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My ciabattas tend to have be domed along both axis. So towards the ends they are too thin, and near the middle I end up making them are thicker than I want. I think this is because the dough has so much water in it. When I am resting it on the tray before putting it in the oven, and even when I first put it in the oven it spreads out at the sides and each end. And ideas how to get a more even round shape along the whole loaf?

The actual bread itself is quite good otherwise, but at the edges there is too much crust and too little content.

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A real bread baker would slap you for the last sentence. Both crust and crumb are "content" of a bread. –  rumtscho Jul 10 '11 at 17:59
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Play nice, rumtscho. Penguin is a new member, and the vast majority of us are not professional bakers. –  BobMcGee Jul 11 '11 at 15:16
    
@rumtscho I don't really understand that comment, I think the content of an object is the inside which is contained by the outside? The content of my body is contained by the skin for example. Or do bakers use the word content somewhat differently to me? The crust is on the outside and contains the crumb on the inside right? –  flamingpenguin Jul 20 '11 at 18:26
    
@flamingpenguin this wasn't entirely serious, sorry if it sounded that way. Maybe it isn't bakers who use the word content in this meaning, but it is the usage I encounter almost always: "content" is what people want to have, everything else is junk. So I understood the sentence to mean "I want crumb, and I get this pesky crust instead". This is why I left the comment. I don't find the question as a whole bad, in fact I have upvoted it. –  rumtscho Jul 20 '11 at 19:10
    
@rumtscho OK, I understand. The caramelization of the crust is a somewhat important part of the taste of a ciabatta! –  flamingpenguin Jul 20 '11 at 20:08

3 Answers 3

Here's why I think this is happening: In the oven, the internal temperature of the bread is going to transition from room temperature to cooked. The only way heat it introduced into the bread is at the surface. The sides have significantly more surface area than the center. The problem you are having is the sides are making this transition way before the center is. So the sides have very little time to rise and get cooked while the middle is in the prime rising temperature. So the yeast in the center has substantially longer to work before it is too hot for it.

You can try forming the bread thinner toward the center and thicker toward the edges. If you get the thickness right, it should be uniform.

I have also had good experience cooking on a stone. It will almost certainly speed up cooking time, but should help keep the temperature transition uniform across the whole loaf. So you don't end up with a thick part and a thin part; if you start out with a uniform thickness, you end up with a uniform thickness

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My neighborhood Italian baker sometimes over conpensates and the ends are thicker than the middle, but I think she makes sure the ends have a little more meat than the middle before the proofing. The second proofing isn't that long only about half and hour to an hour, its a fairly flat bread like focaccia. Also, did you flip them right before putting them in the oven? It helps even out the second proofing.

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Have never tried making ciabatta, only french and sourdough french loaves; believe the problem you are running into is the same as when I first started though. Also believe that ciabatta, like French bread, is a bread which is not kneaded or uses very little kneading, due to it's wonderful texture. I give credit to "Joy of Cooking" for the solution, paraphrased as I don't have the cookbook with me:

After the first rising, when ready to form loaves, turn out the dough for one loaf on a floured flat surface and pat it gently (this is very important, if the dough is over worked, the gluten will form the long strands which give the fine texture, which you probably don't want) into a rectangle of the length of the finished loaf. When it is to the length and breadth desired, and of a fairly uniform thickness, begin rolling the dough toward the center along the long edges, pinching or pressing as you roll to remove air pockets. When both sides have been rolled an meet in the middle, turn the loaf over onto the baking pan for the final rising and tuck and pinch the ends or turn them under or both and form the loaf.

A couple of additional things:

Make sure dough in the center of your rectangle is thick, as some of my loaves have split there when baking.

I make my dough as thick as reasonably possible, which help it keep it's shape.

I preheat the oven to hot, 230 C / 450 F before putting in the loaves, and turn it down to the suggested temperature immediately after closing the oven door, which really causes a good spring in the oven rising, and sets the skin fairly quickly, helping to hold shape. This technique is as close as I know of to using a stone to cook on.

Good luck!

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