Bread & Bakery

Homemade Ciabatta Bread {Step by Step}

Light, porous and airy on the inside, crusty and golden brown on the outside Ciabatta is all about flavor and texture.

Ciabatta, pronounced [tʃaˈbatta] and in Italian means nigh slipper. If you’ve ever eaten ciabatta bread, you can sure guess it got its name due to its form: elongated, somewhat awkward and totally not perfect shape. I’ve even heard it called  Italian Slipper Bread in English-speaking world.

A little bit of curiosity

Ciabatta bread was invented not so long ago, in the Northern Italy, Verona in 1982, in response to the popularity of French baguettes.

It’s interesting that original ciabatta bread has become a registered trademark and more often than not in Italy, it’s rarely called that way.

Without a doubt, ciabatta is THE perfect bread for Italian panini and sandwiches, and since it was brought to the US in 1987 it became REALLY popular in here.

But no matter how good the store bought bread tastes, I’m a strong believer there is nothing that can closely compare to a fresh, fragrant homemade ciabatta bread.

And today, I’ll be laying all cards on the table for a traditional, nonna style artisan ciabatta bread.

We’ll be using biga, a starter for the dough, just the way bread has been always made.

Don’t be fooled by multi-step kneading process, it’s REALLY simple.

The dough requires probably 30-40 minutes total of attendance. The rest of the time is waiting and can be used for multitasking.

And I’m sure you are good at it 🙂

Note that we are not using milk, butter, even olive oil except for greasing!!!

Like all genius things, true ciabatta is SUPER simple and requires only few ingredients.

‘Nough said, let’s get down to the kitchen!

Ingredients:

For biga (starter)

1 cup (230ml) water, lukewarm

2 cups (260g) flour (measured after sifting)

1 tsp dry east

For the dough:

2 cups (460ml) water, lukewarm

5-6 cups (650-750g) flour ( (measured after sifting and depending on the humidity of the place where you live)

1 ½ tsp salt

For greasing:

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step1

Step 1: In a medium size bowl add water and dry yeast. Wait 10 minutes until the yeast is fully dissolved and has a “creamy’ texture.

Mix in the flour. You should get a very loose and sticky dough. It should have consistency thick enough not to come off from the spoon as, say, sour cream, but wet enough so that it’s impossible to knead it by hand.

Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the dough rest at a room temperature for 3-4 hrs or overnight. I don’t recommend leaving biga for more than 24 hrs as the yeast will start to over-mature, loose its power and of course we don’t want that.

Congrats! You have just made a starter (also called biga) for your delicious ciabatta bread made at home.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step2

Step 2: Once biga is rested it will become bubbly and might become even looser when you left it. That’s totally fine.

Now pour lukewarm water in the bowl, going around the edges of the bowl and pouring small portions at a time. This is how we hydrate and aerate biga even more at the same time liberating it from the bowl.

Pour biga and water mix into a bowl of a standing mixer, oil the dough hook and start the actual bread making process.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step3

Step 3: Turn on your mixer on low speed, knead for a 1-2 minutes and start adding flour.

Now this is an important part – make sure your aerate/sift the flour first.

I can’t stress it enough what a difference it makes, you’ll thank me afterwards 🙂

In the last portion of flour (approx 1 cup) add salt and mix it into the flour. Add to the dough. Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. You’ll notice the dough will start to change its texture. Becoming more smooth and starting to climb up the hook.

Increase mixer speed to high and knead for another 10 minutes. If you mixer bowl is large enough you’ll see the dough coming off the bowl sides. That’s a perfect sign the dough is ready and developed strong gluten.

You would be able to tell just from the look that it’s very silky and shiny.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step4

Step 4: Transfer the dough to a big oiled bowl, so that there is enough space for the dough to double or triple.

Cover with plastic wrap and let is sit at a room temperature for about 40-50 minutes.

The next very important thing to keep in mind is the way you work the dough once it starts to mature.

After the first 40-50 minutes the dough will double in size.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step5

Step 5: What you do is deep a silicon spatula in a water and start folding the dough onto itself, from the outside to the center of the bowl. You should be able to make 6-10 folds.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step6

Do it gently, so that the dough becomes well aerated and not deflated.

Using both of your hands, rise the dough from the bowl letting it fold, turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold in the same manner again. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 40-50 minutes.

Ciabatta Bread First Rise vs Second Rise

This time you’ll notice more bubble forming in the dough and it may not double but even triple in size. See the picture above (first rise on the left, second rise on the right).

Repeat this last folding process once again and let the dough rest for the last 40-50 minutes.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step7

Step 6: Once it’s perfectly bubbly and screams to get out of the bowl, GENEROUSLY sprinkle the work surface with the flour. You’ll regret if you wouldn’t. The dough is veery sticky, but that’s the secret for gorgeous light and airy ciabatta bread.

Flip the bowl upside down and let the dough “slide” off of the bowl by itself.

Sprinkle your scrapers and top of the dough with flour again.

Constantly assisting with the scrapers give it a rectangular shape. Cut into elongated loafs or individual rolls. You can make the rolls either square or triangle and they are HEAVEN for panini.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step8

Step 7: Generously sprinkle a linen towel with flour and using large dough scrapers transfer the bread loaves on it. Separate each loaf with a towel fold (see the picture) or use individual towel for each roll.

Now it’s time to turn on the oven to 450F while ciabatta bread rests on the towel.

If you are wondering what did we place ciabatta on the towel in the first place? The answer is simple, that’s how the bread loaf aerates even more before baking plus a linen towel gives the baked bread those incredible wrinkles that look fantastic.

Ciabatta Bread Recipe - Step9

Step 8: After 10-15 minutes flip ciabatta loaves over on parchment paper sprinkled with semolina or corn flour (to prevent bread from sticking).

Step 9: Just before you put the bread into the oven, spray the oven generously with cold water to create as much steam as you can. Steam really helps ciabatta bread to cook perfectly both on the inside and outside.

Bake for 20-25 minutes without EVER opening the oven. After the first 10 minutes reduce temperature to 400F.

When it’s golden brown, or may seem even slightly burned that is it.

Your ciabatta just reached its perfection and all you have left is let it cool for 15-20 on the wire rack.

Homemade Ciabatta Bread {Step by Step}

Slice it into pieces and spread some butter or eat it whole or make arugula, prosciutto crudo and mozzarella panino 😋

Light and Airy Italian Ciabatta Bread
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Resting time
4 hrs
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins
 

Light, porous and airy on the inside, crusty and golden brown on the outside ciabatta bread is all about flavor and texture.

Course: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 3 loaves
Ingredients
Fo biga (starter)
For the dough
  • 2 cups water lukewarm
  • 5-6 cups (650-750g) bread flour (measured after sifting)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
For greasing
Instructions
  1. In a medium size bowl add water and dry yeast. Wait 10 minutes until the yeast is fully dissolved and has a “creamy’ texture.

  2. Mix in the flour. You should get a very loose and sticky dough.

    It should have consistency thick enough not to come off from the spoon as, say, sour cream or greek yogurt, but wet enough so that it’s impossible to knead it by hand.

  3. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the dough rest at a room temperature for 3-4 hrs or overnight.
    I just don’t recommend leaving biga for more than 24 hrs as the yeast will start to over-mature and loose its power.

  4. Once biga is rested it will become bubbly and might become even looser when you left it.

    Now pour lukewarm water in the bowl, going around the edges of the bowl and pouring small portions at a time.
    This is how we hydrate and aerate biga even more at the same time liberating it from the bowl.

  5. Pour biga and wate mix into a bowl of a standing mixer, oil the dough hook.
    Turn on your mixer on low speed, knead for a 1-2 minutes and start adding flour.

  6. In the last portion of flour (approx 1cup) add salt and mix it into the flour. Add to the dough.
    Knead on medium speed for 10 minutes. You’ll notice the dough starting changing its texture. Becoming more smooth and starting to climb up the hook. Increase mixer speed to high and knead for another 10 minutes.
    If you mixer bowl is large enough you’ll see the dough coming off the bowl sides. That’s a perfect sign the dough is ready and has developed strong gluten.
    You would be able to tell just from the look that it’s very silky and shiny.

  7. Transfer the dough to a big oiled bowl, so that there is enough space for the bread to double or triple.

    Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at a room temperature for about 40-50 minutes.

  8. After the first 40-50 minutes the dough will double in size.
    Deep a silicon spatula in a water and start folding the dough onto itself, from the outside to the center of the bowl. You should be able to make 6-10 folds.

  9. Do it gently, so that the dough becomes well aerated and not deflated.
    Now using both hands, rise the dough from the bowl letting it fold, turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold in the same manner again. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 40-50 minutes.

  10. Repeat this last folding process once again and let the dough rest for the last 40-50 minutes.
  11. Once it’s perfectly bubbly and screams to get out of the bowl, GENEROUSLY sprinkle the working surface with the flour. You’ll regret if you wouldn’t. The dough is veery sticky, but that’s the secret for gorgeous light and airy ciabatta bread.

  12. Flip the bowl upside down and let the dough “slide” off of the bowl by itself.
  13. Sprinkle your scrapers and top of the dough with flour again.
    Constantly assisting with the scrapers give it a rectangular shape. Cut into elongated loaves or individual rolls. You can make the rolls either square or triangle and they are HEAVEN for panini.

  14. Generously sprinkle linen cloth with flour and using large dough scrapers transfer the bread loaves onto it.
    Separate each loaf with a towel fold (see the pictures) or use individual towel for each of the loaves.

  15. Turn on the oven to 450F while ciabatta bread rests on the towel.

  16. After 10-15 minutes flip ciabatta loaves over on parchment paper sprinkled with semolina or corn flour (to prevent bread from sticking).

  17. Just before you put the bread into the oven, spray the oven generously with cold water to create as much steam as you can.
    Steam really helps ciabatta bread to cook perfectly both on the inside and outside.
  18. Bake ciabatta for 20-25 minutes without EVER opening the oven. After 10 minutes in the oven reduce the heat to 400F.
    When it’s golden brown, or may seem even slightly burned that is it.
    Your ciabatta bread has just reached its perfection and all you have left is let it cool for 15-20 on the wire rack.

Recipe Notes

For this recipe measure flour AFTER sifting.

Homemade Ciabatta Bread {Step by Step}
Slice ciabatta it into pieces and spread on some butter or extra virgin olive oil, make panino or scarpetta. There is more than just one way to enjoy this bread.

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9 Comments

    1. Oh you’re most welcome Jenni! I hope with my tips & tricks you too can make a fragrant, crusty and porous loaf like this ❤

  1. Just made the starter and I have a fairly firm ball of dough that I had to knead by hand in order to incorporate all the flour. Are the proportions by any chance 1c water to 1c flour?

      1. Ciao Asya, the proportion is correct. The end results depends a lot on the flour you use. If it feels that biga has enough flour before you incorporate the requested quantity, adjust and don’t add more. Pictures and explanation is a great reference of the end result your should have at each step of the process. I also suggest you measure already sieved flour to be more precise. Let me know how it goes and if you have any more questions, ask away!

          1. Anytime! Glad you asked for clarification and have it sorted now 🙂 I will also add a note on the above in the recipe.

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