This bread didn't give me major problems of mixing, kneading, shaping, or baking....but on the other hand the texture wasn't the big open-hole style that a ciabatta should be. On the other other hand, we all loved the loaf and went through the whole thing (a half-recipe) at dinner Saturday night. The "Carraba's-style" herb mix and olive oil we were dipping in into helped, sure, but the bread was pretty good too. I'll just have to see if the whole baking process gets harder when I try it again in search of the true ciabatta texture.
I used the poolish version, and used buttermilk because I had an excess and didn't care if the loaf was more tender than one made without dairy. I will try using water for a crisper, chewier version, and take a vote on what the family prefers. I did work in in the maximum amount of liquid called for in the recipe and had a nicely sticky dough, but given the texture problem I need to go even wetter. From Chris's writeup (thanks, Chris!) I also realize my folding technique needs lots of work, and the videos on the folding technique also underscore the fact that my dough wasn't wet enough.
I want to keep working on this bread and try to get a more ciabatta-like texture. First idea is to work on the stretching and folding, as Reinhart says that's part of the key. Second idea is that I may have de-gassed it too much when moving it to my peel, thgouh I didn't notice a great loss of volume and there were some large air bubbles visible just below the skin as it went into the oven. All that after getting the hydration level up.
The ciabatta crumb shot.
Several of the ciabatta variations look good--I may try a combination of cheese and caramelized onion next. Whenever we're next ready for a bread pig-out, that is. And with the BBA Challenge schedule, it may be a while before I come back to this one. I must note, however, that I squeezed in a second round of bagels this weekend on request of the folks next door. I used the KA high-gluten flour ("Sir Lancelot"), and maybe shouldn't have cut the refrigeration period to only 8 hours, for many of the bagels were a little flat. Taste and texture are OK. I'm not going to try to solve that problem right now...