Ciabatta Bread
Makes 4 loaves
This wonderful Italian bread is named after its ‘slipper’ shape. This recipe is the result of many trials.
There, of course, you don’t need to bake it: you can get it at the market. The trick to this bread is to let it triple in size during the first rise.


1 tsp. dry yeast
250ml/1 cup warm water
350g/1˝ cup sifted flour
1˝ tsp. dry yeast
5 tbs. warm milk
1 tbs. olive oil
250ml/1 cup warm water
600g/3 cups flour
2-3 tsp. salt
(2-3 tbs. warm water additional if needed)
1. Sponge: In a mixer bowl, add the yeast to the water, allow to stand for 3-4 minutes, stirring gently. Sift the flour and add to the yeast. Combine ingredients well, cover and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours.
2. Dough: Add the yeast to the milk, stir and let it stand 3-4 minutes to be sure the yeast is working.
3. Add the yeast mixture, water and oil to the sponge and mix with a dough hook.
4. Add 2 cups of flour and the salt and knead for 2 minutes at low speed, 3 minutes at middle speed, adding the remaining flour slowly, or more water, until the dough begins to pull from the sides of the bowl.
The dough should be quite soft; firm enough to handle without sticking to the hands, but still very soft. Add the last of the flour slowly. Or, add water if necessary.
5. Cover or place in a large, oiled bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until tripled in size and bubbly.
6. Place the dough on floured baking paper or other surface and divide into 4 pieces, but do not punch down. Form in rectangles about 10” x 4”/25 x 10 cm in size and press down lightly with the fingers. Cover the dough and let rise for 90 minutes. The dough will rise only slightly.
The flour on the surface where the bread makes its final rise is what remains on the top of the loaf after baking. With practice you can adjust the amount to get a pleasing appearance. You can also form them into about 6 to 8 rolls.
Preheat oven to 200°C/400° F.
7. Heat two baking sheets in the oven for about 15 minutes. Pick up the loaves, turn them over and lay them upside down on the sheets, being careful not to press out the air. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until bread just begins to turn golden. During the first 10 minutes, paint or spray the bread with water 3 times.


Prep:24 hrs plus 4 1/2 hrs, Cook: 40 and worth it!
Preparation - Challenging
Makes 2 medium-sized loaves.

This is perfect dough for those who like their crusts crisp and their bread chewy and full of flavor. Makes killer pizza, arabic bread, pita, ciabatta and focaccia.

Biga (the morning of the day before baking)

1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1 1/3 cups (200 grams) unbleached bread flour
2/3 cup (100 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 TBS (15 grams) whole-wheat flour, preferably coarsely ground
2 TBS (15 grams) whole-grain rye flour, preferably coarsely ground
3/4 cup (185 grams) water (see method for temperature)
Large mixing bowl, baking stones or tiles, parchment paper

SPRINKLE the yeast into warm water, stir and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

MIX the bread flour, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour and rye flour in a bowl. Stir yeasted water again, then measure one-half teaspoon into the flour mixture. (Throw the rest away; the point of this step is not to proof the yeast but to measure 1/384 teaspoon yeast.)

ADD the three-fourths cup water, using ice water in the summer and warm water in the winter. Thoroughly mix the biga; it will be stiff, but it has a very long fermentation and will soften considerably. Knead in a tablespoon or two of water if you absolutely must.

COVER tightly with plastic wrap and let the biga ferment for 24 hours in a cool spot in the summer or a warm one in the winter. Don't be alarmed if it does nothing for at least 10 hours; this is correct. The biga is ready when it doubles or triples in volume and smells aromatic.

Bread (baking day)

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons (325 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional 1/3 cup for flouring dough, board and towels
1 tsp (3 grams) instant yeast
2 3/4 tsp (13 grams) salt
1 1/2 cups (342 grams) lukewarm water (about 90 degrees)
Fermented biga
COMBINE the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer or bread machine.

STIR in the water and biga by hand to form a rough dough.

USING a paddle attachment, beat the dough on medium speed until it is fairly smooth, about 5 minutes. If the dough is very firm, add water. This should be a very soft dough. If your dough is not really gloppy, add extra water until the dough is soft enough to spread (your flour might be old or absorbing more water for a variety of reasons).

SCRAPE the dough into a bowl at least three times its size and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment until light and doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, turning the dough every 20 minutes for a total of four times. To turn the dough, sprinkle the top of the dough (while still in the bowl) and the work surface with flour; scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the floured work surface. Sprinkle the dough with flour again, then gently spread the dough out, trying not to deflate the bubbles. Fold it up into a tight bundle by folding the left side into the center, followed by the top, the right side and the bottom. Turn the dough over so that the smooth side is up, and fold it in half again, only if it still feels loose. Place it, smooth side up, into the bowl and cover tightly.

AFTER the fourth turn, at 80 minutes, leave the dough undisturbed for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until well expanded and doubled.

THOROUGHLY flour a baker's couche or two tea towels. Flour the top of the dough and the work surface, then turn the dough out. With a dough scraper, cut the dough in half. Gently stretch the pieces out (approximately 12 by 8 inches) and fold them loosely into thirds, like a business letter, arranging the folds so the last seam is slightly off center. Try to handle the dough as little as possible to avoid deflating it.

PLACE the dough seam side down on the floured cloth and sprinkle more flour over the top. Cover the loaves with folds of the couche or more tea towels. Let them proof until they are very soft and well expanded and barely spring back when gently pressed, about 45 minutes.

IMMEDIATELY after shaping the dough, arrange a rack on the oven's second-to-top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all racks above the one being used. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

WHEN the dough is ready to bake, place a sheet of parchment paper on a peel. Gently flip the loaves onto it so they are seam side up and stretch them very slightly to make them vaguely rectangular. Don't be afraid to handle the dough; the breads will recover in the oven as long as you are gentle.

DIMPLE the dough all over with your fingertips, pressing down to the paper without breaking through the dough. Slide the breads on the parchment paper onto the baking stone. Bake the breads until very dark brown all around, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating them halfway during baking. Let cool on a rack before slicing. Bread is best eaten the same day.

NOTE: Freezes well. .