Wetter Is Better Focaccia And Ciabatta {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

As 2009 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the successes and challenges I’ve had in the kitchen this year.  One of the greatest successes – this Focaccia.  One the biggest challenges – this Ciabatta.  But a challenge can sometimes teach you the greatest lesson of all.

Not ever being satisfied with just so-so, I decided to give the ciabatta another try.  Even though I thought my dough had been wet enough the first time, the bread lacked the large holes that earn ciabatta its self-respect.  So this time I made sure to keep the dough as wet as possible making sure it just came together but was still very sticky.  The result?  A dough that bubbled and rose, and baked into a glorious hole-y ciabatta (pictured below) that didn’t have to hide.

The lesson?  Wetter is better.

I applied this same lesson to my focaccia with equally grand results, and it garnered the most raves of any bread I have made so far.  It could most likely be applied to all yeast recipes to insure you a greater chance for success.

These two particular recipes can be found in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.  If you don’t have it, you can preview the book here.



The Week Before Christmas Date Nut Balls {The Kitchen Reader Cookie Exchange}

‘Twas the month before Christmas and all of the weeks are spent visiting family, trimming everything, sending out Christmas cards, baking, attending school plays and parties, shopping, trying to squeeze twenty hours of continuing education in before the end of the year (oh, that’s just me) . . .

The children are doing their best to be good, their Elves telling Santa if they’ve done what they should.

And mama’s getting frazzled, and papa’s freakin’ out, ’cause the smaller the present, the bigger the amount.

But a little Christmas treat from the kitchen can help, and we can all rest a bit and remember what this time’s all about.

This recipe is one my mother used to make every Christmas growing up – it most likely came from a church cookbook.  If you love dates, you’ll love these.  If you don’t, you’ll love these anyway.

Date Nut Balls

from Shortbread

makes about 2 1/2 dozen


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
  • 1 cup nuts, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups Rice Krispies
  • sweetened flaked coconut and/or confectioner’s sugar


  1. Melt butter and sugar in a medium sauce pan over low heat.
  2. Add egg and stir until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Add dates, nuts and vanilla and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in Rice Krispies.
  5. When cool enough to handle, roll into bite-sized balls and roll in coconut or confectioner’s sugar.

Printer Friendly Recipe

Check out the Kitchen Readers and their favorite Holiday cookies here.

‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!’