Going down to only one part time job I have found myself with a lot of free time to spend with friends, family, and experimenting with food. I began toying with the idea today of making my own bread. It is a long process depending on the bread and most of my friends are not supportive of the concept. Their argument is that my time is worth more than the three dollars I save by baking my own bread. I sat and thought about this concept. The $3.49 that I would pay for a small loaf of Pepperidge Farm bread includes the product cost and the cost of labor. I have seen the labor of making a great loaf of bread. It can take hours. During much of that time though you are able to do other activities. So how much of your time is spent to make a great loaf of bread?
Making the starter for the ciabatta can take hours or days. It is not labor intensive though. The ciabatta starter starts with active dry yeast, water, and bread flour. You stir it together and let it sit for twelve hours expand. Yeast is a bacteria that feeds off the flour and water, it is alive. This means your bread is alive. Bread expands, jiggles, and moves. Yes, bread literally moves. Do not be surprised it your bread changes sides of the tray. Your starter sits for anywhere from twelve hours to a day, it can last for three in a fridge, during this sitting time you can go about your normal life.
Once you have your starter its time to mix your ingredients. This part does involve labor, but after everything is mixed… more waiting. Ciabatta is a bread that rises in a warm room over a few hours before you bake it. It will expand in size giving it those lovely air bubbles. You can go in and deflate it once or twice during this period. That means you go in stretch and wrap or move the dough, then cover it again with plastic wrap and wait. In the time it took for the dough to rise I could make four batches of muffins, three batches of cookies, get the front ready for the day, and bake off everything for tomorrow. By the time I finished it was time to put in the loaves to bake.
This is the reason it is worth my time, because it doesn’t take up much time at all. It is a long process, no doubt about that, but a lot of it can be spent doing other things. The end result of fresh baked bread that doesn’t set off my gluten intolerance (that’s right, people with gluten intolerances can handle fresh baked goods better than the processed store kind) is more than worth everyone’s time.