Ciabatta, or “slipper” in Italian, is a wonderful rustic bread known for its light and airy holes. It’s perfect for dunking and makes the best panini sandwiches. The secret to ciabatta lies within both the recipe and method, so for best results, make sure to implement the techniques below. It’s well worth it, because this sourdough slipper will be unlike any you’ve ever tried.
About the Dough: Ciabatta is a very wet, sticky dough, probably the wettest dough in this book. Using a stand mixer simplifies the preparation and adds a wonderful lightness to the finished loaf. Stretch and folds are important for strength, and help to open up the crumb. Heads up: Ciabatta dough will appear lifeless after it has been shaped, but don’t fret. It will bounce back once baked.
- Yield: 3 loaves
- ½ cup (100 g) bubbly, active starter
- 10.66 cups (400 g) warm water, plus
- 1 cup (240 g) water for the oven
- 2 cups plus 1 tbsp (250 g) bread flour
- 2 cups plus 1 tbsp (250 g) all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp (9 g) fine sea salt
- Oil, for coating
- A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use. Make the Dough
- Add the starter, water, flours, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to combine. The dough will look shaggy and sticky; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. When finished, cover with a damp towel and let rest for 1 hour. Meanwhile, replenish your starter with fresh flour and water, and store according to preference.
- After the dough has rested, switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 10 to 13 minutes. The dough will continue to look wet and sticky, but after kneading, it will become shiny and smooth, like taffy. Transfer the dough into a new bowl lightly coated in oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Bulk Rise with Stretch and Folds
- With lightly wet hands, grab a portion of the dough, stretch it upward, and fold it over toward the center of the bowl. Give the bowl a one-quarter turn and repeat until you have come full circle to complete your first set. Repeat this technique, about 3 to 4 sets, spaced 15 to 30 minutes apart.
- When your stretch and folds are complete, cover the dough and let rise at room temperature until double or triple in size. This will take about 7 to 10 hours at 70°F (21°C). Divide and Shape
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and dust heavily with flour. Set aside.
- Gently coax the dough onto well-floured work surface. Ciabatta dough will stick to everything in sight, so feel free to use extra flour as needed. With floured hands, gently fold the dough in half to create a rectangle, taking care not to deflate the air bubbles. Let rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces with a bench scraper dipped in water to prevent sticking. Transfer each piece to your sheet pan. Dimple the dough just a few times with your fingertips. Second Rise
- Cover the dough and let rest for 1 hour. The dough won’t puff very much at this stage, but don’t worry—this is characteristic of ciabatta.
- Preheat your oven to 500°F (260°C). Place a 9 × 13-inch (23 × 33-cm) pan on the bottom rack to heat up. Bake
- With floured hands, coax your fingertips underneath the dough and flip it over so that the dimpled side faces down. This helps to redistribute the air bubbles during baking. Pour 240 grams (1 cup) of water into the hot pan to create steam. Place the ciabatta on the center rack, and then reduce the heat to 425°F (220°C). Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool for 1 hour before slicing.
- Ciabatta is best enjoyed on the same day it’s made. Once completely cool, store the loaves in a plastic bag at room temperature, up to 1 day.