Over the past few years I’ve tried to bake a decent Ciabatta loaf. The results were less than exciting and I had all but given up in thinking it could be done. Until now. Holy smokes I think I found a winning recipe! I’m still riding the highs of the ‘Great British Baking Show’ Season 5 (thanks to PBS.org) and I pulled this stellar recipe from them.
First of all, if you’re planning to serve this along side your 5 o’clock dinner, you might want to start 4 hours in advance. This bread dough absolutely cannot be rushed–be patient!
Start off with a large mixing bowl. Pour in 4 cups of bread flour (bread flour has a higher percentage of gluten, the protein in wheat.) Add in 2 teaspoons of salt to one side of the mound of flour and then add in 2 1/4 teaspoons of active, dry yeast to the opposite side of the flour mound (salt will slow down the activation of yeast so start with them on separate sides). Lastly, add in 1 1/2 cup of cold water. “Wait, what, cold water?? Are you serious? I was always told to use warm water!” I know, I know…but believe me, cold water is what you want! Mix it up until the dough begins to come together and then add 1 more cup of cold water. The dough will become rather slack and sticky and that’s exactly what you want. Ciabatta dough is suppose to be a wet dough. To ‘knead’ you can either use a wooden spoon and stir the sticky wet dough in the bowl for 5-6 minutes or you can get a little adventurous and use your clean hand to mix and work the dough for 5-6 minutes in the bowl. Either way is fine, the key is to just work the dough to release the gluten in the flour to then bind together and create that super sticky, stretchy dough. Once the dough is mixed, pour it into a large bowl greased with a light coat of olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let this sit for 2 hours in room temperature.
Let’s back up a bit, we used cold water when a typical bread recipe calls for warm. We’re letting it rise in a room temperature environment when other recipes say to let dough rise in a warmer environment. What’s going on? The key (I JUST learned) to making a great homemade ciabatta bread is to let it rise as slowly as possible to really enhance the flavor and get those beautiful pockets of air trapped throughout the loaf. Warm water would have started the rise quickly and a warm environment to rise the dough would have done the same. What we need here is a long, slow rise.
Ok, once the dough has doubled in size, slowly pour it out onto a dusted surface. Dust the surface of the dough with flour as well and cut into 3 equal parts. Handle the dough as little as possible. Basically form it into an elongated loaf and place it on a dusted cookie sheet. (see photo above) I was able to place 2 loaves side-by-side on one sheet and the third went on a separate cookie sheet. Let rise for another 30 minutes in room temperature. When they are ready to bake, set the oven to 425 degrees and let them bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the surface begins to turn golden.
Oh heavens, look at this! There are actually visible air pocket on the surface that have turned slightly golden and there are air pockets within the loaf itself. The outside had a slighty chewy crust and the inside was light and airy. Just the way it’s suppose to be! A perfect compliment to any dinner! …like my Braised Short Rib dinner that I enjoyed with this ciabatta bread!
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
- 2 1/2 cup cold water (total)
See the body of this blog for instructions, makes 3 loaves.