Bacon Infused Ciabatta

Something about that wide open crumb structure set my bread-loving taste buds aflame with exultation. I recently purchased:

Earlier this week we posted about our house cured and smoked bacon, which got me thinking… Doesn’t Zen offer a bacon and potato ciabatta-like loaf as a part of their bread selection? Yes, yes they do, and it is awesome. Wait, isn’t this month’s Bread Baking Day “Bread and potatoes?” Yes, yes it is. It appears as though I am destined to make this bread. So here goes nothing… I should note here Sara claims she had and shared the exact same idea with me earlier this month. I have zero recollection of this, but am smart enough to know not to call her a liar.

Homemade bread may be the single most rewarding project an amateur baker can take on. Baking bread is like chess, the basics are easy enough for anyone to learn, but to truly master the art takes a special kind of person, one willing to dedicate literally years to experience and education. I fall far short of the latter, but I’m learning. I decided to follow the recipe straight out of Bread and Pastry, and incorporate my potatoes and bacon during one of the 2 folds I would do during the bulk ferment. For reasons unknown, I completely failed to heed his advice on using King Arthur’s AP flour on this project (closer to the right protein %). Further, I failed to find the exact RPM specs on my KitchenAid 600 series, so I had to estimate the gluten development instead of using the formula in the book – which is probably of little concern for most of our readers so I won’t elaborate. If you have any questions on this, or anything else on the site, do not hesitate to email me from our contact page – through I reserve the right to be completely wrong in every way imaginable as I often am.

The process for this bread goes like this:

Make Poolish (a type of pre-ferment)
Prepare bacon and potatoes
Prepare final dough and bake
For those not already aware, a pre-ferment is a portion of the dough that is made (or leftover form a previous batch) and left to ferment for an extended time before being incorporated in the final dough. This bread is a high hydration recipe (flour to water ratio of 1:0.76) so it makes sense to use a Poolish. A Poolish is a combination of flour and water in a 1:1 ratio with a small bit of yeast. For this recipe you will require:

6.75 OZ flour (hopefully around 11% protein – I used KA Bread Flour and the protein was too high)
6.75 OZ warm water (target temp of Poolish = 70 degrees F)
1/8th tsp. Instant Yeast
Combine the flour, warm water, and yeast. Mix to combine thoroughly, and allow to rest covered at room temperature for 12-16 hours. I allowed mine to rest for around 15 hours as Geoff forced me to guzzle two shots of Patrón and I ended up getting out of bed a couple of hours later than I had expected. Here is my Poolish after 15 hours:

The bacon and potatoes are fairly straightforward. Make these in advance so they have plenty of time to cool down. Cut one small Russet potato into 1/2 inch cubes, and fry (or bake, I baked) a couple of pieces of bacon. I baked my bacon on a rack and allowed the grease to collect on a half sheet pan below,

then added my potatoes at 400 F, tossing with a little Roasted Garlic and Basil Olive Oil. They take about 15 minutes to bake up crisp. Remove from the heat, break the cooked bacon into small pieces (not quite bacon bits) and set aside.

All of the Poolish
10.25 oz flour (again, from Steve’s advice around 11% protein if available)
6.75 oz warm water (target dough temp 73 degrees F)
1/8 tsp instant yeast
3/8th oz salt (I used Kosher)
1/2 oz olive oil (I used my Roasted Garlic and Basil Olive Oil)
All of the recipes (formulas) in the book are laid out to be read and interpreted by professionals and therefore do not waste the space of repeating instructions from earlier places in the book. I am not completely sure that I made the dough exactly as intended but I will spell out exactly how I arrived at my final product.

What I did:

First, put the dough hook onto your mixer, combine the Poolish, about 4 oz of the water, all of the flour and the olive oil. Mix on speed 1 until all the ingredients are well combined. Move speed up to 2 and slowly add remaining water in steps over a period of 7-8 minutes, allow dough to autolyse for 20-25 minutes and then add the salt and yeast and mix on speed 3 for an additional 1-2 minutes until smooth.

What I should’ve done:

Combine about 4 oz of the water and olive oil and mix until well combined with a whisk. Add enough of the flour to make a thin batter, switch to the dough hook, add the remaining flour and follow as above (except add the instant yeast just prior to the autolyse).


Allow the dough to rise in a well oiled container at room temperature for about an hour. Remove dough and stretch and fold over itself 3 times (like folding a letter) to build strength. Allow to rest/rise for another hour, then perform an additional fold, adding the roasted potatoes and bacon pieces before sealing. Allow to rest again, until 3 hours total of bulk ferment has occurred. Pre-heat the oven with a pizza stone inserted to 500 degrees F. Remove from the bowl and shape into classic oblong ciabatta shape (I was satisfied with a slipper-like rectangle) and allow 45 minutes for final rise. I really wanted as much rise as possible during this time, so I sat the dough in a well floured cloth over my pre-heating oven.

When it’s time to bake, flip the dough onto a peel and place it directly on the stone. I used a hand held steamer to introduce some moisture for the first 30 seconds or so.

I then closed the oven door, turned the temperature down to 450 degrees F, and then repeated one more time. This step is optional, but accounts to quite an extent for a crisp crust in the final product. Bake for 30-45 (mine was in for about 40) minutes, until well browned, and remove.

The overall taste of this bread was excellent, so I check off a box in the “win” column. Cooking the potatoes in the bacon grease, and the bacon itself added a salty flavorful taste into every bite. Clearly, I did not achieve as much of an open crumb as I had hoped for, which I attribute to the higher protein content of the KA bread flour I used and/or under development of the gluten. I will definitely be making this again and (hopefully) refining the recipe to get closer to the bread I had hoped to replicate. Either way, it is excellent as is. I ate some with a little olive oil, and some with buttery St. Andre cheese.

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