Friday, February 7, 2014

Chocolate Ciabatta with Dried Cherries and Roasted Hazelnuts

Related post: All About Ciabatta: notes from a class

Okay, so with Valentine's Day in mind, I test-baked a version of this festive ciabatta (inspired by the Breakfast Ciabatta with chocolate pieces and bits of candied orange that Didier Rosada demoed during the All about Ciabatta class). The chocolate and cherries combo is one of the Man's favorites and when you add roasted hazelnuts to the mix, well, you'd think he had died and gone to heaven from the blissful look on his face. Since ciabatta has become one of my favorite breads to make, I thought it would be just perfect for the occasion.
But I needed a test run because I wasn't sure of the percentage of cherries and hazelnuts to use. Good thing I did because, as it turned out, I didn't put in nearly enough of either that first time. Also I had been so concerned that the ciabattas might stick to the couche when proofing that I had used way too much flour (as can be seen from image below) and they came out looking more like rustic Yule logs than Valentine Day treats!
I had made four ciabattas. I brushed one of them clear of flour, which made it less Christmassy but gave it the sorry look of a legless and jaundiced platypus (minus the tail and the bill but you know what I mean)...
Nevertheless I resolutely sliced into it...
...and was rewarded by a wonderful fragrance of poolish, chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. I couldn't smell the cherries but I could glimpse a few of them and certainly taste them and I resolved right then and there to make another batch.
At that point I was called away from the kitchen by some urgent task or other and the next time I caught a glimpse of the second piece of ciabatta I had sliced for further evaluation (no self-sacrifice being to great for my Valentine), it had hugely shrunk in size and was actually walking towards me, firmly grasped in the right hand of said Valentine. Before I could react, he beamed at me: "I love this cake!"
Cake? Seriously? The Man has been living with me for more than for thirty years and eating my bread for almost as long and he still mistakes bread for cake? I replied sternly that not only what he was devouring wasn't a cake but that it was supposed to be his Valentine Day's breakfast surprise. He remarked that if it weren't a cake, it sure tasted like one and added judiciously that if it were a surprise, I shouldn't have left it lying around on the kitchen counter. He further offered that, if I let him proceed with his tasting,  he would gladly submit to a spot of amnesia and allow himself to be deliciously surprised on February 14th...
Since there is a (huge) lot to be said for regaling your Valentine with a treat you enjoy just as much as he does, I decided to forgive him his brief lapse of culinary judgment and proceed with the second test-bake. This time, I think I got the proportions right. The appearance is still rustic but nothing I can't live with. Of course I could always use more chocolate and more cherries. But then why not just make a cake? The Man wouldn't know the difference.


Yields four ciabattas, scaled raw at 500 g

For those of you who are using BreadStorm (including the free version), please click on this link to import the formula.  For more on BreadStorm, you may want to read this post.


Note: This bread is made over 24 hours and requires a mixer equipped with a dough hook (such as a Kitchen Aid).

The night before the bake
  1. Mix the poolish, cover it loosely and let it ferment overnight (12 hours) at 73°F/23°C
  2. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350°F/177°C oven for about 20 minutes (I keep all nuts in the freezer which is probably why they need 20 minutes to turn brown. If yours are room temperature, they may not need more than 10 or 12 minutes) until they turn a rich brown color and let them cool on a kitchen towel. When they are cool to the touch,  rub them inside the kitchen towel until a good part of the skin has peeled off, then transfer them to a rimmed metal dish and break them roughly (I use the bottom of a heavy mug)
  3. Cut the butter in small pieces and reserve
  4. Scale the sugar and the honey
  5. If possible, keep above ingredients overnight at same temperature as the poolish but leave the eggs in the refrigerator
On baking day
Desired dough temperature (DDT): 73°F/23°C to 76°FF/24°C
(Depending on the room and the flour temperatures, you will need to use cooler or warmer water in the final dough to obtain the DDT at the end of the mixing process)
  1.  Half-an-hour before mixing time, take the eggs out of the refrigerator, scale them, beat them lightly and reserve
  2. Scale water 2 and bring to a boil
  3. Combine the dried cherries and chopped up hazelnuts, quick-soak them with the boiling water, drain and reserve the resulting tea (it will be brownish-looking and quite fragrant), letting it cool down to room temperature. This water remains your water 2 (I didn't top it off to make up for what the cherries and hazelnuts retained but you might have to if your flour is very thirsty)
  4. Scale the flour, yeast and salt. Whisk yeast and salt into the flour and reserve
  5. Place the poolish, the eggs and water 1 in the bowl of the mixer
  6. Add sugar and honey (if using 10% or less combined, it can be added at the beginning)
  7. Add the butter (if using 10% or less, it can be added at the beginning)
  8. Add the dry mix (flour + yeast + salt)
  9. Mix on first speed (on a spiral mixer) or speed 4 (on a Kitchen Aid) for 4 or 5 minutes
  10. Mix on second speed (on a spiral mixer) or speed 8 (on a Kitchen Aid) for 2-3 minutes
  11. Check gluten development. When gluten is 80% developed, add water 2 by increments on first speed (4 on Kitchen Aid) and mix for about 3 minutes
  12. Add the cherry-hazelnut mixture and the chocolate chips. Mix on first speed (4 on Kitchen Aid) until just incorporated
  13. Transfer into oiled dough tub, cover and let ferment at 73°F/23°C - 76°FF/24°C for 2 hours and 30 minutes
  14. Transfer the dough to a generously floured surface (see relevant video in All About Ciabatta: Notes from a Class), taking care not to let it fold over itself
  15. Divide and scale at 500 g (you should have four ciabattas (again please refer to the relevant video) (Note that in class, Didier scaled the breakfast ciabatta at 200 g and all the others at 400 g)
  16. Proof on floured linen, top down, for one hour
  17. Bake with steam on a baking stone in a 420°F - 216°C oven for 30 minutes (turning oven down to 400°F-204°C after 10 minutes, tenting with foil if over browning after 20 minutes and propping the oven door open (with a wooden spoon) for the last five minutes
  18. Cool on a rack
  19. Enjoy!
The crumb is rather darker than normal for an all-white flour ciabatta: that's because I used water 2 as a quick-soaking liquid for the cherries and hazelnuts. If you wanted a lighter crumb, you could throw out the soaking water but it would be a trade-off: you would lose a big part of the flavor.

Poolish in center, then clockwise: butter, honey, sugar and post-quick-soaking water 2

Don't you love the strands of gluten in the middle bubble?


  1. Well, you did it. You just did it. I am sitting here, searching for words, and I got nothing!

    I love this post for so many reasons.... the love, the affection, the joy of baking an amazing bread (cake), simply, this is a perfect post, with a lot to read in between the lines.

    You know that I just baked a sourdough with chocolate. you know I will HAVE to bake this ciabatta. I doubt it will end up as gorgeous as yours, but.. I will have fun trying....

    1. Hi SallyBR! Talk about a vortex! Only this one isn't polar, mercifully, but yeast-based and, oh, so fragrant and tasty... We bake and think we are done with a particular grain or ingredient for a while then a new recipe comes along and boom, here we get sucked in again and completely helpless... That's the way I feel all the time when I see the glorious breads on your blog. I am forever adding to my must-do list as well. And please have a go at the ciabatta, this one or another. Once you get the technique down, it becomes one of the easiest and most rewarding breads to make...

  2. Looks delicious! (I'm still eating the Barley Bread - one of my favorites).
    Very practical to copy the recipe directly with BreadStorm.

    1. Thanks, Hanseata! I haven't baked with barley in a while. I must go back to it. I love the taste so much...
      Glad you make use of BreadStorm. It has become my lifesaver in terms of formula scaling.

  3. The glutenstrand in the middle of the bubble is absolute lovely! And the recipe itself sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Stefanie! This gluten strand totally threw me at first. I thought: "what on earth is that?". I don't think I have ever seen anything like it before and I wonder how it happened.

  4. WOW!!!!! I forgot to let you know that the last photos are just incredible!!!!! ther are art!!!! congrats.

    1. I love it that you think so. Thank you! These gluten strands were so much fun to play with...

  5. such a beautiful and inspired post! I love your ciabattas, they are an ode to ciabattas!!! always so much information on your blog but the best thing is seeing your breads, gluten strand included! :)

    1. Thank you, Barbara! So glad to be finally baking again...

  6. Good try! I would have said to your husband :)) Such a funny and sweet post. Cake for bread and feigning amnesia LOL.
    Eggs! Butter! In a ciabatta! I thought I had read wrongly. Is it because this is a sweet cake-bread? I haven't really found a ciabatta recipe I like, but your detailed instructions and vote of confidence make this a must-try. If I want to make a plain ciabatta, could i omit the eggs and butter? Or maybe I could substitute the olive oil for the butter.

    Your post on the Didier Rosada session was, as usual, full of info to slowly digest. Temp of poolish and biga, which one to use, for example.Lots to mull over. And all the various versions of ciabatta sound lovely. If you ever post one of these, I'll surely sit up!

    Thanks for all the posts :)

    1. Hello, ofbreadandquinces (sorry, I couldn't find your first name), and thank you for stopping by! I love it that you liked the post and want to try your hand at ciabatta. No eggs and butter in a regular ciabatta. With special permission I am going to post the formula for Didier's Ancient Grains ciabatta which contains amaranth and teff.



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