The “and bread” bit has been sadly missing from my blog recently – posting less frequently, plus Spring busyess and the allotment have somehow meant I never quite get around to it. But I am still avidly baking – and eating – bread, so thought it was high time for another bread post.

We have our normal every day bread – typically wholemeal 5-seeded and crusty white, but we also have what I call “weekend bread”, stuff that I don’t keep going all the time but which we all enjoy. I like to make something “extra” for weekend lunches, and Ciabatta is a household favourite. It is, I have to be honest, a bit of a pain – and very messy – to make, but it is so delicious, it is worth the hassle. I just wish it didn’t disappear so quickly.

So, if you like ciabatta – the real stuff, not the part-baked plastic version you get in the local corner shop – and are up for a bit of a kitchen adventure, this is for you. I use the recipe from Dan Steven’s ‘Bread’ book:

750g Strong white bread flour

250g fine semolina plus (lots!) extra for dusting

10g dried yeast

25g fine sea salt

800ml warm water

A generous Tbsp olive oil plus extra for drizzling

Prepare yourself, this is messy and a little involved, but well worthwhile. And although you are supposed to use fine semolina, I often can’t get it and course works just as well.

  1. Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the water and mix to form a very wet dough, and add the olive oil. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, this might be a good time to use it – I just use my hand, with fingers splayed. Mix until the dough is smooth, which takes about 5 minutes. This isn’t a dough you knead in a conventional manner!
  2. Put the bowl with the dough in a clean bin liner.
  3. Every half hour for three hours do the following:
    • Uncover the bowl and slug some olive oil in.
    • Massage the oil over and under the dough.
    • Do your best to fold the dough over in half, then in three the other way. The first couple of times this won’t really work, but after a while it gets easier, the dough becomes silkier and bouncy, and you start to see the large air bubbles or blisters so characteristic of good ciabatta.
  4. Sloppy Dough

  5. By now the dough will have a lot more structure to it. Now the really messy bit. Tip the dough out onto a surface liberally dusted with semolina, and put a pile of semolina to one side where you can grab handfuls easily. Have a couple of boards liberally sprinkled with more semolina to hand.
  6. Divide the dough into 6 equal sized pieces – easy to say, tricky to do. I use a sharp knife and sort of chop and separate.
  7. Take each piece, sprinkling the work surface with enough semolina to prevent it sticking, and flatten it out. Fold the edges in to make a rough rectangle, and then roll up lengthways, pressing on the seam to seal it. Pick it up and place it on a semolina-sprinkled board, stretching out slightly as you do so. Sprinkle with more semolina, which by this point has got everywhere. Repeat until you have 6 roughly equal long thin loaves. As you can see, I’m not terribly good at making the pieces equal in size…
  8. Shaped Ciabatta

  9. Cover the shaped loaves with a bin liner and leave to double in size. I find this tends to happen quite quickly, probably within an hour.
  10. Put the oven on its highest setting and put a couple of baking trays in to heat up. I never have room for a steam tray as well, so don’t bother – not sure you are meant to anway…
  11. Once the oven is up to temperature, remove the hot trays and one at a time (as if you would do it any other way – sorry) lift each shaped loaf and gently place it on a tray, stretching it again slightly lengthwise as you do.
  12. Bake at the highest temperature for 10 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200C/390F and bake for a further 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool, drizzling with a little olive oil. Heave a sigh of relief and do some tidying up, the kitchen will now look as if there has been a semolina fight in it…

That’s it! Lovely, crusty ciabatta with huge blisters which will be promptly devoured in the blink of an eye. Good luck hanging on to enough to try panino (posh toasted sandwich) – I’ve still not managed to get that far. I sometimes shape at least some of the dough into large rolls, they make fabulous wrappings for home made burgers.

Finished Ciabatta

22 thoughts on “Bread of the Day: Ciabatta

  1. That looks fabulous Janet; stange as it may seem we don’t get good ciabatta in Lazio – bread like everything else in Italy is regional. I miss it, even the plasstic kind which was actually quite good from M&S but rather pricey. This will be great in my wood burning oven, although of course I can’t do anything technical like turning down the temperature after 10 minutes! I’ll let you know how I get on. By the way why don’t you put the bread to rise on the trays that are going in the oven, rather than transferring them? Recently I made some really delicous bread (with a mix) that was wholemeal flour, spelt and Kumut (I’m told it is a grain from Syria) and linen seed – it was really tastey and chewy, I put it to rise on my propagating tray that just happened to be on the windowsill, a great success, I can’t think of that before

    1. Hello Christina, easy to forget how regional food is in Italy, you are right, we tend to assume that everyone eats Ciabatta and pizza! Good luck with making your own – look froward to hearing how it turns out. I think the idea behind transferring the loaves to pre-heated trays is that they get a crispier base from the heat. The ideal is a baking stone in the oven and transfer via ones of those wooden paddle things used in pizza ovens. Your bread mix sounds lovely, I may have to try something along those line myself!

  2. Hi Janet,

    Why thank you, don’t mind if I do steal them off you!

    It’s too warm to eat, I haven’t even had any breakfast yet and your Ciabatta would go down a treat with some tomatoes, feta, spinach, various seeds/nuts and balsamic vinegar.

    1. So it was YOU! Can’t wait until my little tomato plants are not so little and proving me with tomatoes to go with the ciabatta and all the rest, you have just made me very hungry…

  3. Looks lovely, Rach is the bread maker in our house – I’m the veg grower I suppose – I’ll pass this one on!

  4. One of my favorites…my mouth is watering looking at it…I can just about smell that intoxicating scent of fresh bread baking…oh my!!

    1. Its hard to beat a lunch of ciabatta with olives, feta, basil, tomato…

  5. Looks great! I’ve never made ciabatta, and considering the restricted amount of work surfaces available in my minuscule kitchen I guess I won’t be doing it any day soon, but you’ve given me half a mind to throw together some crunchy baguettes, which gives the same structured crumb and crust but with less faffing about with semolina and olive oil and folding and whatnot.

    1. Very sensible – the faff is worth it, but not every day, which is why we mostly eat wholemeal or crusty white!

      1. Doing proper baguettes is – for me – not for everyday eating, though; I live by myself, so I rarely make much of an effort with food on week days and prepping a loaf 36 hours before eating it is just more than I get around to unless I have dinner guests. (I like to leave a baguette dough to raise in the fridge for at least 24 hours, preferably longer… It’s not faffarious, but it certainly is a lengthy process!)

        Also, when I lived in the UK I could never get the hang of dried yeast… It seems so much more unpredictable than fresh yeast, which is readily available in Denmark in even the small 24-hour shops that mainly trade in hotdogs, cigarettes and beer/soft drinks.

        1. I love the idea of a country that sells live yeast at every corner shop, very civilised. I’ve never tried proving dough in the fridge, though I have read about it. I must experiment some time to see what the difference is. I do sometimes use the sponge method – mix half the flour, all the yeast and all the liquid and leave over night, then add in the rest of the flour and the salt the following morning and proceed as normal. Makes a lighter crumb.

  6. OK, now I’m starving…

    I bake my own bread (I made the mistake of reading the ingredients on a bought loaf with too much attention, and it put me right off), and often do sourdough, but I’ve never had a bash at ciabatta. You make it look easier than a lot of the books, so I must have a go!

    1. Sorry ;-)

      I know what you mean about scaring yourself with the ingredients on bread packets. Ciabatta isn’t hard at all, just messy! Do have a go – and let me know what happens, but blame me for the way the semolina gets everywhere…

  7. OK, I’m moving in……………semolina fight here we come!

    Looked great – a fine thing to make with no one home and then say, ciabatta? no never made any…………….! (tidy up well…….)

    1. I’d say “bring it on” but I am scared you would win!

      The book says to take it out of the oven, drizzle with a little olive oil, and leave to cool somewhere everyone can admire it. I think this risks the little blighters “admiring” it by eating great chunks of it myself…

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