The ciabatta is an Italian bread with a distinctive flat, elongated shape, a golden brown, crispy crust and a soft, hole-riddled interior, often used for making panini… let’s make it from scratch!
Ingredients for 10 loaves, about 1/3 lb (150-160 g) each
For the poolish
• ¾ cup (100 g) of all-purpose flour
• 1 ½ cups (200 g) of bread flour
• 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) of water
• ½ tsp (2 g) of active dry yeast (or 1/5 oz-6 g of fresh yeast)
For the dough
• 1 ½ cups (200 g) of all-purpose flour
• 3 cups (400 g) of bread flour
• 1 ½ cups (350 ml) of water
• ¾ tsp (3 g) of active dry yeast (or 1/3 oz-9 g of fresh yeast)
• ½ tbsp (10 g) of malt (or sugar)
• 1 heaping tbsp (20 g) of salt
• durum flour as needed, for the pastry board
First we need to make a pre-ferment, called poolish: combine the 2 flours in a bowl, add the yeast to the water, stir to dissolve, then add to the flour. Mix well for at least 3-4 minutes. Our poolish is ready, it’s very wet as you can see; now cover with cling film and allow to rise at room temperature for at least 3 hours. 3 hours have passed and the poolish is full of bubbles. Now make the final dough, so put the poolish in a mixing bowl, take the flours and the water, in which the yeast and the malt have been dissolved, mix well and beat in the dry and wet ingredients, alternating between them, until the dough clumps around the paddle; once the dough comes together into a ball, we’ll switch to the dough hook. The dough has come together, so replace the paddle with the dough hook, then we’ll add the salt and beat at a medium speed for about 10-12 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. After 12 minutes the dough has gathered around the hook; turn off the stand mixer, cover the bowl with cling film and allow to rise at room temperature for an hour. An hour has passed, now remove the cling film, dust the work surface with durum flour and turn out the dough. Now fold the dough: stretch one side and fold it over, do the same with the opposite side, fold it over, and repeat the stretch and fold with the left and right sides; pat it flat – make sure your work surface is well dusted with durum flour, to avoid sticking, you can use a dough scraper as I’m doing now – then divide the dough into 10 equal pieces, weighing around 1/3 lb (160 g) each. If you wish, you can divide it into larger pieces, 5 instead of 10 for example, depending on how big you want your loaves to be. Always keep your counter well floured to prevent the dough from sticking to it; after the dough has been divided, sprinkle the durum flour on top, cover with cling film and allow to rise for an hour, an hour and a half at room temperature. The time has come to bake our ciabatta bread, so take a piece of parchment paper and lay it on a thin wooden board, because we’ll slide the bread straight onto the hot baking tray, that is preheating in the oven right now, or a baking stone placed on the bottom of the oven. You also need a water sprayer, to spray the oven walls before closing the oven door. Take a dough scraper, lift the dough and turn it over onto the parchment paper, gently stretch it out, being careful not to lose the air trapped inside. Take 2 or 3 loaves, depending on their size and bake in a preheated static oven at 465°-480°F (240°-250°C) for the first 8 minutes, remember that the baking tray must be hot, then lower the temperature to 350°-390°F (180°-200°C) and bake for another 8 minutes, but during the last 3-4 minutes leave the oven door ajar by placing a wooden spoon in the opening to hold it open so that the steam can escape, which will give the bread a nice crispy top. Our ciabatta bread is done! Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool a bit, meanwhile I’ll sum up the baking step, the most important: preheat a static oven to 465°-480°F (240°-250°C), bake the bread and spray the oven with water 5-6 times, close the oven door and bake for 8 minutes; after 8 minutes, lower the temperature to 350°-390°F (180°-200°C) but, after the first 4 minutes, open the oven door and place a wooden spoon in the opening to allow the steam to escape, so that the bread will brown and crisp up. And now let’s break one open to check: as you can see, it’s nice and crispy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside, excellent with cured meats!