Ciabatta Bread Recipe

Starter (Biga):

1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 cup lukewarm water (110-115F degrees)
2 cups flour
1/4 cup whole wheat and/or rye flour
3/4 cup water

Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Measure out 1 teaspoon of the yeasty water and add to the second quantity of fresh (3/4 cup) water. This second batch of water is what you will use - discard any yeasty water remaining from the first cup in which the yeast was dissolved. The purpose of this step is only to measure out a tiny amount of yeast for the biga so that you will have a slow, controlled fermentation which takes overnight to develop.

Knead the ingredients together and set aside overnight or for 24 hours before use.


2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups lukewarm (110-115F degrees) water
Biga (prepared the day before)

Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in the water and the biga and turn out onto a clean surface or bread board. Knead 5 minutes, creating a soft, sticky dough. Do not add more flour or the bread will not be light and airy and instead will be tough and heavy. It helps to oil your hands with olive oil when handling the dough.

Oil a large bowl and turn the dough around in it a few times to coat, then cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth (depending on whether your house is drafty or not). Place in a warm place, free from drafts, and allow to rise about 3 hours until it is doubled in bulk.

When dough has risen, turn out onto a floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Handle dough lightly to avoid deflating the air pockets created during fermentation.

Fold each piece loosely into thirds, business-letter style.

Place seam side down onto a clean, heavily floured bread cloth or couche, sprinkle with flour and allow to rise again for about another hour.

About 45 minutes after setting aside the dough to rise, preheat oven to 450F degrees. A baking stone, if you have one, is beneficial. Place on center shelf or slightly above.

When oven is ready slip dough onto stone, seam-side up and bake until browned, about 35-45 minutes (check often during the last minutes of baking but try not to open oven for very long).

Serving Suggestions:

When cooled, slice down the center lengthwise, drizzle with your best olive oil and layer with your favorite Italian cold cuts, vinegar peppers, black oil cured olives and provolone cheese, and thinly sliced ripe tomatoes.

This would be a good time to use a panini grill if you have one, or press and grill it outdoors, or just use a black cast iron frying pan. If you're doing these on the grill, you can press it under a hot, clean brick which has been pre-heated in the grill.

Sprinkle with oil dressing (below) and serve.

Oil Dressing:

Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon each basil and oregano, 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1-2 cloves minced garlic (for extra kick you can optionally add one of the following: 1-2 anchovies, 1/4 teaspoon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon Frank's hot sauce, or chopped hot red peppers from a jar, more or less). Store tightly covered in refrigerator.