Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ciabatta bread - The Italian 'Slipper'

(Correction: This bread DOES NOT use a biga. That line accidentally made it past the editors before they had their coffee. That line has been removed.)

Ciabatta is an Italian bread which literally translated stands for "slipper". Legend has it that the bread got this name because of the odd shape of the bread. No one actually knows where this bread originated in Italy but every region has their own version. Here in Naples, the ciabatta is usually meant for sandwiches or "panini". One of the things I like about baking this type of loaf is there is no defined shape. What you get is what you get. There is no right or wrong answer so absolutely have fun with this one!

This recipe comes from A Bakers Tour by Nick Malgieri.


4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees

Olive oil for the bowl

Cornmeal for the sliding pan

Baking stone or 2 jelly-roll pans that fit side by side in the oven, plus a cooking sheet with no sides or a piece of stiff cardboard to slide the loaves into the oven.


1. Stir together the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk the yeast into the water. Then stir the yeast mixture into the flour.

2. Fit the mixer with the paddle and mix the dough for about 1 minute on lowest speed.

3. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

4. Beat the dough again on medium speed, until smooth and elastic, about 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Oil a 3-quart bowl and scrape the dough into it. Turn the dough over so that the top is also oiled. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the dough and let the dough rise at room temperature until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

6. About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the dough, place the baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees If you are using pans instead of the stone, invert the two pans side by side on the middle rack of the oven and preheat at the same temperature.

7. To form the loaves, scrape the dough onto a floured work surface, deflating it as little as possible. Gently pat the dough into an 8-inch square. Cut in half to make 2 rectangles.

8. Sprinkle the cookie sheet or cardboard with cornmeal and arrange one of the pieces of dough at the far end, stretching the dough very slightly as you place it on the pan. open the oven and slide the loaf onto the stone or one of the inverted jelly-roll pans, quickly jerking away the cookie sheet or cardboard. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

9. Bake the ciabattas until they are very dark golden and read an internal temperature of about 200 degrees, about 25 minutes.

10. Cool the breads directly on a rack.

Serving: Cut the loaf into thick vertical slices to serve it with a meal. To use the loaves for sandwiches, split them horizontally.

Mise en place

Do not let your water get too hot or it will kill the yeast!

Lewis Note: I like to let the yeast rest in the water to properly hydrate for about 2 or 3 minutes before adding the mixture to the flour. This gives the yeast time to get going before you put them to work!

The dough should be sticky but not too wet

Do not over mix! When the dough comes together stop the mixer!

Lewis Note: OIL THE TOP OF THE PLASTIC WRAP!!!! You WILL hate yourself if you don't when you try to pull it've been warned.

...a little corn dusting...

Lewis Note: Spray your knife with a little oil and the dough will not stick to the knife.

...The Crust...

...The Crumb...

Give us your opinion:

My family loves this bread. I like to eat it plain with cheese on top. My lovely wife likes to toast the bread and put peanut butter on top. I think anything would go great on this lovely bread!

What is your favorite way to eat a sandwich or "panini"?


BumbleVee said...

honestly? ..if it is homemade bread...I just love it plain...or toasted with just butter...

may I ask Lewis? ... is the crust on this type of bread a bit chewy? If not...which bread would that be? I bought a muesli and raisin loaf today at a small fish market (no info on it)...and it is great...but now to figure out what exactly it is. The crust is pretty firm and chewy... and it is soooo yummy toasted.

I have a pizza stone somewhere that I have never used.... I am going to dig it out...and figure out how to season it.... and then...use the darn thing. Greg used to make pizza at home...but then got too busy I think...he bought it and it never got used...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Um, I really love ciabatta and haven't made it in a long while.
This looks just right. Hey anything goes good on this!

breadchick said...

Glad to see you back at the mixer! We at The Sour Dough have missed you.

Um, favourite way to eat a sammie? My favourite way is the way I wasn't planning on originally. Just having a whim and finding a good bread to put it on.

Passionate About Baking said...

I LOVE THIS BREAD...the crust is singing to me Lewis!!

Tablebread said...

bumblevee - I agree with you. My fav is just a little toast on the bread and a little butter and I'm fine :) You've peaked my interest in the bread you bought. I picked up a bag of mueslix to figure it out. Perhaps you could email me a photo if any are left? Also, I use a pizza stone to bake on and to season it you have to do one very important step, this step is critical and cannot be skipped or it will be ruined! Ready? YOU HAVE TO USE IT! ;) Be sure to let us know when you do.

mykitcheninhalfcups - Yes it does (did) :)

breadchick - Thank you breadchick ;)

passionate - this was an amazing crust. At first when I pulled it out of the oven I was worried the crust looked a little doughy but it turned out beautifully!

Julie said...

Hooray for your being back to blogging! It was a treat to see your comment at the One-Wall!

As for the bread question, it depends on the topping. If it's cheesy, then I do like the bread toasted with the cheese in it. If it's with dinner, then just some butter or olive oil will do.


SteveB said...

There must have been a ciabatta "vibe" this past weekend because I baked some as well!

Stephanie said...

My favorite ciabatta is always topped with an olive tapenade!

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