Ciabatta Bread Technique And Recipe
Ciabatta Is Good Crusty Bread
What Is Ciabatta
Ciabatta is one of the breads of Italy. It is not the same as what we know as "Italian" bread but it is just as good, if not better. Ciabatta is a crusty bread with a light, chewy interior. The cause for both is the same, gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat flour and the reason why bread gets a crust when you cook it and why it rises when the yeasts breath life into it.
Ciabatta is one of my favorite breads. The flavor of the crust and the chewiness of the crumb combine to make a meal on its own. I learned this recipe one year when I worked as a baker in Asheville, NC. I would get up each morning, arriving at the bakery by 4AM each day. By 6 I would have 4-8 batches of ciabatta proofing in tubs. By 8 the first loaves of ciabatta were coming out of the ovens and the first focaccia were being prepped. The beauty of this recipe is that it is easy to make and fun to work with as well as being very versatile. I like to make long one pound loaves that are about 4-5 inches wide, half sheet pan sized focaccia, smaller sandwich buns and even pizza crusts from this dough.
Ciabatta Is Good Bread
- 6.5 # Bread Flour, King Arthur is preferred
- 1 tbls yeast, active dry
- 3.5# sour dough starter
- scant 2 qts water
- 4.5 oz olive oil
- 4.5 oz milk, whole
- 2 oz salt, kosher or sea
Before the invention of packaged yeast breads and other yeast products were either fermented from wild yeast in the air or from yeast that had been cultured in a sour dough. To make a sour dough or a sour dough starter simply take some of the dough from today's bread and let it sit until tomorrow. The yeast inside the dough will continue to grow and multiply. They will also flavor the dough with the natural alcohol produced. Each day when you make new dough from the old starter keep some for the next day. Eventually you will develop your own unique strain of bread yeast.
- Simple sour dough - To make a simple sourdough starter mix 2# of bread flour with 1.5$ of water and 2 tbls of yeast. Mix well, put in a covered container and allow to sit overnight. It will be ready to use the next day.
- Keep It Going - Once you make the first batch of ciabatta save 1# of the finished dough and mix that with 1.5# of flour and 1# of water for the next day. The sour dough starter can also be kept in the freezer until you need it. To revive just allow it to sit at room temp overnight.
Instructions For Ciabatta Bread
- Combine the flour, yeast, sour dough starter and most of the water in a mixing bowl. A 10 or 20 quart mixer is required. Put in the water first, then the sour dough and then the flour to prevent lumps and excessive sticking.
- Mix on low until fully combined. The dough may appear to be dry at first but will soften quickly, add a little water if needed. The dough should not pull away from the sides of the mixer.
- Turn mixer to medium and mix for 4 minutes.
- Allow the dough to rest in the bowl for at least 20 minutes. The dough will relax and settle into the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mixer arm.
- Add the oil and milk then turn mixer on to low speed. While mixing slowly add the salt making sure it is incorporated and does not form clumps. Once the liquids and salt are absorbed turn onto high and mix for 3 minutes. At this point the dough will eventually pull away from the sides of the bowl and begin slapping the sides.
- When done mixing turn the dough into an oiled tub and allow to rest and proof. When the dough has doubled in size it is time to stretch it out.
- At this point you will need a large counter space or dedicated work table. Lay down some flour to prevent sticking and then turn the dough out onto your work surface. Pull and stretch the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches by 48 inches. The first time you do this might be tricky but the dough is really easy to work once you get the feel of it.
- After the dough is pulled and stretched let it rest for ten to fifteen minute then cut it into 5 inch wide loaves. Bake in a hot oven, 450F or hotter, for about 20 minutes or until browned.