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.
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).
- The bread kept well for the next day, and I even enjoyed a slice 48 hours after cooking.
- 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.