This ciabatta recipe for traditional Italian bread is made the authentic way with a biga, or starter, and turns out a loaf that’s incredible on its own or in a sandwich. 

A loaf of ciabatta, sliced, and filled with large air holes

“I did not have ciabatta this good even when I was in Italy. Amazing.” That’s what folks are saying about this Italian bread recipe that’s made by hand with a biga, or starter. And author Carol Field says “Everyone who tries this homemade Italian bread loves it.” It’s literally one of the most popular recipes on our site. With good reason. 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.” If you’re wondering how to make it, look no further than the recipe below. Note, it can be tricky to obtain those ginormous air bubbles within the dough, although rest assured, the taste will be the same, regardless of the crumb of your bread. 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.–Renee Schettler Rossi


  • Quick Glance
  • (44)
  • 30 M
  • 4 H, 20 M
  • Makes 4 loaves
4.5/5 - 44 reviews
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Special Equipment: 2 baking stones


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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.)
Place the 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.
Turn the 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.
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.
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.]
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 on and remove it 10 minutes into baking.
Bake the ciabatta for a total of 20 to 25 minutes, spraying the oven 3 times with water in the first 10 minutes. Transfer the loaves to wire racks to cool. Originally published March 8, 2012.
Print RecipeBuy the The Italian Baker cookbook

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How To Handle Authentic Ciabatta Dough

  • Before you make this authentic ciabatta recipe, understand that the dough can be tricky to handle correctly. It’s 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 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. [Editor’s Note: We understand that the weight-to-volume equivalents in the recipe below are off-kilter compared to what most of us home bakers are accustomed to using. We took these measures directly from the book in which this recipe was printed because they’re the author’s intended cup measures when you use her pour, stir, and scoop method we just outlined.]

    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 ideally be made in a stand mixer. It can be made in a food processor. And while folks have made it by hand, it’s not recommended. (The natural inclination while kneading it is to add lots of flour to the very sticky dough, and pretty soon you won’t have ciabatta.) So just follow the instructions below. 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 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.

Recipe Testers Reviews

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.

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.

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.

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 loaf 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.

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!

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!!!


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. Hi, I made this bread yesterday using parchment paper and baking tray, by halving the biga recipe and the bread recipe. Got a very good ciabatta that was devoured in one meal!!

    Planning to make again tomorrow, but this time plan to use a loaf pan. I would love your thoughts on that, please. Thank you.

    1. Hi Naina, I’m reluctant to speculate how this dough would behave in a loaf pan. It is a much wetter dough than called for in most loaf breads. If you do try it, we would love to hear how it turns out! Please let us know.

    2. Hi Beth,
      I tried it with loaf pan and it turned out pretty good. I used 1/4th more biga as I wanted to use it all up and I had about an hour only for the last rise, as I wanted the oven for some other baking! Even then, I got a good crust all around and some holes. I will definitely try again in a loaf pan using the correct measurements and time. Here’s a picture

  2. I guess I should not complain, I had no problems with the dough or shaping it. My only negative comment is I thought the bread lacked flavor, rather flat. If I make this again I would add some sugar. I am not an experienced baker or eater of ciabatta so maybe the fault is with my taste. Did anyone feel this way?

  3. How is this “made by hand”? It tells you how to make it with a stand mixer and how to make it with a food processor, but very much does NOT tell you how to make it by hand.

    1. Tony, that’s an interesting question you ask. We consider kneading by hand to be “made by hand,” and the reason we don’t offer hand mixing instructions is that the dough is incredibly wet compared to most doughs Americans are accustomed to making and can be trickier to not only combine but also to gauge whether more flour is needed. (We’ve heard from readers that they panic and add more flour and then have less-than-stellar results.) And so in an effort to advance troubleshoot, we use the stand mixer or food processor to try to help ensure best results, even if it sacrifices some tradition. I hope you understand our intention is to help readers create the most magnificent loaf possible…

    1. Hi Nancy. Based on the weight listed here, I’d use table salt. If you’d like to use kosher salt, then I’d suggest weighing it as you may need more than the 1 tablespoon to get 15 grams.

        1. I make this all the time. I add garlic salt, chives and rosemary. And whatever herbs I fancy at the time.

  4. I love ciabatta bread reading your recipe you say instead of measure ingredients weight them but I could not find the weights that you mention that was in the book you used so how can I make your recipe by the book if you do not give the weights.

  5. Hi, your bread looks so good and I can’t wait to try this recipe. I already have a 100% hydration sourdough starter, is it the same as biga? And can I use the sourdough starter for this ciabatta recipe? Thanks.

    1. Hi Reeya, I strongly recommend that you use the Biga recipe that accompanies the Ciabatta recipe. The Biga is a preferment with approximately 79% hydration which will produce different results than a starter with 100% hydration.

  6. I am new at baking and I want to know how to measure the biga. I know that 1 cup of flour is 125 grams so is the biga by ounces or grams? I appreciate your help.

    1. Hey, Denis. If you look at the top of the ingredients list, you’ll see a US/Metric toggle switch. If you flip to metric, you’ll see the weight of the biga, which is 500 grams.

    1. Glad you like this recipe, Tracey! It’s one of our most popular on the site. Here’s what we advise in terms of replenishing the biga recipe on our site…

      Feed it maybe 3/4 cup of unbleached AP flour and 1/2 cup of water every other day or so. First take about half of the starter and either use it or dispose of it. After a week or two, it should nearly double every day and be bubbly. Then, you may want to feed it every day or refrigerate it. If refrigerated, once a week, let it warm up to room temperature, feed it, and refrigerate it again.

  7. I enjoyed this recipe. A good use for my Biga. I too flipped my dough right onto the baking sheet and as you can see the loaves were pretty flat. Where did I make a mistake?

    Very flavorful, chewy and a heavenly small on a fall day.

    1. Hi Martha, your loaves look so pretty! Sometimes they tend to not rise as much if too much flour is incorporated. Was your dough nice and wet and a little sloppy?

      1. The dough was very wet, I do always wonder about flouring my counter top, how much is too much? The loaves are covered with flour from the parchment. (Can you tell I am a novice?)

        1. From the photo, it looks like there is a lot of flour. This is one of those recipes where practice makes perfect. There are a lot of comments that are worth reading that can really help you with the process. You might try not flipping the loaves the next time you try it and see if that makes a difference in the loaf height.

  8. It took me a few tries to get this recipe to really work. I added a little extra salt (about 5g more for a total of 20g). The 1st time I made it, I flipped it onto a pizza stone RIGHT before baking. It knocked all the air out 😭. The second time, I used too much flour in the “knead after mixing” step. Too much flour halted the openess of my holes. The 3rd time…. it turned out so beautiful!! 🤩 I really like this recipe! Thank you ❤️

    I wonder how it’d be with a little buckwheat flour, or if I bulk ferment the dough overnight?

  9. You stress weighing the ingredients but then you list measurements…. so how much should the 2 very full cups of biga weigh? Same with the flour. You list measurements but then insist we weigh it.

  10. I have a question about the yeast. I’ve got rapid rise, do I need to buy active or can I use this without any issues? I’m so looking forward to making this bread. I will make a grocery run if need be. Thanks!


  11. Help. I’ve made the biga and the dough is rising now after kneading, almost ready for the loaf making. My concern is that the biga was just about two cups worth. No extra. I may have misinterpreted the recipe thinking I would have extra biga for another day? Or perhaps my biga didn’t rise all that much? A little concerned with the end product having used all my biga for one recipe. Thanks for your help.

    1. Debra, hang in there! The biga, as noted at the top of the biga recipe, only makes about 2 1/3 cups. We’re going to look at the recipe to see if we can make that clearer so as to prevent confusion in the future, so thank you for letting us know that wasn’t clear. So many things determine how much (or little) a biga will rise, including how warm it is in your kitchen. I’m hopeful your bread will turn out wonderfully as you’ve followed the recipe exactly. Kindly let us know how things turn out…?

  12. I love this recipe, I’ve just made it for the first time and my loaves looked amazing!!! But, when I cut into them they were completely hollow, one giant gas bubble almost like a pita pocket. What might I have done wrong? After shaping I left them rise for 2 hours as the house isn’t too warm (20c). Maybe they didn’t need so long? Please help!

    1. Hi Charlotte, it could be that the loaves over-proofed or that the biga did not rise long enough. This is a truly a recipe where practice makes perfect so keep perfecting! In the meantime, I imagine a huge over stuffed sandwich in the hollowed out bread.

  13. Easy recipe and makes a traditional ciabatta. I always use this as my go-to recipe for bread. It doesn’t take long to make as you can do other things while waiting for it to proof and the mixing is quick and simple. Highly recommend.

    1. Selina, terrific! This is music to our ears. Lovely Italian music that is the perfect backdrop to baking ciabatta. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know how well this worked for you! Looking forward to hearing if you try a different bread recipe on our site. (We know, we know, why switch it up when what you have works? And yet sometimes a little change is good…)

  14. Wow! Okay very difficult dough to handle but well worth the effort! Instead of 4 I made 3 loafs & they are far superior to any of the Ciabatta recipes I have tried. I have tried 4 different ones & they were good, this one much better than good.

  15. This is the first time I have baked with a starter. It was worth the time, and I won’t say effort because there was no effort. It made a wonderful airy and crispy bread. I will make this one of my regular breads. My only question would be, how warm should the milk be, and does it have to be whole milk?

    1. Cindy, first of all, magnificent to hear you love this loaf as much as we do! We so appreciate you taking the time to let us know. Second, excellent question! Typically a pretty wide array of temperatures will activate yeast, anywhere from 95° and 115°F according to some and, according to others, a slightly narrower range of 105 to 115°F. I’ve added this information to the recipe to prevent others from having the same moment of concern and “Oh man, how warm is warm?!” Thank you for helping us improve the baking experience for others!

  16. OK, thanks!! I am baking all now as I write! It may sound silly to ask but would I just exactly halve the recipe if I wanted to make less. I ask this because in the past when I cut my recipes in half it never seems to come out right…

    1. Hi Diane, I really don’t recommend halving this recipe. But if you do, I’m curious as to your thoughts.

      1. Wouldn’t it work to make the full biga recipe, use half and freeze half, then halve the other ingredients to make two loaves? That’s what I was thinking for next time. Making the whole recipe, I have to freeze two baked loaves.

  17. Thanks the dough is rising beautifully but too much for two of us! When do you freeze the dough? After the first rise before shaping?? What’s the best way to freeze it and how do you handle and bake it after its frozen?

    1. Hi Diane, this can be a tricky dough to work with. I would follow the recipe as written the first time and get a feel for the dough and methodology. You can always freeze any extra loaves once baked.

  18. Hi

    Just baking the last ciabatta now, but couldn’t resist cutting into the first one to try it and it tastes delicious, lots of lovely holes. I used Shipton Mills organic ciabatta flour and will definitely bake this again. I used an ordinary baking tray, but putting a roasting pan on the shelf below so I could add some ice cubes for steam.

    1. Maggie, music to our ears! Many thanks for having the patience to work with a sticky dough and for taking the time to let us know how magnificently the recipe turned out for you. Love the ice cubes for steam trick, thanks for sharing that. Here’s wishing you many, many more loaves of ciabatta loveliness.

  19. This was my first time making any kind of bread and I enjoyed it. I obviously did something wrong because it was pretty dense instead of having those airy holes throughout. Any observations or advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kathy, this is a very wet sloppy dough and it is that wet sloppiness that creates the steam that causes those lovely holes. When I’ve made this in the past, I had to resist the urge to add more flour to make the dough more manageable. That extra flour can cause a denser loaf. Do you think that you might have incorporated more flour than the recipe calls for?

  20. I’m a lover of bread. I lived in Germany and Turkey as a young women in the late 60’s and 70’s. I am excited and flooded with memories when I encounter the taste and smell of familiar breads and of course cultured butter from my youth. I am just dipping my toe into bread baking. This was the result of your Ciabatta recipe. First time using a Biga which I didn’t get back to for 16 hours. Mmmmm when mixed in the first step I thought I’d just opened a lovely beer the aroma was lovely. After kneading and reading the comments I thought uh oh you have added to much flour in the knead. My dough still had a bit of stickiness so I held out hope.

    I did not attempt the flip. My dough did not move off the parchment and I baked it as it sat on my upside down cookie sheets. I am happy with the outcome. The flavor is great. The crust a nice thickness with crunch. The “crumb” well I’m happy with it. Not to tight and fine …bigger holes I hope in the future.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe. Now to buy a square baking stone. Mine is round and it was apparent my bread would spill off the edges.

    Loaf of Italian ciabatta bread sliced in half, with one half facing up to see the inside

    1. Thank you, Susan! We found that this ciabatta takes a little practice to perfect but we enjoyed every single one of our practice loaves. Every. Single. One. Sounds like you’re experiencing the same. We so appreciate you taking the time to share with us your experience and look forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next!

  21. Hello. I am in the midst of making this ciabatta; the first rise is underway, and so far, things seem to be going as indicated in your recipe. Biga looked bubbly and smelled great at 18 hours (by choice).

    The only hitch was in your ingredients list … with all due respect, something seems to be amiss in the flour amount by weight (in brackets): 3 3/4 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour cannot possibly be 17.5 ounces or 500 grams. That is the same weight amount as the 2 cups of biga directly above, in the ingredients list. It looks like a transcription error.

    Given all the comments, I am surprised that no one weighing their ingredients noticed. For a couple of worried seconds, I doubted myself, since this is my first attempt at a biga, a ciabatta, and your lauded site.

    Thank you in advance for checking this detail and responding.

    1. Lynn, I can see why you might think that. The answer is that water weighs more per volume than flour. You can check this yourself by weighing one cup of water 8.321 ounces (235.9 g) versus 1 cup of flour. Now the two cups of biga is a combination of a lot of water, flour, and air from the fermentation. I hope that makes sense. Also, the weights come directly from the author and have been checked by our testers. Good luck!

      1. I did. All I can think of is that the towel was too wet. May try sprayed plastic wrap? I will definitely try again!

  22. So glad I stumbled on this site.

    I made the biga yesterday and the ciabatta today, and both turned out beautifully. This is the third loaf of bread I’ve ever made – full stop – and I found these detailed instructions and observations, coupled with all the helpful comments on this recipe, ensured my success.

    I made this by hand (we don’t have a machine) and I found that by not drying my hands at all after washing them just before handling the dough, I had no trouble with the stickiness.

    Further, I don’t have a baking stone, so all I did was rest the bread on parchment paper on the cookie sheet I was going to use for baking. When the oven was heated, I slid the cookie sheet into the oven, poured some water into a tin I had kept in the oven during the preheat and walked away. Great colour and crust on both top and bottom.

    I had the tiniest bit of biga left over, so for kicks I added 1/2 C flour and 1/2 C water and that gorgeous little thing hasn’t missed a beat!

    I’m excited to explore this site more and see what I will create next! :)

    1. So wonderful to hear this, thank you for taking the time to let us know! Thrilled to hear that you had such a lovely experience! We test all of the recipes in home kitchens to determine whether they’re magnificent enough to share with you, so you can trust all the recipes implicitly. Looking forward to hearing what you create next!

  23. I am one of those “absolutely no white flour” bakers and through trial and error have converted this great recipe to 100% whole wheat flours.

    In addition to whole-wheat flour, I use white whole wheat flour, adding vital wheat gluten to compensate for its lower gluten level. I also use more yeast to help the heavier whole wheat dough proof better, and I add more salt to help bring out the richer nutty flavor of the whole wheat flours. The bread’s crumb has just the right level of chewiness but lacks the large holes of a classic ciabatta, but this doesn’t impact the texture.

  24. This seems like such a lovely recipe and I have been wanting to try ciabatta for ages. It was a total failure—the dough stuck to everything, the baking parchment it was proofing on, the tea towels, the baking trays. Talk about frustrated! Is it possible that Australian flour hydrates differently? Any other suggestions?

    1. Sarah, yes, Australian flours do vary considerably in protein content compared to American flours and this variance in protein content affects the hydration of the dough. We did a little research and found the varying protein contents for some Australian flours. By comparison, standard American all-purpose flour tends to have a protein content of about 11.7%. I’m sorry for your disappointing results but I do think the flour is the culprit.

      Allied Mills Plain Flour 9.5%
      Anchor Lighthouse Plain Cake Biscuit & Pastry Flour 8.7%
      Anchor Lighthouse Pasta & Noodle Flour 9.6%
      Anchor Lighthouse Bread & Pizza Flour 11.5%
      Coles White Plain Flour 10.1%
      Coles Organic Plain Flour 10.8%
      Edmonds Standard Grade Flour 10.5%
      Edmonds High Grade Flour 11.0%
      FBW Plain Flour 10.1%
      Healthy Baker Plain Flour 9.7%
      Macro Organic Plain Flour 11.4%
      Millers Foods Plain Flour 9.0%
      Millers Foods Organic White Flour 9.0%
      Millers Foods Baker’s Bread Flour 11.0%
      Wallaby Bakers Plain Flour 11.9%
      White Wings Plain Flour 10.1%
      White Wings Organic Plain Flour 10.8%
      Woolworth’s Homebrand Plain Flour 10.9%

  25. I am just getting into baking italian bread and don’t quite understand the Biga? I’ve heard of “starters” lasting for years but if you take two cups out to bake loafs today and then again a few days later how does the Biga replenish itself? Thanks.

    I travelled to Italy last October and have been making Tuscan Flatbread ever since. Now I can’t wait to try this recipe.

    1. Hi Michael, a biga is an Italian version of a preferment which is a starter created prior to the final dough. Different types of preferments will have varying hydration levels and will add structure to the finished bread. This biga recipe will yield approximately 590 grams and 500 grams will be used in the corresponding ciabatta recipe.

  26. I have tried this recipe for the second time now. The flavor is absolutely gorgeous. However, even though I have followed the instructions, and the breads rose well, they came out without the big holes. Any suggestion about what I have done wrong or some tips for having the big holes? Thanks.

    1. Hi Patricia, this is a very wet dough and the normal inclination is to add a bit of flour to make it more manageable. That causes a decrease in the hydration level, hence smaller holes as there is less steam to cause those lovely bubbles. Next time, I would suggest adding a bit more water and keep your hands nice and wet so you can handle the dough. It will be sloppy!

  27. I just finished up with this recipe. It’s soooo yummy and beautiful, EXCEPT it didn’t get very tall. I know it’s not supposed to rise super high, but it essential didn’t raise at all while in the oven. I followed every step so so carefully, I weighed everything. I tried inverting one loaf and then just sliding the others on. Is there anything I should do to make it taller, or should I just combine the loafs and make 2 instead of 4?

    1. Daniel, thanks for taking the time to comment! Glad you love the taste! As for the height, I would definitely NOT combine the loaves and make 2 because the extra weight of the doubled dough is definitely going to prevent your ciabatta from properly rising. I know that sometimes handling the dough a touch too much can deflate it a little. And sometimes, in my experience, you make a loaf of bread seemingly the exact same way as you did the previous time and yet it turns out appreciably different. Your biga was definitely active, yes?

  28. Made four loaves yesterday and they came out great. Crusty outside and soft and full of holes inside. I made it to go along with Chicken Parmigiana and I had to pry everyone away from the bread to eat the chicken! This was my first time using weights instead of measures. I couldn’t believe how much simpler. Had ingredients out and a bunch of bowls. Bowl, pour, weigh, and repeat. Everything ready to go. I made the biga early and only gave it 6 hours to proof but it worked fine, might have been even better the next day. Wet hands and patience are the key to handling. Push the loves into shape right after hitting the stone.

  29. Getting ready to bake my first pass, the introduction of the cornmeal at the end caught me off guard though, you should add that to the ingredient list. I don’t have any on hand and could have stopped on the way home.

  30. Hi there!! I have Carol Field’s book and have made this recipe several times.

    I keep hitting the same question… How much flour should we expect to use for the final hand kneading step?

    The last batch I made sucked up more than a cup of flour and could easily have pulled in more. It was very tasty but the texture was wrong because of the excess flour. I followed the ingredients exactly and used a scale.

    1. Hi Kathi! Have you read completely through our version of Carol’s recipe or have you been making it from the book? We’ve added quite a lot of notes from our testing experience to this recipe—namely that you really shouldn’t be adding extra flour to the dough at all. This is not your typical American bread dough. This is a wet, gloppy, moist dough that’s a little unwieldy to work with but yields phenomenal results. Please take a read through the instructions above, both in the recipe and in the headnote above the recipe, and let me know if that helps clarify things for you. Good luck!

  31. Hi All,

    I’m a little late to the party here, but I wanted to toss in my two cents…for what it’s worth. I have experience with bread baking, and have never found a ciabatta recipe that yielded authentic ciabatta. I made this ciabatta twice. The first time, I followed the recipe to a tee, following the weights instead of the volume. The dough was too wet. I know the dough needs to be sticky, but what I had was barely workable. I trudged on hoping for the best, but the whole time I was thinking that the dough needed more flour, and I should add it. I kept myself from adding more flour. When I shaped the loaves, I found that rolling the cylinder on the work surface was good, but shaping the dough was much easier to do on the parchment paper, as I didn’t need to transfer a flat piece of very loose dough over to another location. The cylinder was much easier to handle. I used a baking stone and baked the loaves for 20 minutes.They came out decent, but were very flat, and slightly dried out. I should have cut down on the baking time because the loaves were so flat. The taste however, was great.

    The second time I made these, I followed the recipe, but substituted bread flour for the AP. I figured the higher protein content would absorb more of the water. Once again, I ended up with very wet dough. This time I added more flour…approximately half a cup, until the dough just began pulling away from the sides of the bowl with the dough hook attachment on my stand-up mixer. I turned the dough out onto my work surface, and let it pull in enough flour until it felt right…slightly sticky on my hands while I was kneading, and sticky once my fingers broke through the floured surface. I formed the loaves shaping them on the parchment paper, and let them rise. They were much puffier this time, and looked like ciabatta. The proof was in the pudding when I cut into it. It was literally perfect. Nearly identical to the picture at the top. My crust was slightly less browned, but the bread was incredible.

    So why is my dough too wet? I’m using a scale and measuring cups. I’ve made bread many times before, so I know what it’s supposed to feel like…any ideas? I also noticed that there is something wrong with the volume/weight references in the recipe. The standard weight for 1 cup of flour is 4.25 ounces. In this recipe, it’s closer to 4.7 ounces per cup. Had I used the volumetric measurements, I would have ended up with batter instead of dough. I was thinking that maybe there was a “safety factor”in the recipe, as inexperienced bakers tend to add more flour, and more flour results in a nice Italian bread, but not ciabatta. I’ll continue to use the recipe, but I’ll keep tweaking the flour. I also shaped the dough 3” wide, as I prefer the loaf a bit “taller” in the middle for sandwiches. Thanks,

    1. Darryl, love your spirit of innovation and thanks for sharing your results here. May I inquire which brand(s) of flours you used? Just curious. As for the discrepancy between weight and volume, yes, we were surprised to see that, too, when we first encountered this recipe. Most of the time when we test recipes we adjust the volume measures so they are aligned with commonly accepted equivalents, however, in this recipe we left the measures as they were in the original cookbook because of the author’s advice on how to weigh the flour (see the troubleshooting tips just above the recipe). We’re big proponents of weight measures for baking, but we suspect that when you use her method, the volumes do equal her weights. We’re going to try to recreate what you experienced and if we can make that happen we’ll include mention of that in the recipe. Again, thank you!

      1. Hi Renee,
        I used AP Gold Medal for the first batch, and Pillsbury Bread flour for the second. I’m going to try King AP this weekend. BTW, I always use unbleached flour. After that, I’ll go to the King Arthur bread flour if I don’t get satisfactory results. Even though the bread has been a bit persnickety, everything out of the oven has been more flavorful than anything you can buy. The biga rally does the trick. As an aside, I tried the no knead olive bread recipe. OMG… Easily the best load of bread I’ve ever made. I followed the recipe exactly.

        1. Lovely to hear it, Darryl! And many thanks for the brands. Do let us know how the King Arthur AP works for you, please and thank you. That’s our standard flour. Greatly appreciate your patience and perseverence and so happy you’ve been happy with what’s coming out of the oven!

  32. I have a biga currently fermenting away and am ready to make my first ciabatta. I love your recipe and instruction but am wondering if the recipe can be altered to make it vegan (dairy-free)? All the breads I’ve made in the past have just used water as the liquid. Thank you!

    1. Stacey, I’d love to help you tweak this ciabatta to make it vegan, but baking is such a precise science, and I really think the moisture and fat contributed to the loaf from the milk is essential. As much as I’d like to have you try this recipe, if you really want to make ciabatta, I’d suggest you try a ciabatta recipe that doesn’t call for dairy as opposed trying to tweak this recipe. Good luck!

  33. My first attempt at ciabatta and I chose the right recipe :-). I used a wood-fired oven and flipping the parchment would not be easy. So I put the cornmeal on the parchment and flipped the dough seam side down onto that. I just slid the parchment with 2 loaves each onto the hearth. The bottom seemed perfect after only 15 minutes so I moved the bread onto an inverted sheet pan for the rest of the baking time. I think my oven floor was about 600°F and this is a common workaround for high heat. The result was amazing. I did not have ciabatta this good even when I was in Italy. I’ll be making this one again and again. Next time I will make them into sandwich size. Thanks!

  34. I bought ciabatta bread from the half-price rack at the grocery store. We’re not able do luxuries. (Fixed very low SS income) I had never heard of it before. Don’t know why I splurged. But so glad I did. I’ve tried my hand with hole-y English muffins and while in Bolivia something called marraquetas…both supposed to be holey although mine wasn’t. So I’ve saved this recipe….I’ve read 45 minutes of comments. I do want to try this…with my hope-scale set on high…I’ve only baked regular bread…some white, some whole wheat, some mixed…but just bread. I do not have parchment paper…I was once told to oil typing paper to substitute…never tried it. I do not have a baking stone. Would a cast iron fry pan be a half way substitute?

    1. Sally, so glad that you like ciabatta as much as we do! And I’m so glad that you found this recipe and are going to give it a try. As for the substitution, I have used a large cast iron skillet turned upside down many, many times in place of a baking stone and it’s worked admirably. I would recommend you try yours! Although I wouldn’t use the typing paper in place of parchment paper. And as you no doubt saw when you read the comments, this is a very wet dough—much wetter and stickier than most American bread doughs—so don’t be alarmed you’re working with it. Just remember that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Good luck and kindly let us know how it goes!

  35. David and Renee,

    This recipe is the gold standard on the net (the world?). Thank you for sharing. It is a great advertisement to delve into purchasing your Italian cookbook. Many thanks for sharing.

    My question is how to modify this recipe to be one of the delicious ciabatta variants that have whole kalamata olives in it (all the rage at least here in the Pacific Northwest). I see you have a no-knead variation, but I was hopeful of one that uses the full gamut of tricks (kneading, rise time, bigas) to maximize flavors like this does. Cook’s has a variant of Italian bread, but not ciabatta. In their recipe the suggest reducing hydration by 5% to combat gumminess, and add some honey to soften the olive taste. Do you have some tips on how to make the perfect olive ciabatta using this recipe?

    Thanks again,

    1. Geoff, many thanks for your kind words. Lovely to learn that you are as smitten with this ciabatta recipe as we are. I asked our resident bread expert, a professional who teaches classes on the topic, and here’s what she says…best of luck!

      “I haven’t tried ciabatta with olives. IMO it is not the best loaf for additions. Not impossible, though. Even though I prefer my olives on the side, I do add olives sometimes to my other loaves. There’s two ways to do it.

      “Our reader is right that olives can be wet enough to affect the hydration of the loaf. It’s important to dry them with either method. I squeeze them in cheesecloth although a towel will do. It’s also important not to overdo the amount. My students, most beginners, have a tendency to think more is better when adding extras to baked goods. I’m a “just the right amount is best” advocate myself. You want the flavor and texture of the olives without ruining the flavor and texture of the bread. Choose a good quality flavorful olive and you won’t need to load the dough down. Maybe 4 to 5 ounces for this recipe, at least the first time you try it. Large olives should be chopped.

      “The first method gives a stronger olive-y taste all through the bread by incorporating the olives at the beginning of the kneading. This is what most beginners do with any addition such as olives, nuts, cheese. Yes, this means a more uniform distribution and the taste of the addition (olives in this case) throughout, but I almost never do it this way because it requires adjustments to hydration (more for dry ingredients, less for wet ones) and, more important, can interfere with gluten development. In the case of ciabatta I recommend the second method only.

      “The second way, my preferred technique, is to add the olives (or nuts, cheese) after the dough has fully developed, that is after it has been kneaded completely. Just knead the olives in by hand before the bench fermentation (first rise). With this method and olives that have been patted or squeezed dry, you should not need to adjust the water.

      “A problem that arises with additions (using either method above) is that they pop through the dough and whatever bits are exposed to the heat get dried out and hard. Not as big an issue with olives as it is with, say, raisins, but not pleasant when it happens. With a regular country loaf there’s two ways to minimize that. You can simply push the pieces that peek out after shaping back into the dough before setting it to proof. That helps quite a bit. Fussier, but totally effective, is to cut off a piece of plain dough before the addition. I eyeball it at about ¼ of the dough. Add the olives to the larger pieces and shape the loaf. Then roll out the reserved piece to a thin sheet and drape it around the shaped dough, sealing on the bottom. This keeps all the bits inside, entirely preventing pop-throughs. Unfortunately ciabatta is too wet to use to use this second method.

      “To summarize my long-winded response, I’d suggest 1. Don’t use too many olives. 2. Squeeze them out in cheesecloth or a towel so they aren’t too wet. 3. Add them by hand after kneading the dough completely. 4. Push in any bits that stick out when you shape the loaves. 5. After baking, if there are bits that popped out and are dry, just pick them off the finished loaf (be careful, they’ll be hot). That can make the surface a little craggy, but it isn’t unappealing and it is much better than biting into a singed olive piece.

      “I can’t say I have ever encountered olive ciabatta. It’s not the loaf I’d add anything to. Its plain rustic elegance is its charm. The flavor from a slowly developed biga, the chewy texture, the open crumb. Any addition is going to interfere with those pleasures. But that’s my opinion. Like I said, I think this loaf is fantastic served with olives, or cheese, of nuts and fruit, or just about anything. It wouldn’t be the dough I’d add olives to. That said, a handful of chopped kalamata or such should work fine.”

  36. Followed your detailed recipe and the bread turned out really well. Worked the dough with as little flour as possible. Have to work on my technique of flipping dough off parchment paper on to the stone.

    My husband said this was my best bread ever.

    Thanks for sharing your great recipe.

    1. Lucy, you’re welcome, and thank you for taking the time to let us know how well the ciabatta worked for you. Italian bread dough handles differently than American, but it sounds like you acclimated with ease. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  37. This recipe sounds so good and I can’t wait to try it! However, I have a question first…I don’t use dairy and as I know how much baking is a science, I am wondering if it would be possible to substitute any plant-based milk in this recipe? (If so, would there be a certain one that might work best? That is, ones with higher protein content, as in soy, or something?) Would it change the structure/texture of the bread? I am hoping to hear back as I would really love to make this!! I would welcome input from anyone who might have knowledge of this. Thanks in advance!

    1. Georgiann, so glad you like the sounds of this ciabatta! I’m a little concerned about substituting a plant-based milk for the cow-based milk simply because baking is such a precise science and the substitution is going to have a different protein content as well as a different sugar level and each of those could throw off your resulting loaves in different, and disappointing ways. I’m going to ask around with some bakers I know and I’ll get back to you if I learn anything that could be of use or interest to you.

      1. Georgiann, I have lovely news to share. You can make the ciabatta but rather than use a plant-based milk simply substitute water. Here’s what our professional baker and cooking instructor, Cindi Kruth, explained to me: “Many ciabattas are made without milk. Here, the milk does add a little fat, sugar, and protein. However, the milk in the recipe is less than 5% (I’m speaking of Bakers’ percentages). The amount of protein it adds is only about 3 grams. Most of the protein, and all of the type of protein that contributes to the gluten development, is from the flour. The reader can simply substitute water. The difference in the amount of protein is less than the difference that might be found among various brands of all purpose flour. I would suggest the reader use a fairly strong unbleached all purpose; one containing 11-11.8% protein. I like King Arthur @ 11.7% for this recipe. I also like Hecker’s, which is in that range protein-wise, but I’m not sure it is available everywhere. Although milk helps brown, adds a little protein, a little flavor in this sort of lean yeast dough it’s absence will not cause any structural issues. The resulting bread should still be excellent ciabatta.” Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  38. Why complicate things?

    All you need to make ciabatta is high protein flour (above 12g/100g) water, salt and a bit of yeast and a very hot oven.

    You dont need to get your hand wet.

    Mix 700ml water, pinch of salt, half a teaspoon of yeast. Add 800g of flour. Moisten flour.

    Leave bown inside plastic bag or cover bowl with easyseal or similar.

    Leave 12 hours at room temperature.

    Put on flour covered table and fold gently a few times. You can add flour when sticky. I use a spatula for this

    Cut how you like it and put in preheated oven at max temp for 20 min.

    Have fun.

  39. 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!

    1. 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 here.) 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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!

      1. Thanks! We are on Weight Watchers around here, so it won’t go as fast. I made a bag out of parchment paper, seems to be working fairly well!

  42. 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!

    1. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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

  45. 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?


    1. 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?

  46. 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.

    1. 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).

  47. 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!

  48. 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!

    1. 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.

  49. 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!

  50. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

  51. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  52. 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!

    1. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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,


    1. 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!

    2. 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.

  56. 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.

    1. 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!

  57. 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.

    1. 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.

  58. 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?

    1. Papa Jer, unfortunately the video of Julia Child and Carol Field that we had previously linked to is no longer available on 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.

  59. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

          1. 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.

            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!

            1. 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!

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

    1. 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.”

      1. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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?

    1. 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.

  64. 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

  65. 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.

    1. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. 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?

    1. 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.

  68. 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!

    1. 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!

  69. 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.

    1. 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.

  70. 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.

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

  71. 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!

    1. 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).

      1. 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 :)

        1. 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!

      2. I did that today with the first batch I made. I put the rest of the Biga and added some water and shook it up to dissolve it then I put it in the fridge. I’m not sure how or when to use it but I hate wasting anything!!

  72. 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’!

  73. 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.

    1. 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!

  74. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

  75. 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!

  76. 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.

    1. 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.

        1. 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

            1. 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.

  77. 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?

    1. 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.

  78. 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.

  79. 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.

      1. 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.

  80. 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.

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

      1. 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 .

  82. 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.

    1. Hi Sheri, we understand your frustration. Most of our recipes are from US authors so they are written with a view to the US audience. We are trying to add in conversions, especially with the newer recipes. In the meantime, this chart might help.

  83. 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?

    1. 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!

  84. 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.

    1. 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.

  85. 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?

    1. 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.