Ciabatta Bread (recipe)

Ciabatta Bread


This recipe for Ciabatta Bread creates a very light loaf, soft and chewy on the inside with a thin crunchy rustic crust. I originally made it for my mom’s birthday in 2006, before she developed a gluten allergy and it was a huge hit. Since that time it has become one of the most popular recipes here on Trinigourmet, even being linked to by The Fresh Loaf!

Although I have been thrilled by all the attention that my little writeup has gotten through the years it has not been without some controversy. Many readers have expressed confusion and problems with my original instructions. That is why I am now republishing it with greater details around those steps which I think were causing some to have less than desirable results.

Before I proceed I must state that for the best results it is very important that you use bread flour instead of all-purpose. You will get a much better crumb due to the higher gluten content.

slices
Made with all-purpose flour


Made with bread flour!

Now let’s proceed :)

Ciabatta Bread Recipe:


Source: Kudos to Colin in New Zealand for alerting me to the fact that the base recipe I have been working from all this time actually originated in Gourmet Magazine! (and here I thought it was a friend’s)
Ingredients:

1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tsp brown sugar
2/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (edited in light of this comment :) )
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Wholewheat flour for dusting

Directions:

1. To Make Sponge: In a small bowl stir together 1/8 teaspoon of the yeast and the warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy.

yeast

2. In a bowl stir together yeast mixture, 1/3 cup of the water, and 1 cup of the bread flour.
3. Stir 4 minutes, then cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature for 24 hours.

Sponge

After 24 hours

STOP! Before you read on, please note that it is very important that you get these first 3 steps correct. The most common question I get is whether I really meant to add 1/3 cup of water to 1 cup of bread flour! Yes, I did :)

At first when you add the water you will get something that looks like this…

rather dry isn’t it?

That’s why the instructions say to stir for four minutes. See how it gradually comes together?

The above can only happen with constant folding. You don’t want a soft or liquid sponge at this point. It will soften considerably as it sits overnight. You want it to hold together.

If at the end it is still a little too dry you can add water by the tablespoon, but again just enough to hold it all together.

4. To Make Bread: In a small bowl stir together yeast, warm water and sugar and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy.
5. In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook blend together yeast mixture, sponge, water, oil, and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened; add salt and mix until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. The dough should be relatively firm at this point and clear the sides of the bowl. If it’s not gradually add more flour (by the 1/4 cup) until it forms as described.

mixer

6. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Dough

7. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough will be sticky and full of air bubbles.)

Dough

They grow up so fast! :)

8. Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and cut in half.
9. Transfer each half to a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal and form into an irregular oval about 9 inches long. Dimple loaves with floured fingers and dust tops with wholewheat flour.

Loaves

10. Cover loaves with a dampened kitchen towel. Let loaves rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Loaves risen

11. At least 45 minutes before baking ciabatta, put a baking stone on oven rack in lowest position in oven and preheat oven to 425 F (220 degrees C).
12. Bake ciabatta loaves 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden.
13. Cool loaves on a wire rack.

Makes 2 loaves


This post was originally published on November 24, 2006. It has been updated twice since then.

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Passionate foodie, founder of Trinigourmet and Caribbean Lifestyle Maven. Author of "Glam By Request: 30+ Easy Caribbean Recipes"

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  • Becky

    Great recipe…Actually, I never made it as the exact recipe…I did a whole wheat version (had to modify amounts a little bit) and it turned out great. I don’t think it was quite as high as the pictures looked but it had lots of holes in it when I cut it open after I baked it. And, my Mom was the critic I had to win over as she LOVES Costco ciabatta bread….needless to say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! Thanks for a good “base” from which to start…

  • Becky

    Great recipe…Actually, I never made it as the exact recipe…I did a whole wheat version (had to modify amounts a little bit) and it turned out great. I don’t think it was quite as high as the pictures looked but it had lots of holes in it when I cut it open after I baked it. And, my Mom was the critic I had to win over as she LOVES Costco ciabatta bread….needless to say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! Thanks for a good “base” from which to start…

  • Ralph

    Can’t wait to give this recipe a try — looks wonderful.

    I have a problem though. I have gotten into home pizza making but am looking for a tougher/chewier crust and I am thinking that the ciabatta might be what I’m looking for. Anybody have experience or ideas/suggestions in this endeavor?

  • Ralph

    Can’t wait to give this recipe a try — looks wonderful.

    I have a problem though. I have gotten into home pizza making but am looking for a tougher/chewier crust and I am thinking that the ciabatta might be what I’m looking for. Anybody have experience or ideas/suggestions in this endeavor?

  • Callie

    Hi,

    I started learning baking a month ago. I am wondering if I don’t have electric mixer and I stir it, would it possible to make ciabatta?

  • Callie

    Hi,

    I started learning baking a month ago. I am wondering if I don’t have electric mixer and I stir it, would it possible to make ciabatta?

  • chimene

    Hi Callie,

    I don’t have a mixer either and have done all my experimental batches by hand. The last one was the first time with this recipe where I really noticed where Step 3. says “stir 4 minutes”. I couldn’t believe how it liquified, AND how hard it was to stir! I used one of my kitchen timers so I could stop and start to rest my hands and still keep track of “4 minutes”. It was a HUGE job but it worked. But if I could do it, it CAN be done. (I’m 61 and have carpal wrists!) Definitely use a wooden spoon or something with a handle that you’ll be able to use for the whole time without killing your hand.

    I’ve been looking specifically for recipes that “do it by hand”, since of course these Italian country breads were done for millennia without modern appliances. The “by hand” recipes are out there. I haven’t gotten to many of them, as I’m the only bread-eater here, and trying to lose weight.

    I have a local model to work toward, so that’s something (one of the local organic groceries has a house ciabbatta that is JUST what I’m trying to get to). It’s the chewy factor for me, not so much shards-of-glass-in-the-mouth crispy crusts.

  • chimene

    Hi Callie,

    I don’t have a mixer either and have done all my experimental batches by hand. The last one was the first time with this recipe where I really noticed where Step 3. says “stir 4 minutes”. I couldn’t believe how it liquified, AND how hard it was to stir! I used one of my kitchen timers so I could stop and start to rest my hands and still keep track of “4 minutes”. It was a HUGE job but it worked. But if I could do it, it CAN be done. (I’m 61 and have carpal wrists!) Definitely use a wooden spoon or something with a handle that you’ll be able to use for the whole time without killing your hand.

    I’ve been looking specifically for recipes that “do it by hand”, since of course these Italian country breads were done for millennia without modern appliances. The “by hand” recipes are out there. I haven’t gotten to many of them, as I’m the only bread-eater here, and trying to lose weight.

    I have a local model to work toward, so that’s something (one of the local organic groceries has a house ciabbatta that is JUST what I’m trying to get to). It’s the chewy factor for me, not so much shards-of-glass-in-the-mouth crispy crusts.

  • melanie

    hi callie
    chimene is right. you can do any of the recipes that calls for electric mixers by just using a spoon until you cant stir it any more then you tip it onto a floured bench and knead it until when you press it with your finger lightly, it springs back into shape.

  • melanie

    hi callie
    chimene is right. you can do any of the recipes that calls for electric mixers by just using a spoon until you cant stir it any more then you tip it onto a floured bench and knead it until when you press it with your finger lightly, it springs back into shape.

  • Clark

    I am really having trouble with the water to flour ratio. I see it mentioned by a couple of other comentaters. I would like someone who weighs instead of measures show what they are using. I use 5 ounces of flour to 4 ounces of water on the sponge to get it liquid enough. (About an %80 ratio.) Does anyone else use weights. I would appreciate comments.

  • Clark

    I am really having trouble with the water to flour ratio. I see it mentioned by a couple of other comentaters. I would like someone who weighs instead of measures show what they are using. I use 5 ounces of flour to 4 ounces of water on the sponge to get it liquid enough. (About an %80 ratio.) Does anyone else use weights. I would appreciate comments.

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  • Sandy

    This came out delicious, thanks!

    As to the people having trouble with the ratios of water to flour etc., I add more water if it’s too thick or more flour if it’s too runny. In my experience, cooking comes out a lot better (and less stressful) with improvisation.

    I’ve made a couple of batches and the longer I left mine, the more (and larger) the holes were, and the airier the loaves. Which seems only logical as it gives the bacteria more time to reproduce and respire.

    Good luck to all the new bakers out there!

    S

  • Sandy

    This came out delicious, thanks!

    As to the people having trouble with the ratios of water to flour etc., I add more water if it’s too thick or more flour if it’s too runny. In my experience, cooking comes out a lot better (and less stressful) with improvisation.

    I’ve made a couple of batches and the longer I left mine, the more (and larger) the holes were, and the airier the loaves. Which seems only logical as it gives the bacteria more time to reproduce and respire.

    Good luck to all the new bakers out there!

    S

  • nab

    After 24 hours, my sponge is not v big or wet. It only started growing after I put it in the microwave (not turned on) bc it wasn't growing in my air-conditioned kitchen. Can I wait another 24 hours or do it later tonight?

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

      if you have the time tonight do it tonight, otherwise an additional 24 hour wait should not be detrimental. The sourdough flavour will just be more pronounced. Thanks for mentioning that your kitchen is air-conditioned. I forget sometimes that not everyone’s kitchen is at tropical levels. Very important for the sponge to be in slightly warmer setting :) !

  • nab

    After 24 hours, my sponge is not v big or wet. It only started growing after I put it in the microwave (not turned on) bc it wasn't growing in my air-conditioned kitchen. Can I wait another 24 hours or do it later tonight?

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina

      if you have the time tonight do it tonight, otherwise an additional 24 hour wait should not be detrimental. The sourdough flavour will just be more pronounced. Thanks for mentioning that your kitchen is air-conditioned. I forget sometimes that not everyone’s kitchen is at tropical levels. Very important for the sponge to be in slightly warmer setting :) !

  • Jouko

    One might get superior taste and texture, and health effect, by using 100% stone-ground whole wheat, with some stone-ground whole rye – and, if you like, fine-crushed hickory nuts or pecans, whatever.
    Preferably all organic if available; no additives, no preservatives, and definitely no ‘white flour added’ – while using correct (slow) milling rates to keep milling temperature under 43ºC. One link:
    www.soilandhealth.org/06clipfile/Nutritional%20charateristics%20of%20organic%20freshly%20stone%20-%20ground.htm

  • Jouko

    One might get superior taste and texture, and health effect, by using 100% stone-ground whole wheat, with some stone-ground whole rye – and, if you like, fine-crushed hickory nuts or pecans, whatever.
    Preferably all organic if available; no additives, no preservatives, and definitely no ‘white flour added’ – while using correct (slow) milling rates to keep milling temperature under 43ºC. One link:
    www.soilandhealth.org/06clipfile/Nutritional%20charateristics%20of%20organic%20freshly%20stone%20-%20ground.htm

  • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina – Trinigourmet

    hi Christina, the dough is really fragile so in the beginning i put the baking sheet on the stone. I have since been practicing placing it on parchment and sliding the parchment onto the stone. I think a baker’s peel could be very helpful in this instance as well

  • christina

    do i just place the entire baking sheet onto the stone or do i try to remove the loaves and place them onto the stone in order to cook them?

    • http://www.TriniGourmet.com Sarina – Trinigourmet

      hi Christina, the dough is really fragile so in the beginning i put the baking sheet on the stone. I have since been practicing placing it on parchment and sliding the parchment onto the stone. I think a baker’s peel could be very helpful in this instance as well

  • Cathie

    Hi,
    I've had the best ciabatta bread from this great bakery but have to travel far to get it. It looks very similar to the pics above; so have decided to make my own.

    I've made this bread twice now and it always comes out of the oven as dense without the lovely airy bubbles. What am I doing wrong? I'm new at this so I'm sure there's a whole lot that I'm doing wrong. I appreciate advice anyone can give me. Thanks, Cathie.

  • Gene

    I'm, so far, able to get the ratio of 100% whole wheat bread flour up to about 40% and still maintain the big air spaces that are so typical of this type of bread. Go much above that and you will most likely cut the amount of gluten to the point where it can no longer hold the air spaces. Whole wheat flour is very dense, so one must spend time developing the gluten and allowing it to rise adequately or your loaves will be flat and heavy. It is worth the effort, however, if you can do it. It adds a layer of nutty flavor that unbleached white bread flour, alone, cannot give it. Good luck.

  • Gene

    I'm, so far, able to get the ratio of 100% whole wheat bread flour up to about 40% and still maintain the big air spaces that are so typical of this type of bread. Go much above that and you will most likely cut the amount of gluten to the point where it can no longer hold the air spaces. Whole wheat flour is very dense, so one must spend time developing the gluten and allowing it to rise adequately or your loaves will be flat and heavy. It is worth the effort, however, if you can do it. It adds a layer of nutty flavor that unbleached white bread flour, alone, cannot give it. Good luck.

  • Gene

    Place some corn meal or some semolina flour on a sheet of parchment, then put the somewhat sticky dough on that and shape it. When it comes time to place the risen dough on the stone use something flat like a pizza peel (I just let mine rise on the peel) and just slide the parchment, with the dough one, it very gently off onto the stone. When baked, retrieve it back off the stone, onto the peel, in reverse fashion.