Ciabatta

A few weeks ago, when someone posted a picture of a Ciabatta loaf on one of the social media forums I follow, I was very upset to see a tall, industrial looking loaf that evoked no recall of the Ciabattas as I had seen earlier. What made it worse was the fact that this was a loaf made by the bakery of a popular 5-star hotel in the South. I took it up as a challenge to make the real Ciabatta. But here I am, with a few changes here and there to suit the weather and my baking conditions albeit with a very very satisfying little loaf of bread.

From what I had read and eaten thus far, a Ciabatta is a flat, slipper-shaped Italian bread made using just flour, water, yeast, and salt. Like the Brun that we get here in Mumbai, the crust is supposed to be chewy and the interior should expose large airy holes and should be sponge-soft. It contains no fat at all, so for those of you who’re bothered by things like that, here you go! A classic Ciabatta needs loads of resting–up to 24 hours, even. But in the hot and humid city I live in, a couple of hours and a bit of sugar did the trick.

I’m going to make myself a large bowl of chunky Minestrone to go with it for dinner–and hope that it pours down while I eat so I can get all warm and cozy with my bowl of soup and perfect Ciabatta.

My Ciabatta tips:

  • Rest the dough for  4 hours if you live in a hot place like Mumbai; more if it is cooler. I kept my dough in a cold oven with just the light on. This helped me to get a nice, slow rise.
  • Don’t worry about the consistency of the batter–it will be quite loose, almost like a batter. If it is too runny, add a little bit of flour but keep it as loose and sticky as possible.
  • Go ahead and do this in a mixer if you like, but with a bowl and spoon, it is minimally messy.
  • Cool the Ciabatta completely before slicing.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups lukewarm (not hot) water
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp. fresh yeast (or 3 tsp. dried yeast)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar

Method:

  1. In 1 cup of lukewarm water, add sugar and yeast and leave in a warm spot until the yeast froths.
  2. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and the remaining cup of lukewarm water to the flour and mix with a wooden spatula or spoon until combined and no lumps are formed.
  4. At this stage, the dough will look more like a batter, but that is what we want; so don’t worry. Continue to exert muscle power and beat with all your anger for at least 5-10 minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rest in a warm spot for about 4 hours.
  6. Grease and dust a baking tray with flour.
  7. Beat the dough once again for a minute or two and tip onto the floured tray into two longish, slipper-like shapes. Do one at a time if your oven is small; the batter is runny so it runs the risk of mingling into one loaf.
  8. Leave to rest in a warm spot for about 30 minutes.
  9. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees centigrade until evenly colored. When tapped, the loaf should sound hollow and feel light.
  10. Cool completely and slice before serving.

Comments (9)

  1. chinmayie @ love food eat August 14, 2012 at 5:32 am

    I baked a ciabatta sometime back and loved it! It’s such a lovely bread… simply dip it in some EVO or fresh homemade tomato sauce and you’ll be in heaven!

  2. Nandita August 14, 2012 at 5:40 am

    Indeed gorgeous and no better accompaniment than a chunky soup. I’d have thought you’ll get more ciabattas from 5 C of flour. Am going to try this soon as im on a baking spree. Bangalore weather will call for overnight proving, I suppose.

  3. Priti August 14, 2012 at 6:48 am

    This is a perfect Ciabatta and I am so tempted to take a bite! I feel so proud of you when you show us the correct version of any misinterpreted preparation…like any self respecting baker who’s worth her yeast (no pun intended) you can’t resist creating ‘how it is meant to be’ just to bring peace to your heart. I love you for knowing your art so well and the never ending spirit of doing the right thing. You are my most favorite baker! Who cares for bakeries with 5 stars, you are a home baker worth the whole nights sky. 🙂 Hugs!

  4. nags August 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    oh saee, i am such a fan of yours. really! this has been on my to-bake for ages, along with focaccia!

  5. Sarvani @ baker in disguise August 14, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    oh wow.. check out all those air bubbles..bellissima!!!

  6. Archana August 16, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Wow this is beautiful.

  7. Dipti August 17, 2012 at 10:10 am

    The Ciabatta looks absolutely Gorgeous!! Can’t wait to try it myself…however , i have a question , can you please tell me which yeast did you use? The last time i had tried making a pizza at home , i had used this packaged Active Dry Yeast (Blue Bird) and it had such a strong smelll to it which eventually was very prominent in the taste of Pizza. That was the first time i was dealing with yeast , so i am not even sure if it is supposed to smell that way!..Thanks in advance!

  8. Dedee August 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    The 5 cups of flour did not create a “batter” as recipe explained. The dough was soft and came together immediately after adding the 2nd cup of water. Also. since there was no way I could “beat” the dough for 5 minutes because it was already a dough, I just worked it a little with my hands. Before baking I placed a pizza stone in a 425 oven for 45 min. then sprinkled some corn meal on it, stretched out the dough and dimpled it; I also brushed the top with olive oil and spread some chopped fresh basil leaves on top. Baked it for 18 min. It was delicious with soft garlic butter. I’ll make this again.

    • admin August 26, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Dedee, perhaps you’re using a high gluten flour? Next time, try adding a little extra water so you get a very wet and sticky dough–rest it for a few hours, and you should have an even better loaf!

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