Ciabatta bread is one of the most delicious and classic breads that I think of when thinking about Italy. It is a great bread for cutting into strips for crostini or cutting in half to make a sandwich. For me, I usually use it for crostini to serve along soup or to make bruschetta!
This ciabatta recipe is from Carol Field, the author of the Italian Baker. It is very easy to follow and makes 4 loaves which I like because it is a bit time consuming but at least I can freeze some of it and have bread for a while thanks to the fruits of my labor! I really like Carol’s book because it is easy for novice bakers to follow and the recipes are well thought out. I added a couple tips that I found helpful during the baking process that I think other bakers will find helpful.
This is a great bread to make on the weekend when you have a little more time on your hands. It actually has very little hands on time but does require a step or so every 1-2 hours for a couple hours.
In addition to the recipe below, one step that is needed and cannot be skipped is making a biga, or Italian starter sponge. This step needs to be done the day before since biga needs to be aged. I like to start the biga on a Friday evening and have it ready to start baking with in the late afternoon on a Saturday. This lets me have ciabatta bread for dinner on Saturday and lunch on Sunday with a little leftover to freeze for later in the week for soups like my farro and kale minestrone or a nice Beef Bourguignon.
My recipe for Italian biga is very simple and will only take a few minutes to assemble! If you have your own biga recipe you can use that as well.
I hope you give this a try and see how amazing homemade ciabatta bread can be!
Easy Homemade Ciabatta
- stand mixer, pizza stones or cast iron pans turned upside down for baking
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 5 tbsp warm milk
- 1 cup plus 1 tbsp water at room temperature
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups 500 grams of Italian biga aged for 12 hours (see link above for recipe) it's best to weigh out your biga
- 3 1/4 cup 500 grams unbleached all purpose flour try to weigh this out too
- 1 tbsp salt
- cornmeal for dusting bread before baking
Making the ciabatta dough
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, add your milk and yeast and let sit until creamy (about 10 minutes)
- Next add your water, oil and biga and with a fork, mix it well until the biga is incorporated into the liquid
- Next, add your flour and salt and mix with the mixer for 2-3 minutes using the paddle attachment
- Now switch your attachment to the dough hook and mix on low speed for for 2 minutes then medium speed for another 2 minutes,
- Remove from the mixer bowl on to a very lightly floured surface
- Knead until the dough is velvety and smooth (about 2 minutes)
- Now place your needed dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rest for about 1 1/2 hours. It should double in size during this time and turn bubbly and sticky.
- Remove the dough from your bowl and place on a lightly floured surface
- cut your dough into 4 quarters. I like to use a bench scraper for this but you can use a large knife.
- Working with one quarter of your dough at a time, roll your dough into a rectangle shape about 10 inches by 4 inches. You may need to use your hands to stretch it out to this length and make sure you are working with a ruler to measure. I keep one of my kids old school rulers in a kitchen drawer for this.
- Now get out 4 pieces of parchment paper, pizza peels or baking sheets and add a generous amount of flour on them.
- Add your first shaped dough on to one of them (if there is a seem from the kneading step then make sure you place your dough seem side down) and proceed to shape the other 3 quarters the same way.
- Once you have shaped all of your dough, using your finger tips or knuckles, start making dimples in your dough by pressing your knuckles or fingers all around the top of the dough. This helps make sure it will not rise too much as it rests again.
- Cover all of your dough with dampened towels. I like to take a kitchen towel and lightly spray the towel completely down with a mist of water. If I see any dry spots on my towel I mist it again.
- Let the dough rest for another 1 1/2- 2 hours or until it rises a little bit but not doubled. This dough will not do much rising here but do not be worried, it is not supposed to!
- Add your pizza stone, or if using cast iron pans (turned upside down) into your oven. If you are short on cast iron pans for 4 loaves of bread or your pizza stone is not large enough, just bake your bread in batches.
- Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F for 30 minutes with your pizza stones or cast iron pans in the oven. Make sure it is pre-heating for this length of time so the surface that the bread is going to bake on is nice and hot
- When your oven has pre-heated for 30 minutes, add a sprinkle of cornmeal onto your stone or pans and then take your ciabatta loaf and flip it on to your stone. This means the top of your ciabatta dough is now the bottom when baking in the oven. Also, if your your dough is too long for your pan or pizza stone then gently push in the sides (like an accordion) after placing it in the oven. If you used parchment paper and it won't come off your dough, leave it on the dough to bake for a few minutes and then it should release.
- Set a timer for your loaves to bake for 20-25 minutes
- At this point, grab 3 small ice cubes and throw that on to the bottom of your oven to create steam and close the oven door
- Wait 3 minutes and throw 3 more ice cubes on to the floor of your oven
- Wait another 3 minutes and do this one more time
- In total you should have added 3 batches of ice cubes for steam in the first 10 minutes
- After your loaves have baked for 20-25 minutes and they are nice and golden on the outside, remove them from the oven carefully (they will be hot) and let cool on a cooling rack.