Ciabatta is a soft Italian bread, often used to make panini sandwiches. We base our version on a traditional sourdough starter, giving the Ciabatta bread a tangy flavor.
A few years ago, on an old website, I posted a new sourdough recipe every week. We all had a lot of (delicious!) fun, baking bread throughout the year, and this Ciabatta bread was a favorite. I still bake sourdough bread several times a year. It’s the perfect accompaniment to soup – even when the recipe, or the cook, go wrong! Enjoy this timeless recipe.
Why Make Sourdough Bread?
I make bread in part because I cannot usually get good bread locally. I figure any bread made at home has to be better than commercially made bread, right? It’s something I kept in mind when eating this week’s sourdough – ciabatta with olive oil. While it looked good, and it tasted good, it really could have been better. And should have been better. I’ve been making bread for decades now, so I was a little disappointed with this effort. But I know what I did wrong – so no one else has to make my mistakes.
Working with Sourdough Ciabatta Dough
Some people do everything perfectly all the time, and others, like me, apparently prefer the if at first you don’t succeed approach. WARNING: Ciabatta is a slack dough that really can’t be kneaded by hand. You can try, but it will be a real lesson in frustration! This is one dough that needs a stand mixer.
Ciabatta is a slack dough, but my dough was really too slack. I could make this same recipe again tomorrow using the exact same ingredients and get a different result. Lots of things affect this; brand of flour, how precise my measurements were, even the weather. Keep the dough slack, but feel free to add a little extra flour if your dough is basically unworkable – like mine was.
Getting Started with Sourdough
Start making your own sourdough today. Follow these easy directions!
- 1 1/2 cups ripe sourdough starter
- 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Add all ingredients to stand mixer bowl and mix on lowest power until well combined. Increase speed to medium-high and knead dough for about 15 minutes.
- You may have to stop the mixer a couple of times to scrape down the dough hook and the sides of the bowl. The dough should be very stretchy, but add more flour if the dough is unmanageable.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 3-4 hours.
- Cover a baking sheet liberally with flour and turn the dough onto the sheet. As the photo above shows it looks like a blob (although yours will not look quite like this – see my What I Did Wrong below).
- Divide into two loaves. Stretch one piece and place on parchment paper. Repeat with the other half. Sprinkle with flour, cover and let rise about 40 minutes.
- Place a baking stone on the middle rack in the oven and preheat to 475 degrees.
- Uncover the loaves, dimple dough with your fingertips, and slide onto the stone. Bake until the loaves are browned and internal temperature reaches 205 degrees, about 30 minutes.
What I Did Wrong
My kitchen is teeny-tiny with not much counter space. While the loaves were rising, I was also making homemade caponata. Caponata has lots of ingredients that involve chopping, adding at different times, etc. I found myself constantly moving the bread out of the way. In effect, I really didn’t give it the opportunity to rise enough, so it was a little flat. The moral of that story? Pay attention and do one thing at a time!
As I noted above, the ciabatta tasted good nonetheless. Almost all of it was used to make paninis using the caponata. Although not the best loaf of Ciabatta I have ever made, it was still better than store-bought bread!