Ciabatta Bread is your authentic rustic Italian bread recipe. The crumb or the inside of the bread is open meaning that it’s not dense. In fact, the interior has huge holes. You can’t call the loaf beautiful, it’s on the long flat side resembling a big house slipper. But what it lacks in beauty, Ciabatta bread makes up in fantastic taste. It has a wonderful chewy exterior and a soft interior that is as light as a ball of cotton. Once you taste it, you won’t forget it. You’ll want to search high and low to experience that marvelous taste again. But look no more! We take you each step of that way so that you can make some original ciabatta loaves for yourself.
For this recipe, you will need: bread flour, rye flour, distilled water, instant yeast, whole wheat flour, kosher salt.
What is Ciabatta Bread?
We love baking bread, especially Ciabatta ( pronounced cha-BAH-tah) bread. This rustic Italian white bread is buttery, toasty and the nutty smell is heavenly.
The aroma is better than scented candles, much better than the most expensive perfume. The crisp-chewy crust has a slightly fried taste that holds a hole-filled soft interior.
It’s quite a memorable eating experience, one you’ll never forget, not that you’ll want to. 😉
Ciabatta bread, with its deep wheaty aroma, is the ultimate comfort food.
Now, we can’t say that ciabatta, which means “slipper” in Italian, is an attractive looking bread. Nope! In fact, it’s flat and shapeless. Really kind of homely.
Ciabatta Italiana the bread that saved Italy.
Francesco Favaron, a baker from Verona, in collaboration with Arnaldo Cavallari, the owner of Molini Adriesi, a large flour mill in the Polesine area, produced in 1982 the ciabatta we know of today.
This collaboration came about because Cavallari and other Italian bakers were desperate. Baguettes, imported from France, were endangering the Italian bread bakers. See, Italian sandwiches, panino, are very popular. The restaurants were turning to baguettes to make the panino and the people were loving them.
Something had to be done! They had to come up with a commercially viable bread. So, after weeks testing dough mixes, bake-times, using existing regional loaves they came up with Ciabatta Polesana.
Cavallari boasted that his Ciabatta bread had the taste of an old-fashioned bread. I agree with him. Today Molini Adriesi licenses production of its ciabatta in 11 countries.
New variations of the recipe continue to emerge, such as:
- ciabatta integrale – with wholemeal.
- ciabatta al latte – with milk.
Is Ciabatta Bread hard to make?
We can’t say that ciabatta bread is easy to make as a quick bread either. Once you know the technique though, it’s fun. Basically, the dough is a wet sticky mass that’s a challenge to conquer.
Now don’t let us scare you! Because once you do conquer that blob, the effort is so worth it, that you’ll want to make it again and again.
It’s taken us many years and countless cookbooks like The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart and
pounds of flour and cups of yeast a very messy apron and counter to finally learn how to make a true ciabatta bread. We’re here to guide you through this.
A ciabatta bread is a flat irregular shape with traditional huge holes and a blistered, crispy crust. In the worldwide bread baking contests, many times the Ciabatta bread is featured as a bread to make as a challenge.
Well, you know me, I love a challenge!! 😁
Ciabatta Bread: how to start.
Now we’d like to share what we’ve learned, and once you know the technique of making ciabatta bread, and tried it out, you’ll see that ciabatta bread isn’t that difficult to make.
Making an authentic Ciabatta bread at home is worth every minute you spent making this wonderful aromatic comfort food.
The pictures below will take you step by step on what we did as we made the Ciabatta bread.
(1). Pre-ferment– I make this the night before in the same bowl I will make the bread. It is the consistency of pancake batter.
(2). Measure- The next day I weigh the rest of the ingredients and put them in the same bowl as the pre-ferment. I also include the regular measurements with the recipe.
(3). Mix – I mix all the ingredients together first with the regular beater and then with the dough hook.
(4). Flour –I make sure that my surface is well floured because the dough is very wet. I use a Silpat on my breadboard just because it makes clean-up easier.
(5). It’s a blob! Well, it is but don’t worry, it will soon take shape. It helps to have a bench knife– it’s that plastic thing you see in the picture– oops the scraper (bench knife) was cut off.
It looks like a spatula with no handle. I sprinkle a generous amount of flour and scrape it underneath the dough and put one side over the other, folding like an envelope. It will still be loose but don’t panic.
(6). Mist with spray oil and flour the top generously. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest. You will again do the stretch and fold by pulling on opposite ends and working your bench knife underneath the dough. Fold over into an envelope again, mist with spray oil, flour generously and cover again with plastic wrap. Pictures
(7) and (8) shows that the dough is starting to look more like a fat pillow.
(9) and (10) Ciabatta ready to divide – The Ciabatta is ready to divide into four pieces. In this step I’m very careful not to degas the loaves. They are very puffy and full of air.
(11) I use two bread forms lined with a couche ( a linen cloth used to aid in proofing the dough) You can use a tea towel but not terry cloth. I mist the cloths with spray oil then dust the cloth with flour.
(12) I take each piece of cut dough and fold it into an envelope — lay it into the groove of the bread form with the folded side up.
(13).You gently cover up that ciabatta bread dough and let it rise. In the meantime, we get two baking sheets ready by sprinkling cornmeal on the back of them and then we put a piece of parchment paper that we’ve misted with spray oil on top of the baking sheet. The cornmeal helps us slide the bread off the baking sheet and onto the baking stone.
Once the Ciabatta bread is ready to pop into the oven– we take each formed piece and flip it over onto the parchment paper. This means that the flap side of the dough is down. we stretch each piece by pulling gently from either end.
Then we dimple the dough gently by using my fingers to push down into the dough. I’m sorry I didn’t get pictures of these two steps. If there is any confusion we’ll gladly make the bread again ( big sacrifice 🙂 ) and I’ll add the pictures.
(14) We slide the Ciabatta bread directly from the baking sheet onto the baking stone. If you don’t have a baking stone you can bake on the sheet pan. The oven is very hot (500 F) and I mist the sides of the oven with water – 3 times at 30-second intervals. Now I turn down the oven to 450 F. It will bake for 10 minutes then give it a 180-degree turn.
(15) Once the bread is finished baking we let it cool on the cooling rack.
(16) Aren’t those holes beautiful? That is exactly what I’ve been working towards. I wish you could smell the aroma and the taste — well it’s indescribable — sinful and heavenly all at the same time. You could use those wonderful slices to dip in . . . .
Whatever way you enjoy this bread, it will become a favorite.
Tutti a tavola è pronto!
Un caro saluto e alla prossima.
YOU MAY NEED . . .
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Whenever we bake bread there are certain items we couldn’t do without. The ones we show below are some that we use.
Ciabatta Bread: Ultimate Rustic Italian Bread Recipe Tutorial
I went into a lot of detail on the Ciabatta Bread recipe I certainly hope you didn’t fall asleep mid-way. The recipe for Ciabatta Bread that follows is a combination of several recipes. Not only is Ciabatta bread delicious by itself, it is irresistible as a sandwich or bruschetta. The crust has bubbles under the crust and it almost tastes fried. The inside is light as a cloud and delicious warm with butter or olive oil. I know you and your family will love it.
If you like this recipe, please consider giving it a five-star rating. This helps other bakers decide on whether to try a recipe or not.
Ciabatta Bread - the Hole Story
- Pre-Ferment - Poolish
- 2 oz. 50 grams ( 1/2 cup) rye flour
- 15 3/4 oz. 450 grams ( 3 1/4 cups) high-protein white flour
- 30 oz. 850 grams ( 3 3/4 cup ) water -- I use spring or distilled water
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- Dough ;
- The Poolish
- 4 oz. 100 grams ( 3/4 cup) wholewheat "bread" flour
- 14 oz. 400 grams ( 3 cups ) high-protein (strong or bread ) white flour
or you can add more wholewheat by doing this variation
- The Poolish
- 7 oz. 200 grams (1 2/3 cups) sifted wholewheat "bread" flour
- 11 oz. 300 grams ( 2 1/4 cups ) high-protein white flour
Either variation will take
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- Set up a couche which can be a cloth napkin scrap fabric, or smooth towel ( not terry). Mist the fabric with spray oil and lightly dust with flour. You can purchase the special linen proofing cloths and reuse them.
- Prepare two baking sheets by sprinkling each with corn meal and then topping with an oil misted parchment paper.
- In the mixer's bowl, stir the Poolish ingredients to a smooth batter -- it's like a pancake batter -- and leave it AT ROOM TEMPERATURE overnight. The goo will smell strongly of sour rye and yeast by-products.
- The next day, add the dough's dry ingredients -- either variation-- to the Poolish and using the mixer's beater blade mix roughly until just hydrated. Let rest for 20 minutes.
- After the rest , run the mixer for a minute or two then switch to the dough hook and continue to knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until it is fairly smooth and shows signs of elasticity.
- Flour your counter, very generously, and scrape the very wet dough onto the flour. Dust all over with more flour and use a scraper to help you roll the dough in the flour until it's coated all over.
- Leave for 10 minutes, sprinkle more flour around the dough and use your scraper under the dough to release it from the bottom.
- With floured hands and your scraper perform a stretch and fold. It is folded in thirds like you would an envelope. Mist with spray oil then dust the dough with flour. Cover with plastic wrap.
- Leave for 10 minutes then do the same procedure as above: sprinkle with flour, loosen the dough from the bottom, flour your hands and stretch the dough out, fold into thirds and again mist with spray oil and dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap.
- You will do the stretch and fold a total of 4 times with a 10 minutes rest period in-between.
- After the last stretch and fold, leave the dough to rise for about an hour growing about 1 1/2 to 2 times in size.
- Now it is time to cut the dough into 4 strips, being careful to degas them as little as possible. Shape the strips into fat loaves by stretching and folding into an envelope. Lay the loaves on the prepared cloth and bunch the cloth between the pieces to provide a wall. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and dust the dough with more flour. Flour is your friend. Cover the cloth with a towel and proof for about 45 to 60 minutes. The loaves will increase about 1 1/2 times.
- Preheat oven to 500 o as the loaves are proofing.
- Invert the loaves out of the couche and stretch to the typical Ciabatta shape by gently grasping the ends of each loaf and pulling. Place each loaf as it is stretched onto the prepared baking sheet. Gently dimple the dough down with your fingertips to even out the height of the loaf.
- Slide the dough with the parchment paper onto the baking stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan).
- Spritz water onto the side walls of the oven being careful not to spray the light. Do this 3 times at 30 second intervals. After the third time lower the oven temperature to 450 F.
- Bake for 10 minutes and rotate the loaves 180 degrees. Bake for a total of 30 minutes. The inside of the loaf should register 205 F.
- Cool on racks for at least 1 hour before eating. I am ashamed to say that I've never been able to wait the full hour.
- The loaves will feel very hard and crusty at first but will soften as they cool. You can harden them up again by putting them in the oven and heating them up.
- We freeze our Ciabatta loaves immediately after they cool. When we are ready to eat the bread we put the frozen loaf into the over, heat the oven to 300 F then turn off the oven. The bread will have the same crispy crust and a wonderful chewy inside.
- There are some Ciabatta breads made with oil and milk -- those will keep longer. But we've never had a problem with the bread going stale-- it's not around long enough.
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