Easy ciabatta bread

Easy ciabatta bread

This simple ciabatta bread recipe will give you a rustic Italian loaf that is perfect for dipping into soups and making a light, crusty sandwich. The high hydration results in a delicious chewy inside and crispy, golden outside.  

You will need a stand mixer for this recipe as the dough is high hydration

Prep time: 40 mins

Proofing time: approx 3 hrs

Bake time: 25 mins 

Total time: 4 hrs, 5 mins

Ingredients:

For the biga 

260g Risen Mighty White Bread Flour 

230ml lukewarm water 

1 tsp dry yeast

For the dough

650-750g Risen Mighty White Bread Flour, measured after sifting 

460ml lukewarm water

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, for greasing

Method:

For the Biga

Mix the water and dry yeast. Wait 10 minutes until the yeast is fully dissolved and has a 'creamy’ texture.

Mix in the flour. You should get a very loose and sticky dough. It should have a thick-ish consistency but feel wet enough to knead, if you wanted. Cover with a plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Then put it in the fridge overnight. 

For the dough, the next day

In the morning, once biga is rested, it will be bubbly and maybe a bit looser than when you first mixed it. Bigas are lower hydration preferments, so don't worry it you think it's a bit stodgy!

Add the lukewarm water in the bowl, gradually, going around the edges of the bowl and gently mixing in the biga. This is hydrating and aerating it, getting it ready to use.  

Pour the biga and water mix into a bowl of a standing mixer and oil the dough hook.

Kneading

Using a low speed, knead for a few minutes then start adding the flour in parts. It really makes a difference to the end result if you sift the flour before adding it. 

Lastly, add the salt and then knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. The dough will start to change its texture, becoming more smooth and starting to climb up the hook.

Increase the mixer speed to high and knead for another 10 minutes.  Look for the dough coming off the sides of the bowl and for a dough that's shiny and smooth. That’s a perfect sign the dough is ready and has developed a strong gluten network.

Proofing and folding

Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, so that there is enough space for the dough to double or triple. Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof for 40 - 50 minutes at room temperature.

After that time, do some stretch and folds gently, aiming for 6 - 10 stretches per go. Handle the dough so that you feel you are aerating it, adding to it rather than deflating it. You should see some bubbles forming in the dough at this stage.  Let it proof again for 40 - 50 minutes at room temperature.

Repeat the stretch and folds again then let the dough rest for the last 40-50 minutes.

Shaping

The dough should be very bubbly by now, so sprinkle the worktop generously with flour and let the dough slide out off of the bowl by itself.  Liberally cover the top of the dough with flour and using a dough scraper, manipulate it into a rectangular shape and either cut 2 or 3 elongated loaves or individual buns. The shaping for this type of bread is minimal and you are simply coaxing the dough into an edible shape.  

Gently slide the dough scraper under the loaves and transfer them to a floured linen towel and cover with a cloth for a final rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 220C. 

Bake

Slide the loaves onto a heated baking tray with parchment paper, spray with water and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.  Add a few ice cubes to a baking dish and put it on the lowest rack. This creates steam in the first few minutes of baking to encourage a crisp, golden crust.