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After the near success of Episode 2, my third skirmish with Ciabatta ended up with me being injured! It was almost as if the dough had read my previous post and decided it really was going to fight back.

It happened right near the end. The dough is extremely soft and fluid, and as I was manoeuvring one of the loaves onto the baking stone, the end slipped off the edge and cascaded down into the oven. Without thinking, I caught it and shoved it back onto the stone, burning my hand in three places in the process. Nothing too serious; my pride was injured more than I was, especially when my partner noticed my hand and gave me one of his pitying “you did what?!” looks.

The runaway ciabatta ended up quite deformed, especially so at one end. I want my ciabatta to be eccentrically shaped, but not as much as this! The other loaf was not a bad shape at all. Both had a lovely wrinkled crust, and lots of bubbles inside. And they tasted great.

But despite that, I’m not going to post the recipe yet. I’m first going to think about a fool-proof – and safe – way of getting the bread into the oven for mere (clumsy) mortals like me.

In the meantime, here’s something simple but tasty that I like to do with Ciabatta.

Ciabatta Cheese Toasties

Ciabatta makes very good toast. Slathered with butter, it is lovely, a bit like a crunchy crumpet. But it makes exceptionally good cheese toasties too.

This is a deliberately vague recipe; you could vary it in all sorts of ways. You could use a good pickle or chutney instead of the pancetta. You could put some halved cherry tomatoes on top instead of or as well as the onion. The possibilities are endless.

Serves 2

Dry fry about 70g of diced pancetta (or streaky bacon) to your preferred degree of crispness.

Meanwhile, take two 10cm long chunks of ciabatta, or two ciabatta rolls, and slice in half horizontally. Squash them a little if they look like they will collide with the grill elements once they are topped. Put a piece of foil over the grill rack, to catch any errant pancetta and cheese dribbles. Toast the ciabatta briefly, only until the crust is crisp and the other side is lightly browned.

Scatter the pancetta over the ciabatta. Cover with thin slices of a cheese that melts in a well-behaved way. I use tasty cheddar. Try not to leave too many gaps or exposed edges of bread, unless of course you like charred bits.

Separate a few very thin slices of red onion into rings and spread these over the top

Grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling, and everything is just starting to go brown at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes or so, and then cut each piece into two or three fingers. Serve with a salad.