This was my first recipe prepared with my stand mixer. I peered over the top of the bowl, marveling as the dough hook worked its magic on what moments before had just been flour, sugar, water and starter. The slow, satisfying thwack-thwack-thwack of kneading dough against the bowl continued long after I had walked away from the kitchen. KitchenAid - the home cook's best friend, indeed.
For my first run with the mixer, and for a bread recipe I picked from the sky, the results were both fantastic and fleeting - the bread didn't stick around long, which with only two people in the house, is usually a good sign.
To make a sponge/starter, you will need:
1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup bread flour
In a small bowl, stir together 1/8 teaspoon of the yeast and the warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.
In a separate bowl, stir together (above) yeast mixture, 1/3 cup of the water, and 1 cup of the bread flour.
Stir together by hand for 4 minutes (there is a good reason for this - the dough takes a while to come together due to the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients), then cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature for 24 hours. Note: the sponge/starter will not be runny like many starters are. Over the next 24 hours, it will develop into the right consistency. You'll know when it's ready, as it will smell a little beer-like.
To make the bread after 24 hours, you will need:
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tsp brown sugar
2/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional for oiling the bowl in which your dough will rise)
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
In a small bowl stir together yeast, warm water and sugar and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy in appearance.
In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook, blend together yeast mixture (above), your sponge/starter, water, oil, and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened; add salt and mix until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. The dough should be relatively firm at this point and clear the sides of the bowl.
Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is doubled in bulk when pressing a finger into the top leaves an indentation that doesn't bounce back.
Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet and form into a free-form oval or circle.
Cover loaf with a dampened kitchen towel. Let rise at room temperature until again doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
At least 45 minutes before baking ciabatta, put a baking stone on the lowest position in your oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees (do not put a cold baking stone into a hot oven!). Bake ciabatta for 15-20 minutes on baking stone, or until golden brown. Tapping on the underside of the bread with two fingers (like you were flicking it) should produce a hollow sound.
Adapted slightly from TriniGourmet