Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to Make Perfect Ciabatta Bread?

One of the most delicious Italian breads for sure. It is surprising that this bread was invented only 30 years ago, which is a very short life for the bread. Funny, it got the name that means slipper in Italian because of its shape.

This light and airy bread (since it has a lot of wholes in its texture) is perfect for making snacks. Recently I found out you can make Whole Wheat Ciabatta too, so next time I am going to make that healthier version. Also, there are plenty of other possibilities: Ciabatta with Wild Mushrooms, Ciabatta with Cheese, Ciabatta with Caramelized Onion and Herb, etc. 

This great recipe I took from Peter Reinhard’s book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”. I faithfully followed the recipe and it turned out perfect. You will see, if you follow all steps correctly I guarantee your bread will look just like a professional one and everybody will be very impressed with your “baking skills”.

You need for poolish, sponge dough, which should be made a day before:
  • 2 ½  cups (11.25 oz) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 ½  cups (12 oz) water at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon  (0.03 oz) instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon (0.44 oz) salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Dough should be sticky and soft. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and wait for 3-4 hours until the dough is bubbly and foamy. Then, move it to the fridge. 

For Ciabatta dough:
  • 31/4 cups (22.75 oz) poolish dough, already prepared
  • 3 cups (13.5 oz) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 ½  teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon (0.44 oz) salt
  • 6 tablespoons to ¾ cup (3-6 oz) lukewarm water 

  1. Take poolish dough from the fridge and leave it to chill off for 1 hour.
  2. Mix all ingredients,  together including poolish dough. Since the dough is very wet and sticky you should use a large metal spoon while you stir it. If you use an electrical mixer you need 5-7 minutes to have it well mixed, smooth and sticky. Add additional flour to firm up the dough and clear the sides of the bowl.
  3. Dust the counter with flour and transfer the dough to it. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and shape it into a rectangle. Wait for 2 minutes.
  4. Apply stretch-and-fold method: take the dough from each end and try to stretch it to twice its size. Then, fold it over itself in letter style to get the old rectangle shape.
  5. Spray the dough with oil, dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Leave it to rest for 30 minutes.
  6. Stretch and fold the dough again, cover it and leave to ferment for 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  7. Move the plastic wrap. Cut the dough into 2 or 3 rectangle loaves by pastry scraper or sharp knife. Sprinkle the dough loves with flour and roll them on both sides to coat.
  8. Put the loaves on the cloth and fold each piece from left to right, in letter style, to get a oblong shape, 6 inches long.
  9. Mist the loaves with oil spray, dust it with flour and cover it with cloth.
  10. Leave the loaves to proof for 45 – 60 minutes.
  11. Prepare the oven. Preheat the oven to 500F or the highest if you can.
  12. When bread is placed in the oven, pour a cup of hot water into the empty pan on the highest rack in the oven. Then, you need a plant mister. Fill it with water and spray the back walls and sides of the oven, avoid spraying the bread. After spraying, close the door and wait for 30 seconds, and repeat spraying two times more with a break of 30 seconds. When you finish spraying you have to decrease the temperature to 450F and bake for 10 minutes. If your oven doesn’t heat evenly you should rotate bread loaves now. Continue baking for 5 - 10 minutes longer. When the bread is done it should have a golden brown top. (To get more information about bread baking go to my older post)
  13. Transfer the bread to cooling rack and allow it to cool for 45 minutes.

Check this video out that can visually give you idea how to handle Ciabatta dough. Not sure for this recipe since I didn’t try it. 

See below Ciabatta bread that I made with biga sponge dough (less water) and milk, that has smaller wholes in its texture.



  1. I am at my wits' end. I have tried 3 different recipes for Ciabatta bread (one which even claimed to be a bread machine recipe for beginners/idiots) and they all failed. The dough rises the first time, but after that... nothing. The finished loaf is 1/2" high, dense, wet, glop. It doesn't turn brown either. It's disgusting.

    I bought new yeast, new flour, I measured carefully. It's summer, not cold in the kitchen. What am I doing wrong? I can't understand why my bread just flops no matter what recipe I use. It seems like at least one of them should work.

  2. Sometimes the problem is in water (use bottled one), or high altitude, or the quality of yeast... try to put the dough in the fridge for overnight, and move it out for 2-3 hours and see what it going to happen...

    Your oven seams doesn't heat well on the top, otherwise you will get brown color crust.

    Use bread flour that is high in gluten.

    Good luck!

  3. Surely this needs some salt somewhere along the way?

  4. Sure... let me fix it. Thanks for suggestion.


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