Ciabatta

I can’t think of a way to describe the fabulous and unusual taste of ciabatta, except to say that once you’ve eaten it, you’ll never think of white bread in the same way again. Everyone who tries this bread loves it. “Ciabatta” means “slipper” in Italian. One glance at the short, stubby bread will make it clear how it was named. Ciabatta bread is a remarkable combination of rustic, country texture and elegant, tantalizing taste. It’s much lighter than its homely shape would indicate, and the porous, chewy interior is enclosed in a slightly crunchy crust. Eat it for breakfast or slice an entire ciabatta horizontally and stuff it with salami and cheese.

When I was working on this recipe for the first publication of the book, I learned firsthand how hard it is to make correctly. This was in the early 1980s, when ciabatta was an unfamiliar word and a bread unknown in America. I had tested the bread to my satisfaction and sent the recipe for testing to a friend who was a good cook and an able baker. When I got back her notes, they were scorching! She said she couldn’t possibly make the dough as I had written it. It stuck to her hands, it stuck to her work surface, and it was impossible to shape. Ooops. I swallowed hard and then went back to rewrite the headnote and recipe as it is now, trying to be really specific about how wet the dough is. I REALLY mean that people should not add extra flour or they will get discouraging results.

My advice is first, please weigh the ingredients. If you measure the ingredients by volume, know that if you pack the flour into the measuring cup, it can come out weighing substantially more than if you pour it into a bowl, stir to aerate it, and then scoop it lightly into the cup. Secondly, have a bowl of water nearby when you are preparing to shape the dough. Yes, the dough is wet, but wet dough won’t stick to wet hands, so dip your hands in the water and then scoop up the dough. It’s fine to have a well-floured work surface, as I instruct, and then scoop out the dough onto it. If the dough seems too sticky for your hands, dip your dough scraper into the water and then use it to cut it into 4 pieces. Moisten your hands before you roll the dough into a cylinder so it won’t stick as much. And then, with those wet hands, pull it into the rectangular shape. Do NOT worry if the four little loaves look flat and unpromising. Trust me when I say they will rise on the floured pieces of parchment paper, even though they certainly don’t look as if they will. Let them rise until they’re puffy but not doubled. They still won’t look as if they will be anything you could believe in. If the thought of turning the little loaves over onto the baking stone is too daunting, you can put them still on their parchment paper straight onto the stone without turning them over. You’ll miss the veining of flour that makes the loaves look so attractive, but you might gain confidence this time and then be bold enough to try turning them over the next time.

Please believe me when I say this recipe works. It’s my husband’s favorite out of all the breads in the book, and I have probably made it for him 100 times. If anyone has seen my appearance on Julia Child’s show, Cooking with Master Chefs, [Editor's Note: Fast-forward the video below to 9:54, which is when Field makes this rustic country bread with Julia] he or she would have seen how I handle wet dough. Or if someone has a copy of the original book with its series of drawings, as opposed to the finished photograph, the process will be even clearer. I love ciabatta and want everyone to enjoy it.

This ciabatta recipe should be made in a stand mixer, although it can be made in a food processor. I have made it by hand, but I wouldn’t recommend it. (You can’t really put the dough on the table for the entire duration of kneading because the natural inclination is to add lots of flour to this very sticky dough, and pretty soon you wouldn’t have a ciabatta…unless you are willing to knead the wet, sticky mass between your hands–in midair–turning, folding, and twisting it rather like taffy, your hands covered with dough.) Resist the temptation to add flour, and follow the instructions. The dough will feel utterly unfamiliar and probably a bit scary. And that’s not the only unusual feature: the shaped loaves are flat and look definitely unpromising. Even when they are puffed after the second rise, you may feel certain you’ve done it all wrong. Don’t give up. The ciabatta bread rises nicely in the oven.–Carol Field

LC A Few Last Words Of Advice Note

If you haven’t already read, pondered, studied, and committed to memory the words of wisdom above from Carol Field on making ciabatta, kindly do so before beginning this recipe. Her considerable advice and substantial experience are unparalleled in terms of seeing you through the inevitable learning curve that comes with handling Italian bread dough (which, trust us, is much different to work with than the standard American bread dough). We can almost assure you that when you heed her words, you’ll make it through this recipe with ease and grace—or as close to grace as you can manage when you’ve got flour smudges on your nose and bread dough clinging from your fingers to your elbows. We also encourage you to take a gander at the video of Carol below [Editor's Note: The ciabatta follows the grissini and begins at 9:54] as well as the comments below the recipe from others who, like you, were curious about trying their hand at this bread. There’s untold tactic and techniques to be learned. Go on, what are you waiting for?

Special Equipment: Two baking stones

Ciabatta Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 4 H, 20 M
  • Makes 4 loaves

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 5 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, at room temperature (if using a food processor, use cold water)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 very full cups (17.5 ounces/500 grams) biga, rested for 12 hours
  • 3 3/4 cups (17.5 ounces/500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces/15 grams) salt
  • Cornmeal

Directions

  • 1. If making the ciabatta in a stand mixer: Stir the yeast into the milk in a mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the water, oil, and biga (be sure to weigh the biga, don’t just measure it by volume) and mix with the paddle until blended. Mix the flour (be sure to weigh the flour, don’t just measure it by volume) and salt, add to the bowl, and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Change to the dough hook and knead for 2 minutes at low speed, then 2 minutes at medium speed. The dough will be very sticky. Knead briefly on a well-floured surface, adding as little flour as possible, until the dough is still sticky but beginning to show evidence of being velvety, supple, springy, and moist. (If the dough seems almost impossibly sticky to work with, reread the headnote above from author Carol Field.)

    If making the ciabatta in a food processor: Stir the yeast into the milk in a large bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons of cold water, the oil, and the biga (be sure to weigh the biga, don’t just measure it by volume) and mix, squeezing the biga between your fingers to break it up. Place the flour (be sure to weigh the flour, don’t just measure it by volume) and salt in the food processor fitted with the dough blade and pulse several times to sift the ingredients. With the machine running, pour the biga mixture through the feed tube and process until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky. Process about 45 seconds longer to knead. Finish kneading on a well-floured surface until the dough is still sticky but beginning to show signs of being velvety, supple, moist, and springy. (If the dough seems almost impossibly sticky to work with, reread the headnote above from author Carol Field.)
  • 2. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours. The dough should be full of air bubbles, very supple, elastic, and sticky.
  • 3. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces on a well-floured surface. Roll each piece into a cylinder, then stretch each cylinder into a rectangle, pulling with your fingers to get each piece long and wide enough. It should be approximately 10 by 4 inches.
  • 4. Generously flour 4 pieces of parchment paper placed on peels or upside-down baking sheets. Place each loaf, seam side up, on a piece of parchment. Dimple the loaves vigorously with your fingertips or knuckles so that they won’t rise too much. The dough will look heavily pockmarked, but it is very resilient, so don’t be concerned. Cover the loaves loosely with damp towels and let rise until puffy but not doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The loaves will look flat and definitely unpromising, but don’t give up; they will rise more in the oven.
  • 5. Approximately 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC) and slide 2 baking stones on the center rack to heat. [Editor’s Note: If like us, you haven’t yet brought yourself to ante up for a baking stone, let alone two of them, flip some large cast-iron skillets upside down and bake the bread on their bottoms. It ought to do the trick. It has for us.)
  • 6. Just before baking the ciabatta, sprinkle the stones with cornmeal. Carefully invert each loaf onto a stone. If the dough sticks a bit to the parchment, just gently work it free from the paper. If you need to, you can leave the paper and remove it 10 minutes later. Bake for a total of 20 to 25 minutes, spraying the oven three times with water in the first 10 minutes. Transfer the ciabatta loaves to wire racks to cool.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Elie Nassar

Mar 08, 2012

The recipe makes wonderful ciabatta with a crisp, thin crust and an airy crumb. I could easily eat a whole “slipper” by myself with nothing more than olive oil. It’s great to see a baking recipe with weight measurements for all the ingredients. That is what I used, and the loaves came out perfect. Note though that four of these would usually not fit on a baking stone together. I had to bake them two at a time, but at 20 minutes or so for the baking time, that is not such a big hassle.

Testers Choice
Megan M.

Mar 08, 2012

This ciabatta was a delight to make! I loved the feel of the dough when I was briefly kneading it before the first rise. Initially I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to determine when the dough was velvety, springy, and moist, and that I’d add too much flour. In fact, it was easy to tell when it was ready. I ran out of all-purpose flour and had to add about 150 grams of white whole wheat flour. As far as I can tell, it didn’t make much of a difference in the finished product. The ciabatta baked up nicely on a regular baking sheet (I don’t have a baking stone). I threw ice cubes onto a pan in the bottom of the oven to get steam. I let one pan with two loaves rise for about 1 1/2 hours and the other for closer to two hours. Both sets of loaves were very nice, but the two-hour rise resulted in fuller loaves with a chewier crumb. It would be helpful to have weights for all of the ingredients, as in the biga recipe). It was very satisfying to make this ciabatta, and the results boosted my confidence in baking yeast breads.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Mar 08, 2012

This recipe makes four wonderful loaves of bread. The instructions are letter-perfect and could be followed by even novice bakers. The dough is “sticky” but not really that difficult to handle. As warned in the recipe, my parchment paper did not release when I placed the loaves in the oven, but after a few minutes the paper pulled off easily. It was this attention to detail in the recipe that made it so “user-friendly.” The flavor of this bread is fairly mild because the starter (biga) is not fermented for very long. It’s this delicate flavor, enveloped in a nice chewy crust, that makes the ciabatta so appealing. I will definitely be making this bread again. Probably the next time I will have the biga already made in my freezer, allowing me to make the bread all in one day.

Testers Choice
Lauren P.

Mar 08, 2012

I absolutely love the crispy crust and large holes common to this Italian “slipper” loaf, so i was most excited to get started. The directions were explicit and any questions or issues along the way seem to be addressed. As I was making the very sticky “biga,” or sponge, it suddenly seemed familiar and I immediately recognized an old friend in The Italian Baker! This book has remained on my shelf while other books have come and gone several times over during the years. This bread, because it has relatively little yeast and is a slow riser, is a great Sunday afternoon side project — a Superbowl Sunday idea for those of us not glued to the game? The resulting bread has the much-desired crispy crust and soft and “holey” inside, ready to be eaten warm with some wonderful grassy olive oil or sliced lengthwise for some delicious paninis! Most of the time involved is related to hovering over the rises…and not with the actual ingredients, so it’s perfect for a cold afternoon or game day. A winner.

Testers Choice
Raye Tiedmann

Mar 08, 2012

Already had The Italian Baker cookbook from years ago, and I am so happy to have kept it. I have made some sweet breads using its sponge, which were just wonderful. This recipe sure didn’t disappoint, either. I made the biga, which was a snap, and left it to bubble and triple. I refrigerated it until the next morning and used all but a little bit, which I put into another recipe. It’s a really soft, sticky dough, so I put it on parchment and let it rise. I have a pizza stone, and when it was time to bake it does work to slide it off onto the stone. I put ice cubes on the bottom of the oven to create steam instead of misting the loaves. They baked up to a really nice chewy golden brown. This is a wonderful recipe, and I’m sure we can make some wonderful sandwiches out of these. First, though, I’m going to share with my daughter. Love it!!!

Testers Choice
Larry Noak

Mar 08, 2012

I really love this recipe. I love the ritual of bread making, and this recipe has it all. The final product has a dusty, crisp crust and a soft, delicious crumb. Try not to knock the air out as you transfer the loaves to the stone and you will be rewarded with those fabulous holes which make a great ciabatta interesting!

Comments
Comments
  1. RisaG says:

    I have the first version of the book. I love it. I have made Ciabatta before. The dough is really wet. Hard to form into a loaf. Fun to make though. Have been thinking about making Ciabatta for a while now. Haven’t made it in years. This is big inspiration. Hmmm…wonder what I am baking on Sunday??? Ciabatta, of course!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      We love inspiring folks to such noble aspirations, RisaG. Do let us know how it goes…

  2. Vic Y says:

    We are just munching on our bread now. This recipe really worked well. My loaves cooked in 18 minutes and I had no issues with the paper sticking, though I used flour and semolina on the paper. Thanks for a great recipe.

  3. Nick says:

    Fantastic recipe–particularly the final proof on baking paper/flip over technique. Made four loaves in our wood-fired oven and all gone within 24 hours. Only question I have is that the loaves (while delicious) didn’t really have the large holes and really chewy, chewy texture I would associate with ciabatta. I’ve seen other recipes that have a higher moisture content than this one. Any suggestions?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Nick, I checked with one of our veteran recipe testers and cooking instructors, Cindi Kruth, and she offered the following explanation… “I’ve made a fairly traditional holy ciabatta with this recipe. I don’t recall the percentage water offhand but it is possible it is slightly less than some other ciabatta recipes. There is always a tendency to add a little extra flour with such a wet dough. In any case, the reader is correct in assuming a little more water will result in more and/ or larger holes. I don’t get too hung up on that myself. If it matters to the reader, he can try more water or less flour. It’ll be pretty sticky and rather slack, but there’s nothing wrong with that. That may also produce more chewiness, but that could also be the result of flour used–the protein content especially. Brands vary. Even with one brand you get some variation. King Arthur is pretty consistent, store brands often less so. There’s also a variation in the way cooks measure the flour, so sometimes the proportions are off slightly.” And so Nick, it seems a little experimentation is in order…let me know if you have additional questions, and also check in with us to let us know how it goes next time around…

  4. Angelina says:

    I am making this recipe for Ciabatta loaf for the very first time tomorrow Saturday morning. Thought I would make a half recipe first to test and experiment and to familiarize myself with the procedure and art of making it. My question now is with the proving time if doing a half recipe, do you still follow the same hours as stated in the recipe? Would appreciate your help on this. Thanks muchly.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Yes, Angelina, you still need to allow the dough the same amount of time to rest and rise, even if making just half a batch…or perhaps just a few minutes shy of the full time. Let us know how it goes…

      • Angelina says:

        Thanks for the response. I am baking it right now, the batch that I made was not like the one pictured above. It did not have big holes. I don’t know what went wrong. ):

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Angelina, we’ve found that with many bread recipes–including this one–the type and amount of flour can make a substantial difference in the resulting texture. I believe you’re baking in Australia, yes? We’ve run into this issue before with the difference in brands of flours. Baking can be such a science, and as noted in the response to Nick just above, any slight tweak to the ratio of flour to water can wreak havoc with the holiness, so to speak, of the ciabatta. This dough tends to be a little sticky, so I’m wondering, is there a chance that you added a little more flour to compensate? And do tell, how was the taste and texture?

          • Angelina says:

            Yes, I am from Australia. And I use the organic unbleached all purpose four. I followed the recipe and no, I did not add more flour and followed what was in the recipe.

            The taste and texture were no doubt to compromise. Great taste and chewy texture except I did not get much holes. I will try and make it again until I master the art of making the ciabatta bread. Both my hubby and myself enjoyed the bread for lunch. :)

            Thank you so much for your help. I will keep you posted. Cheers!!!

            • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

              Thanks for your response, Angelina. I didn’t mean to implicate you, I just had to ask, as often we receive messages from readers saying “You know, this cake wasn’t as rich as you said it would be…” and then it turns out they substituted skim milk for the whole milk and used only egg whites and snuck in applesauce in place of butter…but it’s lovely to hear that you are undeterred. I’m nudging one of our most experienced bakers with your query, as I know she’s made this recipe time and again, and will get back to you with her response. In the meantime, I am so relieved to hear that you are both undeterred and sated from a slice (or three) at lunch.

              • Angelina says:

                Hi there,

                Well, yesterday I made a bigger batch of the Biga to keep in the freezer. Once we finish the first batch I made, I will make it again, hopefully I can achieve the big holes the same as shown in the book above. :)

                • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

                  Angelina, we’re sending you hole-y ciabatta mojo. And we’ll be waiting to hear how it goes…in the meantime, I heard back from our resident ciabatta baker (as well as recipe tester and baking instructor), Cindi Kruth, and here’s what she had to say (don’t worry, it’s quite reassuring…) about your experience: “There is enough variation just in flour and humidity to affect the size of holes and crumb of the loaf. Especially with organic flours, which tend to less finely milled. I don’t know a thing about Australian flour, although I do know European flours are quite different from U.s. brands. This is not generally an issue for most recipes, but for cakes and breads, the results can vary enough to be noticeable. Also, bread recipes can never be reproduced exactly. There are too many variables to get it the same every time in every kitchen with every possible brand and type of flour. You get used to that if you bake a lot. Even artisan bakeries produce some variations. But this is a solid recipe. I’ve done it several times. No two loaves have been exactly alike. She may just need to experiment a little.” So have faith, Angelina! And please report back…

  5. Steve says:

    I have the loaves resting right now before they go in the oven. I made the biga with water, but used whey instead of water when mixing together the actual dough; hopefully the higher protein content will help it to form a strong internal structure to hold all those awesome bubbles in.

    I have to say, every time I’ve tried to make ciabatta, the big holes have all been at the top, so I find the idea of flipping them right before baking really attractive!

    One question. This recipe was not unusually messy EXCEPT for the part where I needed to get the dough onto my work surface and knead for a couple of minutes. I covered everything with a ridiculous amount of flour, but still my hands ended up a sticky mess PLUS the dough was really too slack to be able to “knead” by hand anyway (it ended up being repeated “folding”). What is the benefit of the step where the bread is kneaded by hand? Is it to incorporate a small amount of flour?

    I’ll post again after baking!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Steve, we’ll be standing by to hear how it went! Clever thinking on the whey, curious to learn what effect that wrought. In the meantime, we’re reaching out to our resident baking experts to answer your query about the kneading….

      • Steve says:

        The bread turned out fabuloso. I’m not experienced with baking directly on a stone, so I inverted the loaves onto parchment before sliding the parchment onto the stone. I made the recipe-specified four loaves, and they came out of the oven less than 24 hours ago. We now have about 1 1/2 loaves left, after a whole bunch was consumed by snacking and an entire loaf went to pan bagna last night.

        One of the things that really impresses me about this recipe is that it uses all-purpose flour but returns such an authentic result. I would have expected 00 flour to be necessary for this kind of bread—I was even considering ordering some “rinforzata” flour specifically for ciabatta. Thank you for saving me a bunch of money. :)

        I will be making this regularly.

        • Steve says:

          Oh, and just so that I’ve said it: massive holes all over the place. Something came out of *my* oven that has those cobweb-looking strands of bread that go across the huge holes! I’ve only ever seen those come out of commercial ovens, from professional bakers. It’s a pretty awesome feeling to know that now I can make ciabatta for around $0.40 per loaf that my wife and I both agree tops the store-bought stuff at $3.50 per loaf.

          • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

            Wonderful, Steve! Just wonderful. And while there’s a lot to be said for a reliable recipe, Steve, there’s also much to be said for the deft touch of the baker, especially when we’re talking about bread.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Steve, words can’t convey just how relieved and triumphant we feel right now on your behalf! We’re also feeling rather impressed and amused by you having such una buona forchetta, that is, a good appetite, for those loaves of ciabatta. And rightly so—you earned every single memorable mouthful of that bread. You are quite, quite welcome.

  6. My biga for this recipe came out very nice. I had 540g so I just put it all in the bowl since it was such a small amount over. In adding the yeast to the milk it did not want to foam up like it does in water so I added a teaspoon of sugar to help it. This yeast comes from a large batch kept in the freezer and worked perfectly just last week. It doesn’t expire for a year.

    My dough was extremely wet, not really anything you could knead by hand. So I used my bench scraper and did the best I could without adding too much flour. The first rise was great and I had a nice bubbly dough. I shaped 2 loves and 12 squares to use as buns. I just flattened the dough into a square and cut them and moved them to parchment. Again this dough was more like a large sticky mass. Nothing you could actually knead into any kind of shape. After 2 hours I baked my breads. The first one that I flipped over lost all its shape and baked up as a flat bread. The remainder I just baked on their parchment. None of them rose anymore once they were in the oven. They taste good but are really extremely flat.

    We love ciabatta and I would make it all the time if I could perfect it. My other breads come out really nice.

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Sharon, I asked our baking expert about your questions and she offered several suggestions. First, for many bread recipes the excess amount of starter wouldn’t matter much. Here it may very well make a difference for two reasons. First, this is a very wet dough and a little extra hydration (the biga being even wetter, at about 79%, than the finished dough, at about 73%) may slacken the dough too much. Second the difference may be more than it seems. The biga recipe should yield 590 grams, as opposed to 540 grams. If the proportions of flour were off, then the biga was even more hydrated than it should have been.

      The amount of water in the dough does make it harder to handle. It also makes it require less kneading. It does, however, require some kneading to develop enough structure to trap air on both the first and second fermentations. The shaping involves a little rolling too which helps with structure. Pouring the dough out and cutting it wouldn’t form any sort of “gluten cloak” to help contain the air bubbles. It sounds from this description that the dough may have been deflated when shaped. They ARE pretty flat and the second rise doesn’t get them to double, but they should be puffy; it should be obvious there’s air trapped within.

      Hope this helps!

  7. Rebecca says:

    Hi! If you wanna make it by hand you have to knead it by using a bench scraper and smearing it with a slight wiggling motion on your counter. Then you scrape it into a ball and do it again. It works really well, you begin to see the threads of gluten forming. I actually prefer it to regular kneading…maybe it takes me back to being a little kid and playing with messy things!

  8. drew says:

    Hi, just a quick comment:

    The directions say to mix the biga, water, and oil all at the same time in the stand mixer.

    Well, I have a normal/small sized mixer and ran into a problem. Even on the lowest speed, water was flying out of the bowl due to the biga sloshing it around. So I had to pour it all out and add it in slowly, which is what my intuition told me.

  9. Rachel says:

    So, I followed the instructions exactly, and ended up with a very elastic dough that turned into a somewhat dense bread that produced few holes and didn’t brown. Any ideas what went wrong?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Rachel, it sounds like maybe a tad too much flour was incorporated during the kneading process. The dough should be wet and a bit sloppy, definitely not your normal bread dough.

    • Steve says:

      Rachel,

      The only time that this bread turned out unacceptably dense for me was when I was making it with sourdough (instead of baker’s yeast) and I allowed it to overproof for one of the steps. Since the yeast wasn’t vigorous enough during the final rise, it couldn’t produce enough gas inside the dough to puff up very much. It ended up an absolute brick. If you’re using baker’s yeast, the same thing can happen if you allow it to overproof.

      Also, transferring the loaves to the stone without degassing them too much is really tough. I don’t “invert” them off parchment paper like the recipe says——frankly, I don’t understand how that’s even done. I let them do the final rise in a quickbread pan that’s LOADED with semolina to prevent sticking, and then turn them out of that onto the preheated stone (likewise loaded with semolina). That’s the way I’ve found that gets them onto the stone with the least disturbance for the bubbles. If you’re transferring them to the stone with too much force, it could affect the openness of the crumb.

      Hope this helps.

      Steve

      • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

        Steve, many thanks for the tremendously helpful insights. Greatly appreciate you taking the time and trouble to share. Love benefitting from everyone’s shared experience here….

  10. Druz says:

    Is it possible to refrigerate 2 of the loaves after step 3 ? I would like to bake 2 today and the remaining tomorrow.

  11. Vice-Versa says:

    I tried this recipe, but halved the proportions in two as we are now only two at home. I made the biga yesterday night and the dough this morning before going to work. All went quite as described but though the dough was very sticky as I took it out of my food processor, it was no more after the kneading (I didn’t add any flour, just powdered my table). I put it in the fridge (as I have no time in the morning to let it proof and bake it before leaving for my office). When I got back home at the end of the afternoon, I took it out of the fridge, shaped it (as I could) and let it proof again. It didn’t rise a lot but when I put it in my oven, it rose very much (too much I think). The bread is good but has nothing to do with your picture as the crumb is tight with very small holes.

    Please excuse my bad english as I’m French ;-)

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Vice-Versa, I spoke with Cindi, one of our professional bakers. She thinks that the retarding (refrigeration) and second proofing may have allowed for extra fermentation, some escape of gasses, and the decrease in the size of the air pockets. This is a slack dough and if all the factors don’t come together the texture will be different. Not bad, but like the you indicated, a tighter crumb.

  12. info says:

    Thank you for this. Just hours after looking. So does the milk make it authentic?

  13. My biga proofed for 23 hours for the ciabatta instead of 12. Am I still good to go?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi there thetuscanheart, I asked Cindi, our master baker extraordinaire and this is her advice

      “I brought home some of our dough from school and it sat in the frig, basically proofing, for a day and a half. It was still good bread, but it did not have the classic ciabatta open crumb. The yeast in a dough can, after a time (depending on the composition of the dough) exhaust all its food and become inactive. Plus, with such a slack dough there is some escape of the gasses produced. Plus plus, the alcohol produced as well as some CO2, again especially in the presence of all the water here, can dissolve making the dough a bit acidic, further weakening the structure.

      So basically, dough is alive. And like all living things it’s complicated. Time, temperature of the proofing, activity of yeast all matter. It’s one of the reasons I find bread so fascinating. No matter what, it really is never the same thing twice. Not exactly. Maybe you can view that as a challenge, but I like to think of it as a reward.

      To the reader, I’d say go ahead and bake the dough. Just expect that the crumb will likely be tighter and the flavor may be a bit more “sourdough”.”

      • I went ahead and made it yesterday and yes, the crumb was tight and without many holes. It didn’t brown, either. I was careful not to add more flour when kneading, just a throw of flour for the board. It did taste really good, just NOT what I wanted. Thanks for the info!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          thetuscanheart, I’m so sorry to hear that it was disappointing to you. I’ll ask our bread baking expert if she has any other suggestions….

  14. tyler says:

    Hi so I just finished the bread and it came out good and a nice hard crust, I followed your recipe virtually perfect.. But my bread was not “hole-ly” and it did not have big air holes in it. It was too dense…. Does this mean I added too much flour?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Tyler, that is a possibility as the dough is very wet and sometimes too much flour is added in the attempt to make it easier to work with. How much additional flour do you think that you added?

      • tyler says:

        Well i read other comments with the same issue so i realllllly tried hard not to add any… After the second rise on the parchment paper, is it wrong to move or touch the bread anymore??

        • Beth Price says:

          Hi Tyler, it is possible that too much movement could cause the dough to degass a bit. There were helpful hints by Steve on this subject in the comment section. Have you seen those?

        • Steve says:

          Tyler,

          A few things.

          1. As you implied, the big, impressive holes in the final product are the result of the fermentation that’s happening in the final stages, so if you handle the dough too much it will let go of a lot of gas and not puff up quite as much.

          2. Are you baking on a stone? That can really help with oven spring. (If you’re getting problems with the bottom of your crumb being “soggy,” buy some semolina and go parchment-free – live dangerously!) You must preheat the stone for a long time at a high temperature, though. I generally preheat mine at least 450° for at least 30 minutes before even thinking about putting bread on it.

          3. If you’re really struggling with getting holes, try adding a couple of tablespoons of vital wheat gluten to your dry ingredients. It makes the dough more cohesive and helps it to trap gas.

          4. I make my own yogurt and strain the whey off, so I sometimes have whey sitting around in my kitchen. As I wrote in one of my comments above, I’ve made this bread with whey substituted for water in the final mix (not in the biga). Whey is loaded with protein, which (again) helps with cohesion.

          5. About whether you’re adding too much flour… How are you measuring your flour? If you measure by weight, you’ll get the same amount of flour every time. If you measure by volume, you may get more or less flour based on settling of the flour. You can take measures to counteract this settling (go to http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/measuring-flour.html), but REALLY the best way to measure your flour is to use a kitchen scale and figure exactly 4 1/4 ounces of weight per cup of flour in the recipe.

          I mentioned that last one because a lot of the time bakers will measure out flour by volume, thinking that they are using the amount of flour specified in the recipe – when in fact they are using significantly more, since the flour they are using is more dense than the measurements are intended for.

          Best of luck. Even with the excellent directions on this site, this is still a challenging recipe.

          -Steve

          • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

            Steve, wonderful advice, thank you!

            • Tyler says:

              Wow thank you guys so much. You both truly are masters at what you do.

              I do have a stone so that’s a plus.

              So if I weigh it out, don’t mess with it at all in the final fermentation stages and be sure I do not add any flour, I think ill be good to go..

              I will let you guys know.

              Thanks again for the great advice.

              • Beth Price says:

                Wonderful advice, Steve! Thanks so much for jumping into this conversation. So, Tyler- how did the second batch turn out?

                • Tyler says:

                  Ok so round two, still no big holes. Here’s what I did.

                  I weighed out the flour so there would be none extra.
                  I used a baking stone.
                  I did not touch the bread during final rise, so I would not degas anything.
                  I made 100% sure that I added zero flour while working the dough.

                  So I’m kind of confused here. Could quality of flour prevent this? I use “King Auther” flour, is this not a good brand? Does preheating the baking stone really make a difference as far as getting the big holes?

                  The only other thing I can think of would be to add some type of protein to promote better gas. But I feel as if I’m still doing something wrong.

                  I would like to make it clear that the taste of the bread is great, I am just really striving for those nice holes

                  • Beth Price says:

                    Hi Tyler, we’ve been in touch with Carol Field, the author of this recipe, to see if she can provide some assistance with your questions. Stay tuned…

  15. Wayne says:

    At long last it looks like I have found a Ciabatta recipe that looks like the real thing. Can you help me with a yeast issue. In your recipes, you use “active dry yeast”? I prefer using live yeast blocks. How does the conversion work to suit your recipes?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Wayne, our testers made the recipe with active dry yeast. Usually, it is a multiplier of 3 to switch between active dry and fresh yeast. The website for Red Star Yeast also has a conversion table based on flour amounts. If you try the ciabatta with fresh yeast, please let us know what amount worked for you.

  16. John says:

    I’ve got the 4 loaves rising by the fire, oven is preheating as I type…I’m so hoping that I get nice big holes! Fingers crossed.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Our fingers are crossed as well, John. Love to hear from you after you pull the loaves from the oven…

      • John says:

        Very happy with how the ciabatta turned out. My wife and I ate a loaf straight out of the oven :) The taste and the chewy texture was fantastic, but it wasn’t quite as holey as I was hoping for (there were holes, just not as many as the pic at the top of the page). There seems to be a trade-off between a wet dough and lots of holes vs. having a slightly drying dough that’s easier to handle but with not so many holes.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Hey, that’s fantastic, John! And yes, a very astute observation, there is absolutely a correlation between the stickiness of the dough and the number of holes. But taste wise, as you found, it makes no difference. Am so happy that you had a terrific breadmaking experience!

      • John says:

        Ok, an update…the 2nd loaf was perfect. Looked just like the loaf in the photo!!

        I did fumble a bit when I was flipping one of the loaves onto the pizza stones…perhaps is was the first one we ate :)

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          We all have our learning curves…and sometimes, especially with baking, we find there just seems to be a little magic at play. Again, so swell to hear things went so well!

  17. Diane Vandenbrinik says:

    I have never heard of biga, what is it please?. Or what can I use instead if it is not available in New Zealand?

  18. Lavelle says:

    Do I have to use all the dough to make loaves or can I save half for my next biga?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Lavelle, leftover dough won’t be a biga- it will just be an old dough. Cindi, one of our professional bakers, had this to say: “Biga is a simple mixture of only flour, water, and yeast (natural or commercial). Old dough has, obviously, all the ingredients characteristic of the final loaf. Old dough’s main difference is usually the presence of salt. The salt alone won’t much change the nature of the starter except to slow yeast activity and tighten the gluten. The addition of milk in this ciabatta, and maybe to a lesser extent the oil, makes this recipe not really suited to using as old dough. I can’t say how the old dough would age exactly, but the fats, milk solids, and bacteria would change the nature of the starter. After some time it may become too acidic, affecting both the structure and flavor of subsequent loaves. If still fairly fresh, it may very well produce a nice loaf, but you will have changed the proportion of ingredients, the hydration, and the concentrations of various bacteria and yeast and the bread would probably be rather different than this ciabatta.”

  19. Tam says:

    If no stand mixer or food processor can you put the ingredients in a bread machine in the same way as the stand mixer and use the “dough” setting? It seems it might work the same.
    My Breville Dough setting is as follows:
    2 min. 1st knead, 28 2nd 10 min. first rise, 10 sec. punch down, 50 min. second rise total 1 hr. 30 min. What do you think?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Tam, to be perfectly honest, we didn’t test it using a bread machine. This can be a tricky dough. My best advice, give it a try and see how it goes. And please let us know.

  20. mi collectorchael says:

    I just made your recipe, this is the first time my ciabatta was any good. The first two loaves today I put in on the stone with the parchment paper still under the loaves, the second I flipped them over. Results were the parchment paper down rose higher, the flipped ones rose less but had better open holes. Great recipe! I should share what an older Italian gentleman told me about wet doughs; when working wet don’t use flour to keep it from sticking, wet your hands and work surface. Worked like a charm, and when I formed the cylinders I wasn’t afraid to use flour.

    • Beth Price says:

      What wonderful advice, mi collectorchael! Some of our readers have yearned for those open holes and have probably been reluctant to try flipping the loaves. Love that you did it both ways and shared your results. Thank you!

  21. Jackie says:

    I just tried this recipe today and because of living at 4500 ft above sea level I cut the yeast in half which is what I usually do when making bread. I used the full amount of yeast for the biga. Unfortunately I did not get much rise in the oven with little or few holes. Other than the change in the yeast I followed the recipe exactly being careful not to add too much flour. I would appreciate any thoughts you may have on this.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Jackie, I’m really sorry to hear you had an issue with this recipe. In our experience, ciabatta is tricky enough to make even when all circumstances are ideal, and so I suspect that the high-altitude adjustments, though well-intentioned and clearly appropriate for most recipes, may have sorta freaked this loaf out a little. Unfortunately none of our testers who made this loaf live at your altitude. So instead, may I recommend the book Pie In The Sky by Susan G. Purdy? It’s a terrific, terrific resource on baking at high altitudes, and I know several home bakers who swear by it. I don’t know for a fact that she covers wet doughs in the book, but perhaps it’s worth a try?

  22. Mike Pallo says:

    Just tried the recipe it came out good but not as many bubbles. I used the biga recipe that is on your website (the one the uses 2 and 1/3 cup flour, total water 1 cup plus 4 teaspoons and 1/4 teaspoon yeast) I measured everything and weighed everything, any ideas?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Mike, so sorry to hear of your un-holy bread. This is a very wet dough and the usual tendency is to add too much flour and possibly over knead it. They are some great suggestions from one of our readers, Steve, in the comments that offer some tips to get those bigger holes. Have a look and see if that helps.

  23. Barbara says:

    What does ‘rested’ biga mean? Left at room temp?

  24. Barbara says:

    Beth, thanks, but I”m still unclear — the ciabatta recipe says “2 very full cups (17.5 ounces/500 grams) biga, rested for 12 hours” — what does the ‘rested’ mean here?? Left at room temp after refrigerated or left to rise for 12 hours????

    Read more at http://leitesculinaria.com/79221/recipes-ciabatta.html#ImuQjdALhrrKcjQk.99

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Mary, the biga is rested and ready to use after step 3. Carol suggests 12 hours but you could let it rest much longer depending on how much flavor you would like to develop.

  25. Mixchicmix says:

    Hi, I like your site, thank you very much. I know my dear mother’s method for how to deal with wet dough, and it helped me to get nice 4 ciabatta. Just roll the dough in dish full with flour. Regards.

  26. Thomas Skovby says:

    wow. what great bread. this is so good. it taste like italy. thank-you very much, Carol Field, for the great work you have done. :-D

  27. Katri says:

    I tried this and think that the instructions were quite easy to follow. At least up to the point where I have no clue why my version does not have the chewy, resilient feel to it as it should. Maybe this is because I don’t have a stand mixer but used hand held mixer instead? Or maybe because I lack the baking stones? I also used some whole wheat flour because we are not used to “white bread” here. And baked buns instead of loafs. So there were lots of variation to my version, i quess. Anyway I had the air bubbles and nice crust the crumb just was soft.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Kati, it does sound like you may have introduced too many variations at once. I would try it again exactly as written and once perfected, then you can add in your own touches.

  28. John says:

    I’m interested in this bread because I’ve tried several commercial ‘ciabattas’ from our local grocery stores, and I think I can do better. One problem, however. I don’t use mixers or processors for baking (except cheesecake). I much prefer bowl/wooden-spoon/hand kneading, which yields great results on most breads and gives the added satisfaction of having done it in an authentic manner (like Grandma). So, any tips before I launch into ciabatta?

    • Beth Price says:

      Sure John, just remember that this is a very wet dough so resist the temptation to add more flour. You might want to read through the comments to see other tips that our testers have suggested.

  29. Sherry says:

    I don’t know if I skipped over this, but does the fat content in the milk matter? I generally buy 0%-2% milk fat milks. I almost can answer my own question. I would love to begin the biga tonight and bake the bread tomorrow evening, but alas only 0% milk rests in my refrigerator and I just spent all of my grocery budget this afternoon without much thought to baking needs. Thanks for answering.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Sherry, great question! Usually most baking recipes assume full fat milk as that extra fat helps in the tenderness of the final baked good. With the ciabatta, the protein in the milk helps in the internal structure. We sure are curious about the 0% milk. Please report back and let us know.

  30. Jackaroomom says:

    I am excited to try and make this bread! My sons have developed a taste for ciabatta rolls for their sandwiches. They are very expensive and I want to make my own. Can you further divide the dough and bake without changing the texture and “ciabatta-ness” of the bread? Is there a way to make it dairy free? I see from previous comments that the milk protein is needed to create the brand’s structure. Would almond or soy protein work?

    • Beth Price says:

      You could certainly make smaller loaves, Jackaroomom, but I’d be reluctant to substitute for the milk as that might affect the ciabatta-ness that you are looking for. Good luck!

  31. Sheri says:

    Love the bread , but in order to get the best result, can you please list all ingredients in milliliters, grams, as measuring is different in different countries. Ex. our tablespoon is 20 ml and yours is 15. Hope you can assist. Sheri, Alice Springs NT Australia.

  32. Sheri says:

    Thanks so much for the response…love this recipe..experimenting with different flours and yeasts in search of the magic Holey bread :)

  33. rafi says:

    Hi
    I wanted to know if I can use water instead of milk?
    If yes how much water should I use?

  34. Christopher says:

    This is a great recipe. I have tried ciabatta before with marginal success. One thing I adapted (because I was to lazy to go the store) was the milk. I don’t drink a lot of milk and had some half & half cream for a pasta dish I am making tonight. I used the cream (4 parts) and water (1 part) and this bread is amazing. Could be my new favourite. Thanks for posting.

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