Authentic Ciabatta Recipe

This authentic ciabatta recipe, which the bread-loving Italians pronounce “chah bah tah,” turns out a loaf of traditional Italian slipper bread.

Authentic Ciabatta Recipe

“Everyone who tries this homemade Italian bread loves it.” That’s what author Carol Field says about this ciabatta recipe. And we can vouch for that. It’s literally one of the most popular recipes on our site. Ciabatta is, in the words of Field, “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.” And if you’re wondering how to pronounce it, we were told by a bread-loving Italian that it’s “chah-BAHT-tah”, with the “ah” sound on every syllable. This recipe has been updated. Originally published March 8, 2012.Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Handle Authentic Ciabatta Dough

Before you make this authentic ciabatta recipe, understand that ciabatta dough can be tricky to handle correctly. The ciabatta dough is wet. Incredibly wet. It will stick to your hands. It will stick to your work surface. It will stick to everything it comes in contact with. That’s okay. Don’t add extra flour or you’ll get disappointing results. Just rest assured that, as you make the ciabatta dough again and again, you’ll become practiced in how to handle it. Here, a few tips.

Weigh the ingredients. If you pack flour into the measuring cup, it will come out weighing substantially more than what you expect or that the recipe intends. If you must measure it by volume, first pour it into a bowl, stir it to aerate it, and then scoop it into the measuring cup.

Have a bowl of water nearby when you’re shaping the dough. Wet dough won’t stick to wet hands, so dip your hands in the water before you scoop up the dough. You can also dip your dough scraper into the water and then use it to cut the dough into 4 portions. Wet 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 loaves look flat and unpromising. Here’s what Field has to say on the topic. “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.”

This recipe should be made in a stand mixer. It can be made in a food processor. I have made it by hand, but I wouldn’t recommend it. (The natural inclination is to add lots of flour to this very sticky dough, and pretty soon you won’t have ciabatta. Just 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 bread rises nicely in the oven.

Follow the recipe. It’s written by a baker with untold experience baking bread and seeing home cooks through the inevitable learning curve that comes with handling Italian bread dough, which is much different and wetter to work with than the standard American bread dough. Trust us. When you heed her words, you’ll make it through this recipe recipe with ease and grace—or as close to grace as you can manage when you’ve got flour smudged on your nose and bread dough clinging to your fingers. We also suggest you take a look at the comments beneath the recipe from others who, like you, were curious about trying their hand at this bread so you can learn from their collective experience, tactics, and techniques.

Special Equipment: 2 baking stones

Authentic Ciabatta Recipe

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

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon (0.1 ounce or 3 grams) active dry yeast
  • 5 tablespoons (2.7 ounces or 76 grams) warm milk
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (10 ounces or 285 grams) water, at room temperature (if using a food processor, use cold water)
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces or 15 grams) olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 very full cups (17.5 ounces or 500 grams) biga, rested for 12 hours
  • 3 3/4 cups (17.5 ounces or 500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces or 15 grams) salt
  • Cornmeal

Directions

  • 1. If making the bread 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 bread 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 ciabatta dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours. The dough should be full of air bubbles, supple, elastic, and sticky.
  • 3. Turn the ciabatta dough onto a generously floured surface and cut it into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion into a cylinder, then stretch each cylinder into a rectangle about 10 by 4 inches, pulling with your fingers to get each portion of dough long and wide enough.
  • 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 in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The loaves will look flat and definitely unpromising, but rest assured that they will rise more in the oven.
  • 5. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and slide 2 baking stones on the center rack to heat. [Editor’s Note: If, like us, you haven’t yet bought yourself a baking stone, 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 bread, 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 loaves of ciabatta to wire racks to cool.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Lauren P.

Jan 25, 2016

I absolutely love the crisp crust and large holes common to this Italian “slipper” loaf, so I was most excited to get started on this recipe. 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. The directions were explicit and any questions or issues along the way seem to be addressed. A winner.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Jan 25, 2016

This recipe makes 4 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 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 a single day.

Testers Choice
Elie Nassar

Jan 25, 2016

The recipe makes wonderful bread 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. That is what I used, and the loaves came out perfect. Note, though, that 4 of these would usually not fit on a baking stone together. I had to bake them 2 at a time, but at 20 minutes or so for the baking time, that is not such a big hassle.

Testers Choice
Megan M.

Jan 25, 2016

This brad recipe was a delight to make! I loved the feel of the dough when I was briefly kneading it before the first rise. I was initially 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 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 1 pan with 2 loaves rise for about 1 1/2 hours and the other for closer to 2 hours. Both sets of loaves were very nice, but the 2-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 recipe and the results boosted my confidence in baking yeast breads.

Testers Choice
Larry Noak

Jan 25, 2016

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 this great bread interesting!

Testers Choice
Raye Tiedmann

Jan 25, 2016

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!!!

Comments
Comments
  1. RisaG says:

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

    • Jeffrey Balb says:

      I am trying this recipe for the first time. I decided my 1% milk probably could use more fat so I substituted some half and half. Fortunately, I followed the directions and the yeast didn’t proof. Who knew half and half kills yeast?

      • Beth Price says:

        Hi Jeffrey, the additional fat in the half and half is probably the culprit. The milk fat can coat the yeast cells slowing down or inhibiting their bloom.

        • Jeffrey Balb says:

          Beth thanks for the reply. When I went to make the loaves I cut the dough in half and froze half of it. The other half I cut and formed two loaves. I tried spraying the oven (I had a cast iron pan I sprayed into) but It brought the temperature down to 375, so I sprayed less and faster but couldn’t get the dark brown crust even cooking them 25 min.

          Couple questions? How do I get that deep brown crust? Is it temperature? .

          Second, can I take my frozen dough, defrost it and then just try again, or did I mess up the dough by freezing it.

          Thanks in advance.

          • Beth Price says:

            Hi Jeffrey, I haven’t tried freezing this particular dough. Most doughs are fine to freeze so I would give it try- please report back and let us know. As far as the color of the finished loaf, I would first check the accuracy of your oven with an oven thermometer. Did your finished loaves shrink back or collapse at all? If so, they might have needed a bit more time in the oven.

            • Jeffrey Balb says:

              The loaf didn’t rise as much as I would have liked came out more flat and wide then risen, although tasted good. I didn’t try and flip the loaf onto the pizza stone but just put it on with the parchment paper. I think it may not have browned and risen correctly because I sprayed the loaves with water before putting them in.

              When I defrost the other loaves I’ll let you know. Thanks for your help.

  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.

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

      Vic, you are so welcome. Lovely to hear.

      • Barbara says:

        Hi Renee — I’ve had luck with the texture — nice and hole-y inside and crusty outside — but I”m not so happy with the taste of the crumb. I’m wondering what brand of flour you would recommend — and whether you’ve ever used some other flours — barley or rye??

        Thanks for your advice!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Barbara, I’m really sorry to hear that. I’m going to open this question up to our recipe testers and our readers, as I know several folks who’ve made this loaf many times and can probably speak to the differences various brands or types of flour impart. Stay tuned, we’ll have some responses for you very shortly…

  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 loaf of bread 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. 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 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-y” 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 :)

    • Beth Price says:

      Please let us know the results of your experimentation, Sheri. We’re curious.

      • Sheri says:

        Had another go today, nice result. We are now using a flour with a protein of around 10, rather then the higher protein we used before. Each time the bread is delicious regardless of number of holes. Today bread has plenty of regular shaped holes, but not big ones. The texture is divine…dipping in garlic infused olive oil and some dukkah. Heaven! I have purchased a hard copy of Carol’s book and intend to try many other kinds of breads. I think this blog is a great support to people learning the art of bread, so thanks to all .

  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.

  35. Brenda says:

    I’m making Ciabatta for the first time and have followed this recipe, it was incredibly easy to complete and I loved the silky feeling of the dough. I’ve shaped and am waiting for the final rise prior to putting it into the oven. I have to say though the tip to always weigh your ingredients is absolutely key!! I sifted my flour first and then measured by volume to see how much of a difference it was to the weight… 1 cup too much by volume, I couldn’t believe it. I don’t have a kitchen scale mind you, I used my 5 month old sons baby scale (whatever works lol). With the ease of use of this recipe and no doubt incredible flavour I will definitely be using again. Thank you.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Love that ingenuity, Brenda! Thanks so much for taking the time to share that, I’m quite certain there are many others who will appreciate and benefit from it.

      • Brenda says:

        It turned out fantastic, delicious flavour and perfect snap to the crust, the way a good bread should be (though I don’t know how you can fully cool these without slicing in for a sample). I will be making again for sure except I will only cut into two pieces and not stretch out as much, you get a natural additional stretch if you’re flipping onto your baking stone anyway and I’m hoping it’ll allow for a little more height.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Lovely to hear it, Brenda. And your tricks and tactics for next time sound perfect. We so appreciate you taking a moment to let us know how much you like this loaf.

  36. ruthie says:

    Carol Field is a goddess! My mom had the original version of her cookbook, and true to my mom, she’d hand me the book with a strip of paper tucked in and tell me she wanted that kind of bread for her dinner party. Do I sound like poor Cinderella? Actually that’s how I learned about many different cuisines, cooking for Mom’s parties. ;)

    When this recipe was up, I confess I experienced moments of real panic trying to deal with my first wet dough experience (I was only 16 or 17 years old although I had been baking bread for almost 10 years). But I persevered, and Carol managed to talk me down with all her good instructions and tips. Great bread and great baking throughout the book.

    I learned good old-fashioned “American” baking from my grandmother, French from Julia Child, and Italian from Carol Field and my mother (she was an amazing cook and baker but, like many busy people, she knew how to delegate.) So happy to see you have highlighted this recipe here.

  37. Maryann says:

    Do you think you could make rolls instead of loaves? If you can how would you go about it?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Maryann, this can be a tricky dough if you are unfamiliar with a wet dough. I would suggest working with the loaf first (as the author gives such great guidance) to get a feel for it then trying other shapes.

  38. Tom Krehbiel says:

    Once I get the biga going, why do I need the teaspoon of commercial yeast? Can I substitute another wad of my own nicely growing yeast? I keep a basic starter going. If so, what suggestions would you have for adjusting the recipe…if any?

  39. Eric Noak says:

    Of course you can use your own starter. You could probably substitute your starter for the biga if you so desired. This dough, as with all ciabatta dough, should be VERY wet so,assuming your starter is wet,it should work nicely.

    • Tom Krehbiel says:

      Okay. So in the recipe above, I’d scuttle the tsp of instant dry yeast and the 5 Tbl warm milk, increasing the room temperature water to 1 1/2 c and letting the biga do all the work.

      • David Leite says:

        Tom, please let us know how it turns out.

        • Tom Krehbiel says:

          I will. Here’s an interim report.

          4:45pm yesterday mixed up the following:
          60g of my base starter from its container in the fridge
          230g room temperature water
          300g AP flour
          covered it and set it on top of the fridge

          At about 12:30 pm today it seems to be working well.

          Ciabatta Recipe

          • David Leite says:

            Tom, it’s looking good!! Please keep me posted.

            • Tom Krehbiel says:

              Yup. It sure looked like a great start. But the results were disastrous. My wife said “What happened?” I replied that a lot of stuff happened. The worst thing was that I’d not been attending to the starter properly and it punished me. The yeast pretty much let the bacteria take over. Acidic sourness took over. The loaves were ugly, too, and not in the “homely but attractive” ciabatta way.

              As I said, there was more but I’d rather not go into it in public. I believe that I gained much understanding and can do a lot better next time. For now, I’m reviving the starter and will go back to the boule (which is about 70 percent hydration so wet dough is my friend) at least once before doing the ciabatta shuffle again.

  40. olive says:

    Hi it’s my first time with a biga and this recipe.. and I’m a bit grumpy at the moment. I measured out 500 g of flour which ended up being 3 cups not 3 and 3/4 cups. I followed recipe exactly… but my dough is too wet! It is more like the biga than dough, in fact I think it’s more wet than my biga. I should have gone with the other 3/4, although i think even that would not have been enough flour. It now it’s risen the 1 and 1/4 hours.

    I made the mistake of doing the recipe before watching the video. I see now how wet the dough is supposed to be, I read that the dough would be rather wet, almost too wet to handle so I just went with it. Whereas in retrospect, mine was ACTUALLY too wet to handle!

    I’m going to try mixing more flour in and having another rise, which i hope won’t negatively affect the taste or structure. This has been quite a frustrating experience thus far….at least I’m learning. This had better be tasty!

  41. Paul Rustad says:

    I love bread. I love the time it tales to make bread. When I get stressed out, I make bread. This recipe for ciabatta was the best I have ever used. The loaves were crispy on the outside, the inside a beautiful array of open spaces and luscious bread knitted together to hold the butter. Thank you for hosting this site and providing the directions. Time to make more bread.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Paul, thank you for taking the time to let us know. Yours is exactly the response we gun for with each and every recipe that we carefully test and tweak and edit prior to posting it on the site, and hearing from you makes it all worthwhile. So pleased to hear this is your go-to recipe. And I couldn’t agree more with regard to the pleasure of taking one’s time to bake bread.

    • Frances Kim says:

      Thanks so much for the lovely feedback, Paul. Bread is always the answer for my stress too (er, probably eating it more than making it, if I’m being honest). So glad you enjoyed this recipe, and looking forward to hearing more about your baking adventures!

  42. Derrick Leung says:

    Great recipe, I used it a few times and this time I added about 1/4 cup more water and my holes are getting a bit bigger than before, I live in Calgary where it is pretty dry. Would it safe to assume that to try to get bigger holes I should keep trying to add a little more water next time, I think I remember watching something from Alton Brown who I also love and he said that higher moisture content helps make bigger holes?

    The only other thing is I can’t seem to get a super crispy crust, it stays relatively soft, any tips?

    The bread is not where I would consider perfect, but it still turns out really good and I can eat a whole loaf in no time all by myself.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Derrick, so happy to hear that you are getting those lovely large holes. Those holes are formed by the high hydration levels in the dough as well as the long fermentation. In order to get the crispy crust, make sure your oven is accurate
 and use an oven thermometer to double check. 
Use a baking or pizza stone to disperse the heat. Do not leave out the salt as it helps in forming a crust and use as little flour as possible when shaping as it can interfere with crust formation. And finally steam the loaves only during the first 10 minutes. If you steam later in the baking process it will affect the crispness of the bread. Hope this helps!

  43. jayprime says:

    Why do most folks who write recipes for this bread say to make a ‘slipper like’ loaf, or into rectangular rolls?
    Ciabatta mix formed into round rolls make a great alternative to those revoltingly bland objects promulgated as ‘Burger Buns’!

  44. Claudia Franco says:

    Just wondering why the biga recipe isn’t formulated so that all the biga can be used and so there’s not 100 grams left over. Thanks. Nice recipe. Glad I tried it!

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Claudia, the biga usually yields around 580-590 grams. Some readers have experienced a lower yield so it can be nice to have a bit extra (which can always be treated as a stater for future bread recipes).

      • Claudia Franco says:

        Is it because some people measure and not weigh? Evaporation? If I weigh 500 grams of biga ingredients, I’ll be left with 500 grams, right? I have a good spatula scraper :)

        • David Leite says:

          Claudia, it can definitely be because of weighing vs measuring, as well as evaporation, the freshness of the yeast–so many things. When you’re dealing with a living creature, which biga is, it’s hard to be precise-precise!

  45. Marney says:

    This was fun to make, and turned out very nice. Just the right amount of holes. I had “hard” unbleached flour (I use for making pizza crust) and it worked out fine. It did not ever seem wet to me, and handled very well. Probably the benefit of the “hard” flour is that it absorbed more of the liquid…shop at a bulk barn (bulk food store). Used skim milk, pizza stone, proofed over 2 bricks on top of my woodstove since the house is cold in Feb. in Canada. No problems flipping from the parchment onto the pizza stone. My biga rested in the fridge an extra 2 days (after 12 hours near the woodstove).

    Thanks for the great directions & video. Cheers.

    • Beth Price says:

      Marney, how wonderful! This recipe can be tricky for some but it sounds like you mastered it. Thank so much for letting us know.

  46. Pizzi Catto says:

    I tried this recipe three times, and it failed all the time. I have this book in my iPad in fact. And I have read it through. It just does not agree with me. However, “Il Fornaio Baking Book: Sweet and Savory Recipes from the Italian Kitchen by Franco Galli” is superb. Its Ciabatta recipe is fantastic. I use the whole-wheat flour biga recipe mixed with water (without adding a tinge of yeast to do it). And it always works for me.

    • David Leite says:

      Pizzi, thanks for the mention of Galli’s book. These kind of recipes are so personal and finicky. While many people have commented they like this recipe, Galli’s might work for those who have had problems.

  47. Marney says:

    2nd time I tried the recipe, and this time simply used AP unbleached flour as suggested. Still in the oven…Question: When misting the oven in the 1st 10 minutes, are you misting the top of the bread, or simply in and around the oven?

    Thanks again, my first try was most enjoyed!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Marney, I’m going to ask those more experienced with this recipe than I to weigh in on this, but from what I’ve gathered over the years you’re seeking to provide moisture to the general oven environment, so just in and around the oven is fine. Curious to hear what you think of the results!

  48. D. Mellstrom says:

    I have heard that protease enzymes in milk can inhibit yeast production, and serum proteins can denature gluten. Shouldn’t the milk be scalded before use, to nullify this?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Daniel, there is a lot of discussion over the need to scald milk. Most older bread recipes include this step. Modern bakers have found that the milk that is now available has already been heated to a high enough level during the pasteurization process to nullify the potential effects of protease and serum proteins on gluten formation. If you are working with fresh, raw milk then scalding is recommended.

  49. Pauline says:

    I just made this and my family loved it. It was such an easy recipe to follow. The video was helpful too. I didn’t get the big holes but I think i squashed them out when I was shaping the rectangles. I will try again. The crust was crispy and the inside was chewy. I didnt get a strong flavour, so I will try leaving the bigga for longer.

  50. Jane Coulter says:

    This was my second try with Ciabatta, first time with this recipe, and I had the same problem both times. The “damp towel” stuck to the rising loaves. I scraped as much dough as possible off the loaves, covered them with plastic wrap sprayed with a coating, and let them continue to rise. Baked two at a time on my stone. The first 2 turned out very flat. For the second two, I decided not to flip them onto the stone, but slid them onto the stone with paper still on the bottom. These turned out great. It probably helped that they had additional time to rise after being scraped off the towel. So, covering with damp towel was a problem both times.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Jane, thanks so much for conveying your thoughts and experiences with ciabatta. I found as well that not inverting the loaf produced a higher rise. As far as the towel sticking, make sure that your towel is finely woven (not textured), cover it with a light dusting of flour and for extra protection, remove it during the last 30 or so minutes of rise time.

  51. katiecoolady says:

    I did it! I did it! I did it! Never being a bread baker and failing at it forever, I did this entire recipe from the biga on. I cut mine in to rolls though, cooked them on the pizza stones and they turned out PERFECT–crispy on the outside and fluffy/chewy on the inside. The only thing was I wished they tasted a little more on the sour side. I let my biga sit for 2 days so not sure on that but we dipped these, warm, in olive oil with fresh grated parm and fresh ground black pepper..mmmm…my Italian husband said “wow” at least 30 times and ate 4 rolls along with lasagna! :D

  52. Carolyn says:

    Hello, today was my first time working with this recipe and really no issues, except one, that doesn’t seem to be addressed here. The damp kitchen towels used to cover the loaves during the second rise STUCK costing me lift and gas as I tried as gently as I could to free them. Suggestions?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Carolyn, sorry that you had a sticky situation. I have a couple of suggestions. First, check the texture of your towel. Rough terry type towels will grab the bread dough. I find that tightly woven linen-type smooth towels work best. Also, you might try working a bit of flour into your damp towel. If this still doesn’t work, peek at your dough as it rises. When it gets close to touching the towel, remove the towel for that final bit of rise time.

  53. Dmytro Durbak says:

    I have made your bread several times and it has become one of our favorites. Since I have a bread machine, I have recalculated all ingredients for 4 cups of flour. Your recipe for biga yields slightly more than needed for a batch. In my recipe it is exact. Everything (except yeast, oil, and salt) is by weight. A kitchen scale with a tare feature is helpful.

    I put biga ingredients into the bread machine and run it on dough setting for about 10 minutes. Then I turn the machine off for 12 – 72 hours. At this point I have a choice to use the bread machine to finish the bread, or make dough and bake the bread in the oven using your instructions. Using the bread machine to finish is quick and easy. No sticky dough to handle. Just add the remaining ingredients and the bread is done in 4 hours. Surprisingly, it is acceptable. The skin is crisper when using butter instead of oil.

    Using the bread machine to make dough requires the same process as above. Dough is done in 1 hr 40 minutes. Take the dough out, shape the loaf, go through the last rise, and bake.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Dmytro, many thanks for sharing your approach, it sounds terrific! Greatly appreciate it and so glad you like this recipe as much as we do!

  54. Tony Lamont says:

    Have tried this recipe several times with varying success. My question is how wet should the inside of the loaf be after baking. Commercial versions seem to be drier. I get fully cooked but rather wet results, less ‘bubbles’ than I would like, good taste and, initally, a crisp crust. Perhaps someone can define what wetness to expect.
    Tony

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Tony, I posed your question to Larry, one of our bakers. Here is his advice; “The crumb should be moist but certainly not wet. When handling the dough before baking, act like it is nitro-glycerin. In other words be SUPER gentle so you don’t push the gas out. Next, I would add five minutes to the bake. And then another if you are still not happy. I should also point out that ciabatta is one of the most difficult breads to master and will take practice. Keep some notes and pay close attention to times and temps. Every oven is different.”

      • Tony Lamont says:

        Thank you. I have found part of the problem. Despite Carol’s recommendation I was using bread flour (protein content 11.7%) Changing to much cheaper all purpose with a protein content of 9.7% seems to have solved the wetness issue. I discovered that early in her book she states that higher protein bread flour should never be used for italian breads.
        As well, the hole size may be a function of the amount of kneading using a stand mixer. Recipes on the net seem to vary from almost none to 20 minutes. Some more trial and error necessary.

  55. Tim says:

    Yeah I also can not recommend covering the loath with damp towels. They will stick to it like crazy. I tried to cover them heavily in floUr before covering. That seems to work.

  56. JD says:

    Hello,
    Must be testing very good. bec’s of time crunch, do you think following will work:

    1. Bake a Biga and rise for 24hrs.

    2. Then make ciabatta bread dough and refrigerate for another 12 hrs.

    3. Keep dough for another 10-11 hrs. at room temperature and then bake.

    My hubby would like to have home made warm italian bread and wine friday evening and bec’s of working hrs. i can’t really follow rising time.

    Many Thanks.

    • David Leite says:

      JD, this recipe is finicky. So I can’t guess at any variation because there are so many environmental factors that can contribute to this succeeding…or failing. I’d suggest making it when you do have time to follow the recipe as written. I think you’ll be happier with the results.

      • JD says:

        I will try out this weekend. First batch I am doing today as original recipe calls. I have never used the starter concept so very excited to see how it will come out. So far, biga is perfect and tripled over night. Thanks.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          JD, that’s terrific to hear about your biga! We’re looking forward to hearing how everything goes…! Many thanks for taking the time to let us know.

          • JD says:

            The bread came out very nice…my Hubby’s response was “Did you buy it from an Italian bakery”! it was that nice and rustic looking as well as tasting good. I would like to share one thing, I followed the following youtube video for stretching dough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFja1ShZFsA
            I have read many articles about making bread but this was THE Best Recipe. Now, I will try out overnight bread based on my schedule and see what happens. Thank you all. Happy Baking!

            • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

              JD, that is fantastic! So lovely to hear it went so well. Not that we’re surprised, as many have also had your experience, but it’s always swell to hear when it exceeds expectations. Thank you for taking the time to let us know. We look forward to hearing which recipe from the site you try next!

  57. Papa Jer says:

    I really wanted to watch the video but says not available in my area. Is there a place on the internet where it can be viewed in the US?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Papa Jer, unfortunately the video of Julia Child and Carol Field that we had previously linked to is no longer available on PBS.org. We’re confident you can make the ciabatta successfully without having seen the video, although it’s a shame we can no longer watch it as it certainly was a lovely and charming lesson.

  58. dirtsquirter says:

    Help please! When making your Biga recipe, your flour is measured at 141.63 grams per cup. When making your Ciabatta recipe, your flour is weighed out at 133.33 grams per cup. Which one is correct? AP flour is actually 125 grams per cup in every other recipe I make, so this is a little confusing to say the least. My Biga is looking like bread dough using your ratio.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re completely correct—there is a discrepancy between the amount of flour per cup and for that we apologize. We actually left those measures exactly as they were in the book so as to be true to Carol Field’s original recipe. Of course it’s always most reliable in baking to use the weight, not the cup volume, and we stand behind these weights, although for future reference the professional bakers we trust most use 130 grams per cup. I will edit the cup measure in the big recipe to reflect this. Out of curiosity, how did your ciabatta turn out? The biggest trick with this recipe is not adding too much flour when handling the exceptionally wet dough.

  59. dirtsquirter says:

    Hi Renee, thanks for taking the time to check that for me. I made the Ciabatta, it was a little drier than I would have liked but it was still delicious. I always weigh my ingredients so I should have added less flour. I will try this recipe again as my wife seemed to really enjoy it. I sent you a picture of the final result – The Eggplant recipe I sent you was awesome in this bread. Hope to use more recipes from your website.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Many thanks for letting us know! Yes, this dough is simply meant to be super wet and needs less flour when handling than one would expect. Would love to know how it goes with the ciabatta next time as well as any other recipes you try. We test each and every recipe in home kitchens prior to sharing them on the site so as to guarantee only spectacular results. Really appreciate you keeping us informed!

  60. Luca says:

    Hello
    You can explain the Biga as you do? 500 g are divided 250 250 flour and water as yeast?
    thanks Luca

  61. Carolyn says:

    Someone mentioned a video, I would love to see it. Second attempt same results, no oven spring with a chewy tight crumb. Smells wonderful, tastes good. I weighed all my ingredients (used a black marker to black out all other measurements). My dough does not seem really wet so I’m wondering if it’s my flour, I’m using Central Milling unbleached organic AP. First and second rise are look good. Will be trying again in two days. Would really like to get this down. Also, I use a kitchen aid stand mixer, any thoughts as to speed variation with this brand. I may trying mixing my hand since using my mixer has had a negative impact when achieving open crumb my sourdough loaf.

    Thanks for recipe and all the good feedback,

    Carolyn

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Carolyn, there was a wonderfully instructive video segment of Carol Field teaching Julia Child to make ciabatta and grissini that PBS had available on its website. Sadly, the video has disappeared. Perhaps it still exists behind a pay wall on the PBS site? At any rate, yes, it could be your flour. I’ve asked one of my colleagues who’s made this loaf many times to weigh in on your experience with some suggestions. And you’re very welcome!

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Carolyn, I spoke with several of our testers who have made the ciabatta numerous times and they feel like your issue may be a lack of hydration, which can result in a tight crumb. Unlike American bread dough, Italian bread dough is a very wet, slack dough and the initial reaction is to add additional flour to make it more manageable and less tricky to handle. Is it possible that you added flour to make the dough more manageable? The biga should also be very wet.

      Other things to consider:
      The age of your yeast;
      The accuracy of your oven;
      The hardness of your water (best to use filtered water);
      And, if all else fails, try a different brand flour and see if this impacts your results.

      You might also want to carefully slip the loaves in the oven as opposed to turning them over. This might help with the internal structure. As far as the mixer speed, I would follow the instructions in the recipe and start on low then increase to medium.

  62. Carolyn says:

    I mixed by hand yesterday. (My kitchenaid mixer, rather than kneading, beats the dough which has collected in a ball around the hook against the bowl.) I didn’t add any extra flour and continued working the very sticky dough in the bowl with a scraper using this method to knead. Skip forward, I did see oven spring but still no holes. After further research I believe my issue may be that the gluten is under developed. I will try again tomorrow using hand mix with an extended mixing and kneading. And…I’m researching mixers.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      That’s all terrifically helpful information as we try to hone in on what’s at play, Carolyn. Many thanks. Would love to hear how the next attempt goes…

  63. Eleanor says:

    Thank you for the metric sizing! Will try this soon.

  64. David Stowell says:

    Fantastic results. I baked the loaves individually on my pizza stone (my cast iron skillets are just not big enough to accommadate a loaf) and experimented with the last loaf, I chopped some fresh rosemary and sage, then dimpled the loaf down again, spread the fresh herbs and
    a small amount or coarse salt…drizzled the loaf with some great Sicillian Olive Oil and slid
    the loaf, still on the parchment paper onto the stone. Sort of a cross between Ciabatta and
    Foccacia. It’s finishing in the oven now and I can smell the herbs and Olive Oil. Thank you
    for posting this recipe. I let the biga sit a full 48 hours before using it, and it does give a
    subtle delicious sourdough flavor to the finished loaves.

  65. Deana DeWire says:

    Can I refrigerate the dough after it is broken into loaves and bake them a couple days later?

  66. Chelsea says:

    My biga is made but I haven’t begun mixing my dough yet. I think I’m missing something in the recipe in the shaping instructions. The instructions essentially say to stretch and flatten the dough into a rectangle after rolling into cylinders then place “seam side down”. I’m confused as to how I’m going to acquire a seam from stretching the dough into a rectangle. Any advice is appreciated!

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Chelsea, I asked Larry, one of our expert bread bakers and recipe testers, and this is what he had to say. “After cutting into 4 pieces, roll each into a cylinder which will create a seam. Then, stretch into a rectangle (gently so you don’t force the gasses out) and then turn them seam side up, dimple then, cover and rest.” Hope this helps.

  67. Cheryl King says:

    This will be my first try. Biga is ready to go but just realized, I don’t have any cornmeal, just a cheap box of jiffy corn bread mix for when I’m in a hurry, I know a crime. I don’t have any semolina either, but I do have some milled flax seed, might that work? Like Steve, I am also concerned about flipping it without degassing it, I don’t care about any seam lines, if there is any after I shape it, might I just place the dough on a floured silicone baking sheet and simply slide it off onto the hot stone?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Cheryl, first of all, good for you for venturing into homemade ciabatta! I’ve reached out to a couple home bakers who I know have made this bread before and asked them to respond to your questions. We should have an answer for you pronto.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Cheryl, I completely understand your concern about flipping the loaves. If you want to slide them off onto the stone, that should be fine. Once you become more comfortable with the recipe and the process, try flipping them. As far as the jiffy corn mix? I would not use it as a substitute for corn meal as it is filled with other ingredients.

  68. GregK says:

    I have this recipe in the bowl for the initial rise after the first “knead”. I would love to see a picture, for comparison, of that sticky risen dough after I turn it out next. I’m comfortable with most doughs, but this just seems too loose. It barely holds shape enough to not flow off the work surface. When I work with it next to form loaves, how much structure should it have, ie, what height should I expect the dough to be able to sustain when I start to form it? BTW, everything was measured by weight, taring the scale each time.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Greg, this is a very wet dough and a bench scraper will be your best friend. Please resist the temptation to add flour to make it more manageable.

      • GregK says:

        Since I posted my help request while about to form the loaves, I didn’t expect a response in time. I ended up using just enough bench flour to create loaves via bench scraper and damp fingers. The structure could only support a loaf height of under a half inch and spread more out than up. Baked loaf had spread out more too and was under a max of 1″ high. Nice crisp crust, but lacking in the larger air bubbles a ciabatta would have. Bottom crust was not quite crisp enough, but I blame that on the silpat rising mat I baked on b/c the loaves were just too loose to transfer. Bread itself was is delicious. Will try again with a touch more flour and a longer second rise. Would be happy to entertain any other suggestions.

        • Beth Price says:

          Hi Greg, that extra flour may have contributed to the lack of air bubbles. The dough should be very wet, as it is that moisture that causes the steam and creates the air bubbles. I would not add the extra flour and allow for a bit more time to rise. I am also going to reach out to our testers and see if they have any additional suggestions for you.

  69. Larry Noak says:

    This is by far the wettest dough that I have ever worked with. I have made it several times as written and ALWAYS question if it will work or not. This bread will be flat and “slipper” shaped. You must be very gentle so as to not force the gases out. Don’t add extra flour, and shape and move the dough as little as possible near the end. Unlike most bread doughs, ciabatta doughs are NOT forgiving, simply because they are so wet and it’s so easy to inadvertently push out the gas that makes the nice holes. It will still be delicious. Don’t be discouraged. Try again. Trust me, you will be handsomely rewarded!

  70. Piper Keizer says:

    I followed the directions and my bread turned out more like flat bread. It was tasty but I think I did something wrong. I let it rise 2 and a half hours by accident because I forgot to heat up the oven. I also used fast rising yeast which later I read is more suitable for bread machines. Boo! This is one of my first attempts at baking bread. I plan to keep practicing. Any advice would be great!

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Piper, my advice is to carefully read the comments that follow this recipe. This can be a tricky bread to make and many of our top bread testers have offered guidance and tips to novice bread makers like yourself. Be sure to follow the instructions and resist the urge to add flour to this very wet dough.

  71. Paul Rustad says:

    The only thing about this recipe is that you end up eating a whole loaf before you even think about cooking the main course!!!! It is that good. Esp with butter. Lots of butter. Though for tonight it will be olive oil and a 5-year-old aged basalmic vinegar!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Hah! Music to my ears, Paul. So lovely to hear you feel the same about this recipe as we do!

  72. $(this) says:

    This recipe was pretty good – the dough was very wet but not as hard to work with as I assumed. For me the breads came came out more like a focaccia than ciabatta, and I barely touched them after mixing to keep as much gas as I could in them. I made the biga with half whole wheat, so maybe that was the culprit. I wonder if a higher initial temp (say 500F) would help achieve a better spring before lowering the heat to 425F.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      I suspect, as you suggest, that it was the whole wheat flour. An increased density is typically the result when you add the heavier whole wheat flour to a dough that was intended for white flour. Baking is such a tricky science. You’re welcome to continue experimenting, although honestly I don’t know that the increased oven temperature will help the spring if you continue to use whole wheat flour, $(this).

  73. Matt says:

    I’m a bit confused. Direction #3 is:
    Turn the ciabatta dough onto a generously floured surface and cut it into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion into a cylinder, then stretch each cylinder into a rectangle about 10 by 4 inches, pulling with your fingers to get each portion of dough long and wide enough.

    Then direction #4 says:
    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

    Where does the seam come in? Are the 10×4 rectangles to be folded?

    Thanks

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Matt, thanks for reading the recipe so carefully. No, there’s no folding. And you’re right, it doesn’t seem as though there should be a seam by reading the recipe. But our director of recipe testing, who has made this bread repeatedly, assures me that after you stretch the dough there does appear to be a seam—or perhaps wrinkle is a more appropriate term. I’m guessing it’s a carryover from cutting the dough?

  74. Chiara says:

    Really looking forward to making this recipe! Just want to point out that Italians do not pronounce this “chuh bah tuh” – that’s Americanized Italian, which is fine, but it’s not how Italians say it! It’s more like “chah-BAHT-tah”, with the “ah” sound on every syllable. Grazie, e non vedo l’ora di provare questa ricetta :D

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Many thanks, Chiara! I’m fixing the note above to reflect your input. Greatly appreciate you taking the time to correct us on our Italian!

  75. Adrian Lees says:

    I live in Western Australia and I have used this recipe many times with great success. As a variation I add activated charcoal to make black ciabatta. It really is a favourite at dinner parties. I actually make this black ciabatta for my granddaughter and grandson because they just love it. I make them each a loaf so there’s no arguments.

    Black Ciabatta

  76. Adina says:

    Hi! I would love to try out this delicious looking recipe, but I want to ask, is it possible to substitute the dairy milk with soy-/rice-/almond milk or just warm water? Thank you!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Adina, we haven’t tried it with a dairy substitute, so I can’t say for certain. I suspect you’re going to have some issues because the milk has protein and sugar which may interact with the gluten in the dough in ways that are necessary for the characteristic structure of the ciabatta. If you want to try it, by all means, go ahead, but I’m sorry, we can’t promise what sort of results you’ll have. You may want to instead consider making a dough that naturally doesn’t call for milk, such as this bread that we’ve made literally hundreds of times and loved.

  77. Chiara says:

    Finally tried this recipe….AMAZING! I’m so delighted with this beautiful bread, thank you!! Now I’m wondering how to keep all this delicious bread fresh…I never know how to properly store it. I’m going to freeze three of them, but for the one that’s going to be eaten now, should I keep it in a wax paper bag or a plastic bag? Thanks!

  78. Hermann says:

    I have adapted your wonderful ciabatta recipe. I used a ciabatta flour mix (wheat flour & durum wheat) from my mill. I tried the half weight of the dough for two breads.

  79. Tracie Jaraza says:

    I’m not sure if this question has been asked already but in my country we only have instant yeast. What substitutions do I need to do for this recipe to work? Thanks!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Tracie, according to the baking experts at King Arthur Flour, yes, you can use instant yeast in place of active dry yeast at a 1:1 ratio. (For more information, see http://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/yeast.html.) I double-checked this advice with our own bread-baking professional, who had the following to say: When substituting instant yeast I usually use about 75% of the amount by weight given for active dry yeast. For a recipe that makes 2 loaves or 4 small loaves like the ciabatta recipe, this is a very small difference. I wouldn’t go so far as to say a 1:1 substitution is ok across the board when scaling up or down or doing large batches (commercially), but in this case it would be ok. There’s a total of less than 2 grams of yeast—if I’m recalling correctly–and that fraction of a gram difference you’d get doing the math is not measurable on home scales. Plus with that amount the other conditions—the temperature of ingredients and the room, even the mineral content of the water—will make more difference than the change in yeast.” We’d love to know how it goes, Tracie.

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