Chili dog with cheese and onions on a homemade ciabatta roll.
As you know, I've been working hard this year learning to make artisan-type breads, mostly the naturally leavened kind made with sourdough starters. One of the interesting breads I've been making lately is the Italian ciabatta. It's a challenging dough to work with as it's very wet: the baker's percentage is 85% hydration. After it's risen it literally pours onto your board for shaping; it's almost the consistency of pancake batter. The first time I made it I could hardly believe it was going to turn into something edible in the oven.
I first looked up this recipe (in Daniel Leader's book Local Breads) when my husband David asked me if I could make some hot dog buns. He had bought a package of kosher buns at a local natural foods store, and by the day after he brought them home, they were already visibly moldy. So on the spur of the moment, I thumbed through Local Breads and found the recipe for ciabatta rolls and decided to try it.
The soft, wet dough baked up, in 20 minutes or so, into lovely soft, moist, slightly chewy, open-textured buns. David likes Hempler's uncured hot dogs (no nitrates), which are pretty enormous, and I sized the buns to fit them. The really great thing, though, was that even when we piled on the homemade chili, grated cheddar cheese and onions, the buns didn't fall apart. This might have been the first time I ever ate a chili dog without having to resort to using a fork (or even a spoon). Oh man, was that ever good.
I've made these ciabatta rolls several times now, and they've been consistently delicious. And, kept in a Ziploc bag once they're cool, they stay fresh for 3 days (not that they last that long around here).
I really do love baking bread, and David, who's very particular about bread being fresh, appreciates not paying premium prices for bread that's practically stale. I'm steadily working my way through pretty much the whole Local Breads book, so stay tuned for more of my baking adventures!