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Cheddar Scallion Ciabatta

It's been quite a while since Giada and I hung out in the kitchen.  I think we were initially so busy with the holidays and family and cooking up a our own respective kitchens...that we just never found the time to connect.  Because after all, it normally takes us quite a while to agree on something, so time is an issue. That said, we penciled in a few hours together yesterday and amazingly enough, we were both craving warm, cheesy, addicting bread.  No arguments.  No nitpicking.  No "my way is better than your way".  Just satisfied oooohhh's and mmmmmph's.  The one little thing I did insist on was making our own Ciabatta instead of picking it up from the bakery.  What can I say...I needed to warm up the house with the smell of bread baking.  She praised me for my brilliant ways...and brought her recipe for Cheddar Scallion Bread with her.
Ciabatta Bread
adapted from allrecipes
makes 2 loaves (~1¼ lb. total weight...just over ½ lb. each)

for sponge:
1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tbs. warm water (~110°F)
1/3 c. warm water
1 c. bread flour

for bread:
½ tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tbs. warm milk (~110° F)
2/3 c. warm water
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 c. bread flour
1½ tsp. salt

olive oil, for bowl
white cornmeal, for baking

    For Sponge: In a small bowl stir together the yeast and 2 Tbs. warm water.  Let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. Add the remaining water and bread flour. Stir, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sponge stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours. Mine sat for 21 hours and was beautiful and bubbly!
 For Bread: In a large bowl, stir together yeast and milk; let stand 5 minutes, or until yeast looks creamy. Add water, oil, flour, salt and the sponge to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until everything comes together into a somewhat sticky ball.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ~8-10 minutes.  Dough starts out sticky, but comes together into a nice, smooth ball when finished kneading.  Place into a large, oiled bowl and cover with plastic or a clean kitchen towel.
Let rise until doubled in size, ~1½ hrs.
Turn dough out onto a work surface that has been ever-so-lightly dusted with flour; divide in half. The dough is soft soft and sensual at this point.  Like seriously.  I got this goofy smile on my face...and I even heard myself giggle a little.  It's so soft and supple. 
 Work each half into an ovalish, rectangularish-shape that is ~9" long.   This dough lifts so willingly off of your work surface, yet clings just enough to hold it's shape when formed.  (If there is too much flour on the surface, it will be tempted to slide around...your bread can't cling.)
Transfer to a pizza peel, parchment or silpat set on the bottom side of a baking sheet (so you don't have a lip to contend with).  that has been sprinkled with white cornmeal. Simply push back into shape, then use your fingertips to dimple each piece of dough all over.  Dust each loaf with a tiny bit of flour.
Cover loaves with a warm, damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, ~1½ hours.
If using a baking stone, place in oven on a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat oven to 400° F during last 20 minutes or so of rising time.
Slide the risen loaves onto the stone from your peel or baking sheet...or, simply place the baking sheet into the oven...and bake ~20 minutes, or until golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
So obviously I started the Ciabatta a day ahead, since the sponge had to have some time to work its magic.  My loaves were baked and warm and waiting when Giada strolled in, tan and relaxed from the Southern California air.  Too bad it's only in the 20's here.  Perhaps we should have met in her kitchen.
Cheddar Scallion Bread
makes ~4-6 svgs.
(half this recipe to use just one loaf of the Ciabatta...or divide among the two loaves)

8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6 oz. butter, at room temp.
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 (~1 lb.) loaf ciabatta bread, cut in half horizontally 

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
In a food processor, combine the cheese and butter. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the scallions and and garlic, pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
 Spread the cheese mixture on the cut sides of the bread. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 mins., until golden.
Using a serrated knife, cut the bread into 1-inch thick slices and serve.
One loaf per person.  Yup.  That's the way we rolled that day.  Okay, I'm kidding.  I shared.  She didn't.

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