Ciabatta is an Italian bread that was first produced back in 1982 by Arnaldo Cavallari, a miller and baker in a small town close to Venice.
At the time bakers in Italy were concerned by the popularity in the country with French baguettes and were afraid that they would endanger their business.
Many experimented to create an Italian alternative that would work for sandwiches.
The new bread was registered for trademark by Cavallari and was called ciabatta Polesana for Polseine where he lived. It was subsequently licenced to bakers in other countries.
Many regions in Italy now have their own variations on the original recipe.
The word ciabatta in Italian means slipper and this Italian bread is named after the slipper for its flat like shape. (These big fat ciabatta you see around are not really ciabatte)
Being intended as a sandwich bread, a ciabatta should have a soft chewy crust and an internal structure that supports a filling.
This recipe has a poolish that you prep the night before. You mix everything the next morning and after a quick prove it is ready bake in time for lunch. It is a difficult dough to handle, but a real crowd pleaser for the most amazing sandwiches.
- 200g Motherdough, refreshed
- 160g Water, filtered, room temperature
- 100g White bread flour
- All of the poolish
- 50g Motherdough, refreshed
- 160g water
- 200g Cake flour, 00 or fine brown flour
- 10g Salt
- 30g Extra virgin olive oil
- 3g Bakers malt
Prepare the poolish
- Blitz the Motherdough and water together to form runny batter.
- Mix in the flour and make sure there are no lumps.
- Leave at room temperature for about an hour until you see a bubble or two through the surface.
- Place in the fridge to ferment at 6 deg C. for 12 hours
- Blitz the Motherdough with the water
- Add flour, salt and bakers malt to the poolish, along with the Motherdough and oil from the step above and mix well.
- In a mixer on high speed with a dough hook attachment, knead for 5 minutes followed by a 10 minute rest. Do this 3 times. Then knead for 10-20 minutes at high speed until the dough pulls away and the sides of the bowl are left clean. The strong gluten development will be obvious. Rest for 10 minutes and then turn out onto the work surface.
- If you are doing this by hand bring together on the bowl. Use a danish whisk or your hands in a claw shape to mix the ingredients, pull and stretch the very loose very wet dough. Let this rest for 10 minutes and turn out onto your work surface. Use the slap and fold technique to develop the gluten until the dough starts to pull away from the surface in a single mass as you lift it. Rest for 10 minutes.
- To finish either method above, slap and fold the dough for about a further 10 minutes. It should pull away cleaning from the counter and you should have very little dough sticking to it.
- Preheat the oven to 220 deg C for 45 minutes with your oven tray or preferably baking stone inside.
- Place two sheets of plastic about 30 X 40 cm on the counter and flour heavily with rice flour.
- Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Using a wet bench knife or dough scraper, pull and fold along the long side, and then the short sides to shape.
- With the help of the wet bench knife, move the dough to the plastic, shape gently to form a slipper and sprinkle the top with flour.
- Leave in a warm, draught free spot to prove for 1 - 2 hours until the dough passes the poke test. With a dough this wet is may see a little over-proved, but the dough should return slowly to a dimple when ready. The dough should increase in size visibly, almost double. This is hard to judge.
- Place one sheet baking paper down, big enough for the two loaves. When the dough is prove grab the plastic and gently flip the dough onto the baking paper. Gently adjust the shape. Repeat with the second loaf.
- Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 180 deg. C fan on. Bake for 20 minutes with steam (spray water every 5 minutes or with a bowl of water in the oven) then bake for a further 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The steam in the bread should soften the crust as it cools.
This is a wet lacks dough which is quite challenging to work with. Even if you have a mixer to do the initial gluten development, you will need to slap and fold to develop the strength in the dough. Be aware that your first slap and fold is going to be messy. You will think it's not working. Keep going. It works eventually.
It proves and it then flipped over to bake so the bottom becomes the top - just like breads in a banneton.
Tip: Use the plastic you would use to cover school books to prove the dough. It is much easier to grab, handle and flip than cling film.
If you don't have bakers malt you can leave this out. It adds to the flavour and fermentation. (We will have this for sale in our ingredients shop very soon)