Ciabatta, or “slipper bread” can be found throughout Italy. One way to create the best texture is to use a biga, or starter made the day before, a long rising time, and also to use a loose, moist dough. I find using a baking stone in my oven helps to give my bread a good crust also. Preheat your oven for at least 30 minutes to heat the stone fully if you are using it. If you don’t have a stone, simply place your loaves on baking sheets sprinkled with coarse cornmeal to prevent sticking.
Biga Ready To Be Used
Ciabatta Bread Interior
Biga For Bread Making:
- 1/4 Teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
- 1 Cup Warm Water (About 110 Degrees F.)
- 1 1/3 Cups Bread Flour
- 2/3 Cup Unbleached All-purpose Flour
For The Bread:
- 3 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (Plus More For Working & Shaping)
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
- 2 Teaspoons Salt
- 1 1/2 Cups Warm Water
- For the biga, sprinkle the yeast over the water in a bowl large enough to fit all of the ingredients, and let sit 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add the flours, and stir to combine.(The dough may seem stiff, but will soften up as it sits.)
- Cover the biga tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 6 hours at room temperature.
- Stir it, and refrigerate it until the next day, or at least 12 hours.
- Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl, then add the water and biga, and stir until the dough is mixed. (The dough will be quite wet, and rough in texture.)
- Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or breadboard, and using as little flour as possible, knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. (Don't worry that your dough still seems very loose and moist, as it will firm up as it rises.)
- Place the dough into a large bowl three times the size of the dough that has been lightly oiled first.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm spot for 2 to 3 hours, or until the dough has doubled, punching down and turning the dough every 30 minutes or so.
- If using baking sheets, sprinkle them lightly with cornmeal.
- Divide the dough in two pieces and fold each into a rectangle.
- Stretch the rectangle until it is about 12 to 14 inches long.
- Place each prepared loaf onto a baking sheet, and cover lightly with a towel.
- If you are using a baking stone, flour two kitchen towels, or bread making peels with flour, and place the shaped loaves on them to rise.
- Cover loosely with towels.
- Preheat the oven at this time to 450 degrees F.
- After 45 minutes, place the baking sheets into the hot oven, or move the loaves onto the hot baking stone.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the loaves once during this time, or until the dough is a dark golden brown all over.
- Remove and let cool on a wire rack.