Sunday, May 8, 2011

Give Us This Day...The Mother Loaf

My mom.  March 1975.  Having her "WhathaveIgottenmyselfinto" moment.

There's quite a bit of faith involved in the decision to become a mother.  A bit of an "Oh shit! Buckle up!" leap into an unknown life.  You've read about it in a lot of mothering books. You've asked a lot of questions to those people who have done it before, but they never seem to have enough information about what the "jump" is going to feel like.  You've seen it done lots of times before, but you've never actually done it yourself.

And then you buckle up.  And you jump in.  And you sink a bit because you're exhausted, and unskilled, and covered with unimaginable kinds of muck.  But then you try a few things.  You use both hands to hold onto every little thing that seems to work.  You discover that the mess is part of the ride.  And you realize that you're not sinking anymore.

And it gets fun.  So you invite people over to see how much fun it is.  And do it with you.  Right alongside you.  And if you're smart about it, you tell them you're no expert but you're doing just fine.  And you're so glad they're in it with you.

But this is a Sunday post.  So I'm getting around to the bread part.  And I'm so lucky because my friend put her whole self into a couple of loaves of ciabatta bread about a month ago.  And she tried a few things.  And she made a huge mess.  And she produced something spectacularly edible.  And she realized how much fun it was.  And then she invited some people over to see how much fun it was.  And told us she was no expert, and that we would all be just fine...but we all stood around in awe of her flour tossing, dough slinging cheffy-ness.

She called my incessant questioning "enthusiasm".  In hindsight, I was being a bit of a pest...can I take pictures? how long does it sit there? does it have to be a cool place? can I try your scraper? does it have to be a metal bowl?  But I have so felt that way when an expectant mom asked me a million questions about this or that.  Questions that I remember myself answering with things like, "Well, you'll just know," or "This is what seemed to work for me, but you'll figure out your own way when you have to."  Sounds a lot like the stuff my friend was telling me last night when I was pestering her...

Much like I entered into motherhood, I bring you this recipe today having never actually done it myself.  I've read about it.  I've asked a lot of questions.  I've watched someone else do it...very successfully I might add...but I have never actually put my own hands on these ingredients.  The leap of faith into motherhood says you can do it even if you've never done it before...bread is kindof like that.  Like one of my dearest friends, who flung herself into motherhood with her whole self just weeks before I did, I say we try this one together this honor of "jumping in with a bit of faith and some simple ingredients."  I will post my results mid week.  I would love to find your comments about your results here too.  C'mon...ya know yawanna. 


(pronouce this cha-bah-ta unless you want the foodies in your life to laugh at you quietly behind your back, like when you first read the word "nuk" or "onesie" and you went around pronouncing them wrong until a seasoned parent pulled you aside and gave you a helping's your helping hand sister!)

This recipe yields two gorgeous, airy but dense, crusty but chewy, 'please slather me with tapenade' loaves of Italian artisan bread.   Be aware...If you want ciabatta on a Wednesday, you have to get started on Tuesday night.  Read the full prep directions before you get motherhood, this one take a lot of time.

3 cups bread flour, plus additional for working
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast ***
1 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon cool water
1 cup boiling water

***This is NOT the stuff I have been calling for in all the other Give Us This Day bread recipes.  Instant yeast can be found in the same section of your grocery store as active dry yeast but IT IS NOT THE SAME THING!***

1.  In a medium bowl, stir together your flour, salt and yeast.  Add all of the cool water and mix thoroughly until you have wet, sticky, dough.  Really wet and sticky.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put it in a corner of your kitchen to sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.  I know right...that's a long time.  The surface will be dotted with bubbles and it will have more than doubled in size when it's ready.  You can move ahead in as little as 8 to 10 hours, but your finished loaf won't be quite as filled with air bubbles.

2.  When your dough has risen, liberally cover your work surface with bread flour and scrape your dough ball out, all at once, into a blob on your counter.  Resist the urge to mess with it too much here.  You have just been patient for as many as 18 hours so your loaf could develop air bubbles, if you poke it, knead or mess with it too much you will pop those bubbles and your efforts will have been in vain.  Dust the surface of your dough blob with flour, coat your hands with more flour and with light fingers, nudge your blob into a rough 12 inch square.  Brush off excess flour and fold the dough in half and then crosswise in half again so you've got a folded square of dough roughly 6 inches on each side.

3.  You can leave your folded dough square right on your counter if you've got the space, or move it to another floured surface like a bread board or baking sheet, dust the top with flour, cover with a clean kitchen cloth and let it rise again, for an hour.  The dough is ready when it has nearly doubled in size again.  When you poke it, the impression of your finger should remain.  If it poofs back out, let it sit for an additional 15 minutes.

4.  Move the top rack of your oven to the middle position.  Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.  If you'd like to use a pizza stone to bake these loaves, place it in your oven during the preheat.  If you're not using a stone, don't panic, we'll get to that later.  During the preheat, place an empty cake pan, or oven safe skillet on the bottom rack of your oven.  This will hold the water during the baking.  A note from another bread momma says not to use a glass vessel for this job... apparently they can break, which makes an awful mess and spoils the whole bread experience.

5.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, you could probably heavily coat your baking sheet with cooking spray in the absence of parchment, but I've never done I dunno.  Bring your cup of water to a boil in the microwave.  Using a serrated knife, cut your folded dough in half and with floured hands, gently pull it into a 12 inch log and place it on the baking sheet.  Again, gently here, you don't want to mess with it too much and pop all those yummy bubbles.  Repeat with the second half of your dough.  You can place them fairly close together.  They will expend during the baking, but not too much.

6.  Slide your parchment paper onto your pizza stone, or place your baking sheet onto the top rack of your oven and close the door quickly.  Get your boiling water into something you can pour from, quickly open the oven door, pour the water into the pan in the bottom of your oven (be prepared for a fairly dramatic sizzling poof of steam) and quickly close the oven door again.  Be speedy here, but don't panic!  Set the timer for 15 minutes.

7.  After 15 minutes, remove the pan of water and continue baking for an additional 5 minutes.  Your loaves are done when they are golden.  Cool on a wire rack, if possible.  We ate them right out of the oven so fast our bread momma was practically burning herself!  


  1. I especially enjoyed this one(AND THE RIDE).

  2. My husband fell asleep with the kids. I'm gonna try this. I get tired with kneading, so this looks like bread right up my alley.
    I could rename it - lazy bread!