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Traditional Italian Ciabatta Bread

This delicious Italian Ciabatta Bread is made the Traditional Italian way, with a biga, it makes the perfect sandwich bread or why not serve it on the side with your favourite soup or stew? Homemade bread is not as hard as you think!

bread on parchment paper with 3 slices

How many people are now taking up baking their own bread now? To tell the truth I have always been a lover of making bread, in fact I even started a new blog All Things Bread before all this merda happened.

Whenever I go to the grocery store or bakery for bread, this is always the first bread I ask for. Since the Italian is the main bread eater in the family, this is also his favourite.

This bread does not have a high crumb, but it does have lots of wonderful holes and a lovely crust. Ciabatta which means slipper in English, pretty much explains it perfectly. Low and flat!

How to make Traditional Ciabatta Bread

First make the biga, in a medium bowl combine the flour and yeast then add the water and stir to combine.

the biga, flour, water & yeast in a blue bowl


 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a cool dry area for 8-12 hours.

the biga in a blue bowl after 12 hours rising

In the bowl of the stand up mixer whisk together the flour, yeast and salt, then add the water and biga.

flour, water & biga in a silver mixing bowl

With the flat beaters mix until the mixture starts to come together for about 2-3 minutes.

the dough in a silver mixing bowl mixed with flat beaters

Then switch to the dough hook and knead for another 3 minutes.

the dough in a silver bowl kneaded

With the help of a spatula place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap.

the dough in a blue bowl before rising

Let rise in a warm draft free area for about one hour or until doubled in bulk.

the dough in a blue bowl after rising

Move the dough to floured flat surface, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and divide into two parts.

dividing the dough into two parts on a wooden board

Form each part into an oblong shape, place on parchment paper that is lightly sprinkled with flour, then lightly sprinkle the dough with flour.

dough ready to rise on parchment paper

Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

dough risen on parchment paper

Place a baking sheet (upside down) or a baking stone in the oven before pre-heating the oven. Don’t forget to place an empty oven proof cake pan on the bottom of the oven also.

Before putting the dough in the oven add either a cup of boiling water or some ice cubes (8-10) in the cake pan, then quickly & carefully place the parchment paper and bread on the cookie sheet or baking stone and bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Move the baked bread immediately to a wire rack to cool.

What is a Biga?

You may think that a Poolish and a Biga are the same, but the main difference is that a Poolish is a liquid dough and a Biga is a solid dough.

A Biga is a type of rise used in Italian baking. Many popular Italian breads, including a ciabatta and Pandoro, are made using a Biga.

The addition of a  Biga is said to add more flavour to the finished product and is also used in breads that need a light, open texture with holes.

Why add a pan of water while the bread is baking?

Adding water to an oven creates a moistened environment, this allows the bread to rise easier by delaying the setting of the crust. It makes bread deliciously light and crusty. The best way is to put an oven safe pan in the oven while re-heating then add a cup of boiling water or some ice cubes to the pan, place the bread in the oven and bake.

Reasons dough doesn’t rise

There are quite a few reasons why the dough doesn’t rise, the main ones being, your yeast has expired or dead, the room where your bread is rising is too cold, so more time is needed and your liquid is too hot which killed the yeast.

The best temperature for bread to rise in, is 80F / 26C. The best temperature to for the biga to rise in is 71F / 22C, if you home is warmer than that, then the best place to put the biga is in the fridge.

When you remove it from the fridge, be sure to let it come to room temperature, about 45-60 minutes before continuing with the recipe.

2 ciabatta loaves on a wooden board with a knife

How to tell when the bread is done

There are three ways to tell when the bread is done, the first is by looking at the colour of the bread, which is usually a light to dark golden brown (depending on the bread), the second is by knocking on the bottom of the bread, if there is a hollow sound it usually means the bread is done and the third is by the internal temperature which should be 190F (88C) or 200F (93C) for Brioche type breads.

What are the best ways to eat Ciabatta?

In Italy we like to use slices for a simple sandwich, or even open faced sandwiches, topped with Italian cold cuts, such as prosciutto or salami. It also makes a great dipping bread or even drizzled with olive oil.

Be sure to serve this bread with your favourite SoupStew or even Pasta dish. You need something to soak up the leftover sauce in your dish!

How to store the bread

It should be stored in an airtight bag, it will keep for up to three days at room temperature. The baked cooled bread can also be frozen, place in freezer safe bags or container.

Place the frozen bread in the fridge to thaw, then warm in the oven before serving. 

More delicious Bread Recipes

So if you have always wanted to try making bread, then why not give this Traditional Italian Ciabatta a try and let me know how it goes. Enjoy!

bread and slices on a parchment paper
bread and slices on a parchment paper

Traditional Italian Ciabatta Bread

Rosemary Molloy
This delicious Italian Ciabatta Bread is made with a biga, the perfect sandwhich bread or why not serve it on the side with your favourite soup or stew?
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rising Time 14 hours
Total Time 14 hours 40 minutes
Course Bread, Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 loaves
Calories 600 kcal

Ingredients
  

FOR THE BIGA

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose or bread flour (146 grams)
  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (temperature 105F / 40C) (118 grams)

FOR THE DOUGH

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour (195 grams)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water (temperature 105F / 40C) (176 grams)

Instructions
 

  • First make the biga, in a medium bowl combine the flour and yeast then add the water and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a cool dry area for 8-12 hours. If your house is on the warm side then place the biga in the fridge for 8-12 hours, remove from the fridge and let it come to room temperature for about 45-60 minutes.
  • In the bowl of the stand up mixer whisk together the flour, yeast and salt, then add the water and biga. With the flat beaters mix until the mixture starts to come together for about 2-3 minutes. Then switch to the dough hook and knead for another 3 minutes. This is a soft sticky dough.
  • With the help of a spatula place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm draft free area for about one hour or until doubled in bulk.
  • Move the dough to floured flat surface, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and divide into two parts.  Form each part into an oblong shape, place on parchment paper that is lightly sprinkled with flour, then lightly sprinkle the dough with flour. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
  • Place a baking sheet (upside down) or a baking stone in the oven, and an empty oven proof cake pan on the bottom of the oven, then pre-heat the oven to 450F (230C)
  • Before putting the dough in the oven add either a cup of boiling water or some ice cubes (about 8) in the cake pan, then quickly & carefully place the parchment paper and bread on the cookie sheet or baking stone and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
    Move the baked bread immediately to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 600kcal | Carbohydrates: 123g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1171mg | Potassium: 253mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 7mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a comment below or pin it to your Pinterest account!

53 Comments

  1. Hi,

    Loved this Ciabatta, I made it and the flavour and texture were fantastic. I find that it was a bit flat in then ens, even though I had good rise at both proofing. Any advise? Thanks

  2. Good morning,

    I made the Biga last night, this morning its watery,
    I followed your direction. What did I do wrong.

    Thank you

  3. Could you substitute 2 tablespoons of sourdough starter for the yeast in the biga if you adjusted the flour and water a bit

  4. 4 stars
    Mine did not have a lot of holes like yours. I followed the instructions completely and had all fresh ingredients. Any tips?

    1. Hi Brooke, try to handle it as little as possible, this way you won’t break the air bubbles. Try not to add too much extra flour, the wetter the dough the more holes it will have. Try using a bread flour if you didn’t. Hope this helps. Let me know.

  5. 5 stars
    i used to enjoy ‘sweet focaccia’ at starbucks in the 90’s, early 2000’s – brushed with olive oil and with 10x sugar on top – – till discontinued in later 2000’s. bad move πŸ™
    your recipe came very close. great texture, i made in balls in pan as my grandmother used to do – and brushed w/olive oil…excellent.

    *** very CURIOUS trivialities:
    β€’ why not just place dough to rise on pan they’ll be baked on?
    β€’ why baking sheet upside down?
    β€’ why ice cubes or boiling water, why not just water? in the …
    β€’ oven-proof cake pan – isn’t ‘oven-proof’ obvious?

    would love to hear your reasons for these details that confused me
    thanx!
    gail

    1. Hi Gail, the cookie sheet has to heat in the oven so you can’t let the dough rise on the sheet. You place it upside down because it is easier to move the bread onto the pan, you don’t have to lift it over the edges. Boiling water or ice cubes produces steam in the oven when the bread is baking which makes for a better crust, you could probably use room temperature. Not everyone knows oven proof, especially new bakers. πŸ™‚ Hope this helps.

  6. 5 stars
    Greetings from Mauritius! Recently discovered your blog and absolutely love it! This Ciabatta has become a big family favorite. My daughter absolutely loves it. My son is more for your olive oil buns that he eats constantly I can’t make enough of either πŸ˜‚. So thank you very much. Do miss Italy – we were regularly visiting before all this Corona and can’t wait to get back.

    1. Hi Julie, my wonderful brother-in-law was from Mauritius and my sister always talks about how beautiful it is. Thanks so much, so glad your kids love the bread recipes. Take care and hopefully you can visit some day soon. Take care and have a great weekend.

  7. 5 stars
    Rosemary your ciabatta bread are beautiful , im always afraid to do bread it just doesnt agree with me, but yours looks so easy and your Italian recipes too, great way to make 2 loaves. im going to try it and im going to follow your instructions as you wrote them thank you for your recipes theyre wonderful grazie in bocca al lupo ciao

  8. For traditional ciabatta bread what changes to the recipe should be made if you want to add sliced pimiento olives ?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Mike, there are no changes to be made add them in at the last minute of kneading. You might need to add a bit more flour. Let me know how it goes.

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