We love bread – of all shapes and sizes. I like sourdough, rye, oat bread, and everything whole wheat with a lot of moisture and nice big pores, while the rest of my (American) family enjoys white bread. Alright, they refuse to eat whole wheat bread and I am done just buying cardboard toast!
I want to find an easy alternative to buying pre-made bread that is full of preservatives and ingredients that I cannot pronounce or know what they are! I want a simple, honest and great tasting white bread that goes well with our many soups, chilis, and other crockpot meals that make up most of our weekday dinners since my eight-year-old asked to start training for show jumping.
So, I tried (and failed) many different ways until I figured out the right mix of flour, yeast, salt and water to make the perfect ciabatta bread.
Literally, the Italian word ‘ciabatta’ means slipper and it is named for its long, rather a flat shape. In Italy, every region has its own version of this very popular bread. Since I grew up in Milano, I am more used to the small loaves with the harder crust (they sound a little hollow when you know on them) and denser, but moist crumbs and smaller pores. That was the version I was hoping to recreate.
If you bake smaller loafs (divide the dough from this recipe in eight pieces instead of four), you can use the bread for panini sandwiches! Just cut them in half along the horizontally, you can stuff it with Pepper Jack Cheese, Hummus, Roasted Peppers and mixed salad greens for a mouth-watering lunch! If you have a panini press, you can also warm it up for a delicious meal!
How To Bake Ciabatta
Before you scroll down to the recipe, I wanted to share a few tips to get the baking process just right. Because remember, baking is all about science.
- This bread does not need a starter or any special bread making equipment. But it does not to be worked for about 10 minutes to develop the gluten – I recommend using a KitchenAid or Mixer with a dough hook.
- This recipe can be halved if you want only 2 large or 4 small panini size loaves.
- I always add the salt before the flour to the bowl, so it does not get in contact with the yeast right away.
Getting the water temperature right is critical. Aim for 40C or 104F! If it is too cold, your yeast will not become activated enough to develop the right texture and your bread will not rise. If your water is too hot, your yeast will die and your bread becomes a flat brick.
If you don’t happen to have a candy thermometer handy, use this simple method: Boil some water and let it cool for a few minutes. Then carefully add two ounces of hot water and four ounces of room temperature water to a small mason jar. Three mason jars like that will give you the right amount of luke-warm water you need for the first round. A fourth mason jar will need to be added once all ingredients are combined.
At first, your dough will be very wet and slimy – maybe even clumpy. Don’t be discouraged. After working it for 5-8 minutes in the second round, you will get a wonderfully cohesive dough that has a beautiful elasticity. When you are done, your dough can be pulled and stretched easily.
Now, let your dough proof for about an hour. Proofing simply means to give your dough time to rest, strengthen and develop. Since my kitchen can vary greatly in temperature, I love to proof my dough in the oven. Don’t switch it on yet – only the light. This will provide a cozy temperature.
Once doubled in size (about an hour), cut into equal size pieces and stretch into long loaves. Start preheating your oven to 215C / 425F and let them rest for another 20 minutes. I cut bigger loaves on the top.
- 1000gr / 2lb, 3oz. Organic White All Purpose Flour (plus more for kneading and dusting)
- 31 gr Active Yeast
- 3 Tbsp. Salt
- 800ml / 28oz. of warm water
- Olive Oil
- Add salt at the bottom of your KitchenAid bowl and add flour. Press a little valley into the flour and add the yeast. Add ¾ of the luke-warm water and let it sit for a few minutes to activate the yeast.
- Mix for 2-3 minutes, using a dough hook, to combine all ingredients. Add the rest of the water and mix on medium speed for 5-8 minutes until a nice, easily stretchy dough develops. Place in a well-oiled bowl and proof for 1 hour.
- By now the dough should have risen nicely. Quickly but gently knead it through and divide into four equal pieces. Dust with flour and put on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Let rest for another 20 minutes before baking at 215C or 425F degrees for 25 minutes.
- Let it cool completely before cutting it.
To store your freshly-baked bread, wrap it in wax paper and pace in a loosely covered plastic tub, store it in a breadbox if you have one or in a brown paper bag – which preserve the crispy crust longer. You should not place the bread in the fridge as it will make it stale faster. I like to freeze some right away so I get fresh baked bread more often.
I hope you enjoy it and let me know how it goes!