thought is to bake at a higher temperature (at least initially) or to add a pan of hot water for steam but I thought I would ask here before messing up who knows how many loaves of bread trying to figure it out.

Suggestions are always appreciated,


Ciabatta (room temperature method)

time: about 3:45 to 4:15 hours, makes two ¾ pound loaves

455   grams   all-purpose flour
45    grams   wheat gluten
8     grams   salt
10    grams   active yeast
10    grams   olive oil (optional)
440   grams   water (at 75°F, start with 220g)
2     tsp     olive oil (for the proving container)
              cornmeal for dusting

3 liter square covered plastic container (for the first prove)
cooking spray
bench scraper
half-sheet baking tray
half-sheet silicone baking mat

Weigh the flour and wheat gluten into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix well. Weigh in the salt and yeast
on opposite sides of the bowl. Weigh 10g of olive oil to the bowl (optional). Weigh 440g of 75°F water into
a picture or measuring cup. Add about 220g of water to the mixing bowl. Mix with the dough hook attachment
on the lowest speed. Slowly add another up to and additional 220g of water until the dough comes together 
and forms a foot that covers the entire bottom of the bowl. The dough will be very wet and sticky and look
like wet oatmeal. Knead the dough for 18 minutes on the second lowest speed until the dough is smooth, 
glossy, and elastic. The dough should keep a foot for the entire 18 minutes. The foot will get smaller as 
the gluten structure develops. Add a little more water when the foot is very small after about 10 minutes. 
The foot should be nearly gone by the time the 18 minutes is up.

Pour 2 tsp of oil into a 3 liter square plastic container with a lid and spread the oil around to coat the 
inside surface. (It’s important to use a square tub as it helps shape the dough). Spray the inside of 
the tub with cooking spray. Use a silicone spatula to transfer the dough directly from the mixing bowl 
into the oiled container. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the container and seal with the 
lid. Leave to prove for 1½ to 2 hours at room temperature until the dough has at least tripled in size. 
It's important the dough proves slowly at room temperature, otherwise the loaves could collapse 
while baking.

Line a half sheet baking tray with a silicone baking mat and dust with flour and fine cornmeal. Heavily 
coat a work surface with flour and cornmeal. Carefully tip out the dough (it will be very wet) trying to 
retain the square shape from the container. Spray a bench scraper with cooking spray and use it to 
push the dough back into a square of even thickness as necessary. Handle the dough gently to can 
keep in as much air as possible. Coat the top of the dough with flour and cornmeal. Measure the 
square (it should be about 9-inches per side) Use the coated bench scraper to make a mark in each 
side of the square at the halfway point. Use the scraper to cut the dough lengthwise. It will take at least 
2 cuts with the scraper to separate the dough into 2 loaves. After each cut, pull the scraper toward you 
to roll the loaf on its side and separate it from the rest of the dough. Gently pick up the loaf by getting
your hands under the entire loaf. Keep the cut edge up and place the loaf on the prepared baking tray.
If necessary, stretch the loaf lengthwise to even out the width and depth over the entire loaf. Gently tuck
under the ends and sides to shape the loaf into an even rectangle. Make the loaf as narrow and tall as 
possible (within reason). Form the second loaf in the same manner by rolling it way from you to keep 
the cut edge up. 

Prove the loaves uncovered at room temperature for 45-60 minutes until they are puffed up and springy 
to the touch. Some large bubbles will be visible just under the surface.

Preheat the oven to 425°F  (start heating oven 20 minutes before the second prove has finished)

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes turning once. The loaves should be lightly browned and sound hollow 
when tapped on the base. The internal temperature should be between 200° F and 205°F. The flour on 
the loaves will prevent them from becoming very brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving.

To store for up to 3 days, wrap in aluminum foil and keep in a dark location at room temperature. To 
reheat, spray lightly with water and heat on a rack in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes.
Sep 24, 2019
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I would ditch the silicone mat , just flour and cornmeal the tray.
Well that would certainly be easy enough to try.

The last time I made this the internal temperature was 205°F so I really don't want to leave it in any longer.

The original recipe was for 4 small loaves using the same ingredients. I generally make 2 larger loaves. I have adjusted the bake time accordingly but I never tried adjusting the temperature. Is it reasonable that I would need a higher temperature for a somewhat larger loaf?

I have also wondered it I should use a higher percentage of gluten.

Jan 12, 2020
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for bigger loaves i would lower the temp after 10 minutes to 375, leave them to bake longer and have never used a thermometer for bread. A roll can bake in 12 minutes but a big loaf takes 40 mins. You can't bake it all the way at 425 so heat has to be moderated to protect the crust while the heat slowly penetrates and steams off excess moisture.

when you go from small rolls to big loaves the volume of internal crumb increases faster than the crust.
surface area increases by a factor of 2 (squared) but internal volume increases by a factor of 3 (cubed).
The bigger loaf contains a lot more moisture than a roll and a thermometer cannot help because it can only show temps, it can't show the volume of dough at that temp and that greater volume of dough will steam the loaf after baking, it seems good and firm when removed from the oven, the internal temp was correct but it goes soft.

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