Didier Rosada remembers he was 10 years old when he fell in love with baking. “I was walking home from school in France and noticed a bakery in the window. The amazing aroma of freshly baked bread stopped me. I peeked in the window and saw the baker loading the loaves with the oven peels and the big flame heating the brick oven. My mother asked if I could watch the baker work one morning when I didn’t have school. I will never forget that day. It was one of life’s defining moments, when my passion for baking was born,” says Rosada, a Master Baker and vice president of operations at Uptown Bakers in Hyattsville, Maryland.

For many in the baking industry, Rosada holds a special place as a mentor and professional instructor. He spends countless hours at training and educational workshops across the country.

“Didier Rosada taught me about fermentation, understanding the variance in flour and to respect the baking process,” says Jory Downer, owner of Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston, Illinois.

Rosada holds a Brevet de Maîtrise from the Institut National de Boulangerier-Patisserie. He coached four Team USAs to medals at the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie. His honors include The Golden Baguette Award (now the Raymond Calvel Award).

He also owns Red Brick Consulting, serving the baking industry. Through the years, he has become familiar with baking traditions from many countries. His goal is to share that knowledge with students, so they have a well-rounded repertoire and viewpoint on the world of baking. “I live my dream everyday — baking the best artisan breads and pastries using the same old-world techniques that make artisan baking so unique,” he says.

Perhaps more than any other bread, ciabatta is truly spectacular when done right, and particularly awful when done wrong. To compare it to the wine world, you might call ciabatta the Pinot Noir of artisan breads. It is delicate and finicky. It must be handled with care. Above all, it requires a lot of love. Sadly, according to some expert bakers, a few bakeries are known to take baguette dough, bake it and cut it into squares, passing it off to unknowing consumers as ciabatta. “To me, ciabatta is like a baguette. A baguette can be very good or very bad,” says Rosada. “To make it the proper way, it can be really good.”

The short mix method produces dough that is very wet. All ingredients (flour, water, fresh yeast, salt and polish) are mixed in first for five minutes. This is followed by a long first fermentation (three to four hours with at least three folds). A long fermentation time aids the formation of aromas, improves the final product flavor and leads to longer shelf life.

Bakeries should decide on their preferred mixing method based on overall needs and production scheduling. In one of the most important steps for all, Rosada recommends using a double hydration technique when making ciabatta. Flour, preferment, yeast, salt and a portion of the water are incorporated in first speed, and enough water is used to achieve a medium soft dough consistency. The dough is mixed in second speed until medium gluten development. The rest of the water is added little by little.