Ciabatta is one of my many favourite breads. I like the big holes, the chewy light texture of the crumb and the crispy crust. I would bake this bread more often, but my wife is not particularly fond of this bread. I’ve tried several recipes, but this one is about the simplest, and with some small adjustments, it works well for me as it should do for you. It’s adapted from several recipes, the method is simple, and the result is repeatably consistent. Moreover, the biga imparts a nice aroma and flavour to the bread.
500 gm unbleached flour: (372 gm + 128 gm.)
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp yeast: (11/2 + 1/2 tsp.)
40 ml olive oil
Water: (200 ml + 200 ml.)
Biga: The ingredients are taken from the left (shown in blue):
128 gm flour (1 cup )
1/2 tsp yeast
200 ml water.
The night before, make up the Biga first and set this aside to proof overnight for 12 to 18 hours at room temperature.
After 12 to 18hours, mix the biga with the remaining 372 gm flour,11/2 tsp yeast and 2 tsp salt in a KitchenAid (KA) bowl. Add in the olive oil and then the 200 ml of water – slowly while kneading the mixture in the KA mixer with a dough hook for about 15 minutes; adding the water till the dough, from sticking on the sides of the bowl, starts to come off. Continue mixing till the dough is smooth and silky.
Transfer and proof the dough in an oiled container ( preferably rectangular ) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or till it doubles it’s volume. The dough will take the shape of the rectangular container, making it easier to shape the ciabatta. During the last 1/2 hour of proofing, fire up your oven to 230˚C. Add in a small shallow metal tray to place 1/2 cup of boiling water for creating moisture when you start baking.
When the dough has risen to more than half the size, tip the dough gently onto a oiled, floured surface – (see tips below). Sprinkle more flour. Cut and shape gently into two long loaves. Transfer these each to a baking sheet. It’s a very wet and soft dough, so handling it is initially tricky, but quite easy once you’re used to it. Cover and rest the dough for 1 to 2 hours or till almost double it’s size. Then bake for 30 minutes at 230˚C. In the last 5 minutes of the baking time, open the oven door about 1 inch to allow the moisture out and to crisp the crust. Watch you don’t burn the bread!
Floured surface: For this, I use Glad cling wrap film on the working table when I tip the flour from the rectangular box over to the working surface – (see pictures above). Stick the cling wrap on the table by lightly spraying the surface of the table with water, and the film will stick to the table surface. Add a table spoon of olive oil at the center of the cling wrap film and spread this out with your fingers. Tip the dough on to this oily surface; sprinkle some flour, then cut and shape the dough. After transferring the dough to the baking sheet, peel the cling wrap off the table and discard, then just wipe the table clean with a dry towel. No oily mess to clean up!
“Broken things are precious. We eat broken bread because we share in the depth of our Lord and His broken life. Broken flowers give perfume. Broken incense is used in adoration. A broken ship saved Paul and many other passengers on their way to Rome. Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”
― Fulton J. Sheen ―