I have tried a few different ciabatta recipes and they all have turned out dramatically different. This recipe produced the best holes, chewiness, crust, and texture. I would still like to work on perfecting the flavor… for some reason I feel like a little olive oil may be in order.
That being said, this bread is wonderful. It it is great dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, with cheese, toasted, and as sandwich bread. I can’t really complain about that kind of versatility. And, compared to the other recipes, I’ve tried, this one is the simplest to prepare.
I got this recipe from Cooks Illustrated Magazine. It makes two loaves. Read through the recipe a couple of days before you plan to make the bread so you can account for the rising times!
For the Biga:
- 1 cup flour
- 1/8 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
- 1/2 cup water, at room temperature
For the Dough:
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 cup water, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
To Make the Bread:
- Combine the biga ingredients in a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until a uniform mass forms.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 18-24 hours.
- Place biga and dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Mix on low speed until the ingredients come together into a dough and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 6 minutes.
- Change to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until smooth and shiny, about 10 minutes.
- Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Grease a rubber spatula or bowl scraper with oil. Fold dough onto itself, turning bowl and folding about 8 times.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Repeat folding of dough, cover, and let rise again for 30 minuts.
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and place baking stone on rack.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Turn a large baking sheet over and place a piece of floured parchment paper on it, set aside.
- Carefully remove the dough to a well floured counter.
- Sprinkle flour on top of dough and slice it in half, setting one half aside.
- Press one piece of dough into a 12 x 16 inch rectangle.
- Fold shorter sides of dough toward center, like a business letter to form a 7 by 4 inch loaf.
- Carefully transfer loaf, seam side down, to parchment paper.
- Repeat process with the other piece of dough.
- Sprinkle loaves with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Allow loaves to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Using floured fingertips, evenly poke entire surface of each loaf.
- Spray loaves lightly with water using a spray bottle.
- Slide parchment paper onto hot baking stone.
- Spray loaves twice more during first 5 minutes of baking.
- Bake 22-27 minutes or until crust is deep golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the center reads 210 degrees.
- Remove from oven and coll on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.