Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta is an Italian bread and according to many Internet sites, it can be made at home, but only experienced bakers should attempt it with the aid of a good bread book. Tonight I proved that statement partially wrong. I am not an experienced baker, but I made 2 loaves of this crusty bread with the aid of my new favorite cookbook, Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett.

I had my doubts, could I really make ciabatta with less effort than it takes to get in the car and drive to Panera for a loaf? Well, once again, Nancy has made me a believer. This was so simple. Last night I mixed the dough, refrigerated it for 3 hours and let it sit on the counter overnight. This morning, I stirred the dough and let it rest. Shaping the dough was easy and the second rise took about 2 hours. The loaves are baked at a high temperature over a pan of water. Forty minutes later, the loaves were golden brown. After 10 minutes of cooling, Kenny and I had dinner, ciabatta with some of the olive oil we purchased in Cortona and parmesan. What a meal!

adapted from Kneadlessly Simple

3 cups (15 ounces) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoons Fleishmann's RapidRise yeast
1 1/2 cups ice water
1 tablespoon olive oil and more for coating the dough

In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients. Add the water and stir to combine. Add the olive oil and stir. Coat the top lightly with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 10 hours. Remove from the frig and let rise at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours.

Spray 2 9x12-inch sheets of parchment paper with canola oil and dust with 1/4 cup flour. Line a flat baking sheet (or the back of a rimmed sheet) with parchment paper and dust with flour.
Using a oiled spatula, loosen the dough gently from the bowl. With a oiled knife, cut the dough in half, being careful not to deflate the dough. Place each portion on the sheets of parchment paper and dust with flour. With well-oiled fingertips, gently shape the dough into a 9x6-inch rectangle. Push in the sides of the middle for a "slipper" shape. With a floured, wide spatula, move the loaves to the parchment covered baking sheets, inverting them. Reshape and press deep indentations into the dough with flour-dusted fingertips. Leave the excess flour on the loaves for a rustic look. Let rise 2 hours or until doubled.

Place a shallow pan in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F. Pour one cup of ice water in the pan and bake the loaves on the lowest rack for 30 - 35 minutes. The loaves should be golden brown and the internal temperature is 208 to 210 degrees. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Now for some tips.
  • For ease and accuracy, weigh the flour. This is much easier and cuts down on the cleanup of scattered flour and measuring cups.
  • For the ice water, add ice cubes to the water and stir for 30 seconds.
  • After 20 minutes of baking, insert a digital thermometer into the center of a loaf. I have one that has a probe for the food and the monitor sits outside the oven.
  • Buy a copy of Kneadlessly Simple! It is the textbook for delicious bread with little effort and great results.


  1. very good looking ciabatta!! You do Tuscany proud!

  2. Hey, I'm delighted to hear that you like my book. And yes, your breads look very tasty indeed. I'm going to be posting snapshots of some the breads that aren't photographed in the book soon, so drop by my blog to check them out.

    Happy Baking!

    Nancy Baggett

  3. Nancy, I don't like your book, I LOVE it! I made focaccia tonight and it was wonderful. You have a great book that has all the information needed for a beginner to bake delicious bread with no effort. Thanks for all your hard work on writing the book. I will be a frequent visitor to your blog!

  4. I love your site! Maybe I can even try a recipe or two...I'll call the fire department and make sure it is ok for me to cook again! LOL!

  5. Kathy, you are so talented you could probably cook, sew and write about it at the same time!

  6. Thanks, Patty. I do love that Tuscan bread!

  7. Great concept indeed!! As a junior baker-in-waiting, I do have a couple of questions for you more experienced folks:
    My first batch was delicious and got the wonderful bubble effect, but was a bit flatter than I would like. Would an extra bit of flour from the get-go firm up the dough a bit to make it easier to shape?
    Secondly, why the two parchment paper steps? Any reason why I couldn't just lay down some flour and do it in one step?
    Thanks kindly, gret site!!
    Budding Baker Bill

  8. A wonderful site indeed!
    A couple of questions from a beginner:
    My first batch was excellent, but I found the dough a bit gloppy and hard to form. Would adding some flour at the beginning help?
    Why do the two step parchment thing? Wouldn't it work to just flour the parchment and do it in one step?
    Thanks Kindly

  9. Maureen,you can add a little more flour. I have learned through trial and error that the kind of flour can make a big difference. I have been using King Arthur's unbleached all-purpose flour and Pillsbury bread flour. Both work well. As for the two parchment paper step, I would do it in one step next time. Be sure and check out Nancy's blog at She has a great website also. Enjoy your baking!

  10. How fantastic! Your ciabatta looks completely delicious! The book sounds wonderful as well, so thanks for the recommendation. Must get in to the kitchen!

  11. I made this ciabatta over the weekend and it turned out really good - thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I have never baked this type of bread before (I've always stuck to quick breads & pizza dough) and I told my dh that if it turned out I was going to the bookstore & find this book! I'm really looking forward to experimenting with different types of breads.

    BTW - I absolutely love the Quail Hollow blog, I've had a great time reading your posts & your pictures are wonderful!

    Kerri :)

  12. Kathleen, I hope you try the ciabatta, it is wonderful!

    Kerri H, I am so glad you were successful with this recipe. Buy the book! You will not be disappointed.