Encouraging A Better Rise For The Big Sandwich Bread

by A.J. Coltrane

When we’re feeding a crowd I’ll make a big-*ssed sandwich — it’s basically the same size as a sheet tray (18″ x 13″). For the last GNOIF it was … either a ciabatta with a little bit of oil in the dough, or a focaccia with no oil on top and no dimples. It wasn’t the platonic ideal of either, but I’m calling it a ciabatta this time around.

Ingredient Measure Baker’s %
AP Flour 300g 50
Bread Flour 300g 50
Water 420g 70
Salt 15g 2.5
Instant Yeast 1 tsp
Olive Oil 24g 4

I wanted to encourage a lighter bread than the usual focaccia. The changes were:

1.  The incorporation of bread flour into the formula.

2.  I chose not to top the dough with oil before it went into the oven. Also, no dimpling the surface.

3.  Before kneading, the flour, water, and 1/8 tsp of yeast were combined and allowed to rest for an hour. This is called an “autolyse.” It allows for the gluten strands to start setting up, and yeast doesn’t have to compete with salt for the available water.

Very foreshortened. It's 13" wide and 18" long.
Very foreshortened. It’s 13″ wide and 18″ long.

4.  Normally when I proof the bread I’ll do it directly in a parchment-lined sheet tray. I’ll cover that with another inverted sheet tray. It dawned on me that the rise might be improved by using steam in the oven, which is how I’ve been baking baguettes… But then why not just leave the inverted sheet tray as a cover for the first 10 minutes of baking, similar to the No-Knead Bread dutch oven technique?

I mean really, why did that take so long to occur to me?

The finished bread was 2-3″ tall, which is about half again as tall as the focaccias have been. It was lighter and less oily too.

I think it’s a variation with potential.

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