November 12, 2010

Ciabatta (the Italian word for slipper) came to the US in the 1990’s, but has quickly taken root. It has a crisp crust with nice open crumb, while the fermented starter gives the bread complex flavor. The dough is kneaded for a total of 15 minutes; more than any other bread I’ve made. But the resulting dough is silky smooth. I started the biga the night before, and then started the dough 4-1/2 hours before dinner.

Great flavor without an overly tough crust.

The complete recipe is here. Start by mixing the biga in a small bowl: 1 cup unbleached flour, 1/8 teaspoon yeast and 1/2 cup water. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight. Then 4-1/2 hours before dinner, add the biga and remaining ingredients to the bowl of a standing mixer: 2 cups unbleached flour, 1/2 teaspoon yeast, 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup milk. With the paddle attachment, mix on lowest speed for 1 minute. Increase to medium-low and mix for 4 minutes. Switch to dough hook and mix for 10 minutes on medium speed.

Pour into large bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Using a rubber spatula for the dough over onto itself 8 times. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. Again, use a rubber spatula for the dough over onto itself 8 times. Again let rise for another 30 minutes.  On a floured counter, divide the dough in half. Turn each piece of dough so cut side is facing up; dust with flour. Press into 12- by 6-inch shape, then fold like a business letter. Gently put each loaf seam-side down on it’s own 12- by 6-inch pieces of parchment paper. Dust with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let loaves rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Using fingertips, poke surface of each loaf to form 10- by 6-inch rectangle; spray loaves lightly with water. Bake, spraying loaves with water twice more during first 5 minutes of baking time, until crust is golden brown and interior temperature of the loaf is 210 degrees, about 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before slicing.

The resulting loaves were 5-stars. They had great, complex flavor, and the crispy crust was softer than the Rustic Italian Bread. This is my second favorite bread (The Rosemary Focaccia is my absolute favorite).


  1. The bread kept well for the next day, and I even enjoyed a slice 48 hours after cooking.
  2. Of course, I used active dry yeast, so I had to rehydrate it. A step unnecessary if you use instant or rapid-rise yeast. See Types of Yeasts.

Rating: 5 stars.
Cost: 50-cents for 2 small loaves.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 2 PM.  Ready:  6:30 PM.

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