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Friday, November 29, 2013

Ciabatta Bread

It seems we’ve only been enjoying Ciabatta style bread in more recent years but a little reading up on the subject revealed the modern version of this bread originated in Italy becoming popular in North America around the 1980’s.  I think I was too busy raising my kids in the 80’s to notice its debut.  
The word Ciabatta translates as“slipper” in the Italian language and a small stretch of the imagination will reveal the resemblance. Even though the way it’s made differs from recipe to recipe some characteristics are similar especially the distinctive flat shape.
Ciabatta could possibly be one of my favourite breads. The chewy texture and big airy holes makes this bread an excellent choice for paninni.  The amount of crumb is minimal, just enough to hold a good amount of filling with not too much bread to fill you up.
On the other hand, a rough pinch off the loaf and quick dip into a pool of oregano infused extra virgin olive oil takes this rustic loaf to new heights.
There are numerous recipes for Ciabatta and my search for a good recipe stopped with this one which seemed easy enough to give a try since I'd never attempted to make one before.  
A yeast starter needs to be prepared the day before which only takes a few minutes to make and slip into the refrigerator overnight. This extra step is well worth while as it produces a texture that I have not yet been able to achieve in any other bread that I’ve made.
One batch of starter is enough to make the bread twice and this worked out well  since the second batch of bread I made included a number of changes to the original recipe.
The fact that there is not one crumb left of the four loaves that came from the oven in the past week indicates that it was well received by all but I’m not sure that I’ve come across the recipe that has ended my search for the best Ciabatta loaf.
This recipe will do until further notice!
Ciabatta Bread
Starter ( Biga)
¼ teaspoon dry yeast
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  1. Dissolve yeast in sugar and warm water.
  2. Mix in flour by hand until no lumps remain.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.  (Making starter the day ahead is the best way to go.)
  4. 1 cup of this mixture will be needed for the bread.

1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons milk at room temperature
2/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
cornmeal for baking tray
  1. Stir yeast and milk in the bottom of a bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Add yeast, water, oil, starter and mix with paddle until blended. (Dough can also be mixed by hand in a bowl using a wooden spoon.)
  3. Switch to the dough hook and add flour and salt kneading on low speed for 2 minutes then increasing to next speed up, kneading for 3 minutes until dough becomes stretchy and springs back when slapped with hand .  (Dough will be too sticky to knead by hand.)
  4. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and set in a draft free, warm area to rise for about 90 minutes. Dough should have lots of big air bubbles visible when ready.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and roll up into a cylinder then pull and stretch the dough into a rectangle about 20 by 8 inches.
  6. Cut dough in half lengthwise and place on 2 parchment lined baking trays which have been sprinkled with cornmeal.
  7. Place a greased piece of parchment paper (to prevent very soft dough from sticking) and cover with a clean dampened tea towel then allow to rise another 90 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. and place a large baking tray into the oven to heat.
  9. Remove hot tray from oven, uncover loaves and slide parchment with bread onto hot tray and return to oven quickly.
  10. Spray tops of loaves with a little water, close oven quickly and bake for 10  minutes.  Open oven door and spray loaves once again.  Continue to bake loaves for another 15 minutes or until a golden colour.
  11. Remove loaves from oven and cool on rack.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions

To be honest had there not been a second amount of starter I may have never tried this recipe again.  Having never worked with such soft bread dough before was somewhat of a challenge.  It was just of matter of deciding what could be done differently from the original recipe that made things go a little smoother on the second try. This recipe includes any changes that were made.

Transferring the loaves onto the parchment lined baking trays will still pose a bit of a challenge but once they get there a little reshaping will make things better, always remembering that rustic is beautiful!

The original recipe instructed to place a dampened towel directly on the rising loaves. The towels will stick to the bread no matter how damp they are.  A piece of greased parchment paper over the loaves before placing the towels is a better idea.  I learned the hard way.

The time invested to produce this delicious bread brings satisfying results.

The loaves made this past week accompanied a couple of dinners, a piece was eaten as an after dinner snack and some of it made delicious paninni for two lunches. Without mentioning any names the very last piece was served to someone who came over this week and didn't care for the corn bread I had made for dinner. After eating most of the Ciabatta, the very small left over piece was quickly wrapped up and taken home!


  1. Do you prefer a dough cutter with a metal handle or a wooden handle?

    1. It would have to be you to notice such details.
      Just to let you know I started out with the one with the wooden handle then lost it somewhere on the counter, no time to waste, out comes my stainless steel cutter to save the day.
      If you really need to know specifics the one with the wooden handle has a finer edge and I like that but the other one is a life saver when my favourite one is missing in action.
      Hope this explanation satisfies your curiosity.
      All in all thanks for your comment!!


    2. Daniel...I forgot to ask if you enjoyed that last little piece of Ciabatta bread you claimed the other night...

  2. Do you think the dough could be done in a bread making machine and then placed on the baking sheets and shaped as you described?

    1. Hello Sue,
      I've never used a bread machine before and am not familiar with how it works.
      If I had to venture a guess I don't see why you couldn't make the dough in the machine and even let it rise there. I definitely wouldn't bake it in the machine since recipes for bread machines must have ingredient measurements formulated for the size of the machine.
      I say it's worth a try, let me know how it goes if you do.