Italian Ciabatta

Italian Ciabatta

Italian Ciabatta

We baked these several times a week at the cafe, because it was the perfect roll for so many sandwiches and paninis!  They are easy to make, just make sure to allow 12-20 hours for the "biga" to work before making the dough; it gives the ciabatta so much flavor!   They freeze wonderfully, and since the recipe makes 16, you can make these and wrap and freeze some for later use. You really can't buy ciabatta rolls this good!

Equipment needed:  Kitchen Scale    4 quart covered plastic container     Stand mixer  

Half-sheet pans     Wooden Board    Pizza Cutter

12 1/2 ounces unbleached flour

2 ounces whole wheat flour

16 ounces tepid water

1/4 teaspoon Instant Yeast

21 ounces unbleached flour

1 cup warm water

4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Instant Yeast

Make the biga (sponge) by combining the first four ingredients in a 4-quart plastic container until very well blended.  Cover with a lid (or plastic secured with a rubber band, or a shower cap), and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 20 hours, until the biga is very bubbly.  (I tend to let it go for the whole 20 hours as I think it gives more complexity to the flavor of the finished ciabatta.)

Place the biga along with the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (place the bowl on a kitchen scale.  Weigh each ingredient into the bowl, using the tare key to zero out the scale for each new ingredient).  Stir on low speed (using the dough hook) for about 4 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for 6 more minutes; the dough will be soft and slightly sticky.  (If it is too soft add a small amount of flour a little at a time.  If it is too dry, add a bit of water, a few dribbles at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.)  Transfer to a greased bowl, turning the dough to grease the top, and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, until very puffy.

Flour a wooden board well (or the counter top) and turn the dough out onto the board.  Shape it into an even 12 X 12-inch square.  Cut dough in half, then in quarters in both directions, which will create 16 3-inch squares, with a well-floured pizza cutter. Place them, floured side up, on parchment-lined baking sheets.  (I often use a metal spatula to move them, as they may become misshapen if you use your hands only.)  Cover the rolls and allow to rise in a warm spot for 45-55 minutes, or until very puffy.

While the rolls rise, preheat the oven to 425-degrees.  Place a cast-iron skillet or heavy metal pan in the lower part of the oven.  Place the rolls in the oven, then quickly add 1 cup of hot water to the skillet or pan and quickly close the door.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating pans half-way through the baking time.  Remove when the rolls are light brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

Cool on a wire rack.  Freeze if not using within one day.

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Dark Chocolate & Sour Cherry Eve's Bars

Dark Chocolate & Sour Cherry Eve's Bars

Dark Chocolate & Sour Cherry Eve's Bars

"Eve's Bars" were my adaptation of the bar cookie that became popular during my childhood, Seven Layer Cookies.  On a visit to Jekyll Island, GA, I tried a very similar cookie at the cafe in the Grand Hotel, that had a chocolate rather than graham cracker crust. The light came on; there were lots of flavor profiles to use making these bars!  I make several versions of this cookie, but this is my favorite for Christmas. The dark chocolate and dried sour cherries give this humble cookie a little sophistication, and the almonds add the perfect crunch. Look for more versions in the months to come!

Equipment needed:           9 X 13 Baking Pan    Parchment paper   

Small binder clips

Non-stick cooking spray

2 ounces (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup finely crushed Oreo cookie crumbs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups dried sour cherries

1 1/2 cups sliced or slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees

Spray a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray; be generous, as these will stick to the pan if it isn't well greased.

Cut two pieces of parchment paper: one the width of the longer side of the pan with enough extra to hang over the ends of the pan by a couple of inches, and one the width of the shorter side of the pan, also with some overhang.  Place one piece in the pan and secure the edges with the binder clips, then lay the second piece over that, also securing with binder clips.  Spray everything well with non-stick spray.

Combine the Oreo crumbs with the melted butter and mix well.  Sprinkle over the bottom of the pan, the level and press the crumbs in firmly using a 1/2 cup stainless measuring cup with a flat bottom.

Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk over the crust, making sure to cover every bit of the crust; take your time and drizzle it slowly, as it is too difficult to spread with a spatula.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the pan then the white chocolate chips, cherries, and finally, the almonds.  Press down lightly to nestle everything together firmly.

Bake for about 25 minutes, checking after 20, until the center is bubbly.  Place the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.

Remove the clips, and run a table knife around the side of the pan, under the parchment paper.  Lift the cookies out of the pan in one piece, using the overhanging parchment paper.

Using a long chef's knife, cut into 24 bars (cut the 13" side into 6, and the 9" side into 4).  Wipe the knife with a damp towel between cuts.

Store in an airtight container with waxed paper or parchment between layers.  These cookies freeze well, be sure to cover all of the surfaces with plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight container to avoid freezer burn.

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