I’ve been watching past seasons of the Great British Baking Show and was interested in Paul’s Ciabatta challenge. He gloats about how hard it is, so I had to try my hand at it. Afterwards, I was impressed at how delicious the bread was but I’m not sure I have the patience to make it regularly.
When going online to see some other recipes, most everyone used a sponge or biga as a starter. I started around 7:30pm to make the dough and I left it overnight for the yeast to go through a few generations and give lots of flavor to the final loaf. It needs a minimum of 12 hours but no more than 24 on the counter. If you can’t get to it in 24 hours, place it in the fridge for up to 3 days, being sure to bring it back to room temperature before starting the next step.
Shaping it can be messy because the dough is so wet and sticky. The trick is to proof it in something that will give in the shape you basically want the loaves to be. I used a 2 quart plastic container I normally fill with cookies.
For a crunchy crust, you need to spray the loaf with water after you’ve placed it in the oven and then again in the first five minutes.
With this recipe, at the end of about 16 hours, you end up with four sandwich loaves of delicious bread.
Bread Machine Ciabatta
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup water
½ cup water
¼ cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
flour or cornmeal for dusting
In a stand mixer, add all the ingredients for the sponge. Mix on low for five minutes. Cover and let stand on the counter for 12-24 hours.
After at least 12 hours, scrape the foamy sponge into your bread machine. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Start the dough cycle. After about 10 minutes, check the dough. If it looks like pancake batter, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it comes together and looks sticky. If it looks dry and shaggy, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it looks sticky. Let the machine continue until the kneading cycle stops.
Liberally oil a rectangle plastic container (don’t forget to oil the lid). With your super greasy hands, remove the dough from the bread machine and place it in the container. Turn it so all sides are coated with the oil. Drizzle some oil around the sides of the container so it stays oiled as it rises. Close the lid and proof for at least 2 hours at room temperature or until tripled in size. If you’re using a 2 quart container the risen dough will fill it.
When fully proofed, remove dough by flipping the container upside down onto a very well floured surface. The dough should be in the same general shape of the container it was proofed in. Don’t punch down the dough.
Sprinkle dough with flour and/or corn meal. Cut dough in half down the length with a greased knife and then cut each of those in half. With floured hands, carefully transfer the loaves to a parchment lined baking sheet which has been sprinkled with flour and/or cornmeal. Carefully straighten and clean up the shape with your hands.
Let the loaves rest for 45 minutes. At the end of that time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven while it preheats.
Spray loaves lightly with water before sliding them off the baking sheet by the parchment paper and onto the baking stone. If you don’t have a baking stone, just put the baking sheet into the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Spray loaves again 5 minutes into the baking time. The loaves are done when they are golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.