There are many kinds of Italian breads, but the one which is really popular in Italy, American countries and the entire Europe is the ciabatta bread. Ciabatta is traditional Italian bread which is made from wheat flour.
It can be prepared in many different ways and can also differ in texture depending upon the area where it is made. But traditional ciabatta bread can be usually identified by its porous texture and a dark brown crispy crust.
You may find different types of textures of ciabatta bread in different regions of Italy. For instance, ciabatta bread from the Tuscany, Marche and Umbria region has a dense body with a firm crust; while, ciabatta bread from the Lake Como region has a soft and porous texture with a crispy crust.
But other than the variation in the type of crust and texture, you may also find other added ingredients like milk or marjoram in certain parts of Italy. Ciabatta bread is often used to make Panini sandwiches and also in other Italian recipes.
Difficulty Level: Medium
Yields Per Recipe: 2 loaves
Preparation Time Required: 12-14 hours
Baking Time Required: 20-30 minutes
1 standing electric mixer
1 hook attachment
1 paddle attachment
1 rubber spatula
1 large bowl
1 baking tray
1 wire whisk
1 dough cutter
4 cups of bread flour
2 cups + 4 teaspoons of water
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
½ tablespoon of active dry yeast
For The Biga
½ teaspoon of active dry yeast
1 cups of all-purpose flour
½ cup of water
Method Of Preparation
1. To start the preparation, you will first have to prepare the biga. For that, put the required amounts of yeast for the biga in a bowl and pour ½ cup of water over that. Stir the mixture with a wire whisk until you get a frothy mixture and then pour it into the bowl of the standing mixer. Then add the flour to it, a little at a time and try to incorporate the whole of it until you get a gloppy and sticky paste. Then attach the hook attachment to the mixer and whisk the mixture on high speed for 10 minutes. Once done, transfer the sticky dough to an airtight container and cover it with a lid. Let the biga sit at room temperature overnight.
2. You can start the preparation for the bread next day. For that, put the remaining yeast and the water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Then take out the prepared biga from the container and put it into the bowl of the electric mixer with the water and the yeast. Break the dough of biga into small lumps either with your hand or with a rubber spatula. Once done, add-in the remaining amount of flour to the mixture and whisk the mixture first with a paddle attachment, until you get a smooth and creamy mixture.
3. Then add-in the salt and beat the mixture again for 2-3 minutes on high speed. Once done, let the dough rest uncovered for 10-20 minutes to allow it to rise. Once the dough has risen, attach the hook attachment to the mixer and beat the dough until it stops sticking to the sides of the bowl. Scrape the sides of the bowl at regular intervals to collect all of the sticking dough and also scrape down the hook attachment if the dough starts climbing up the attachment. Whisk the mixture on medium speed for 15-17 minutes or until it assembles into clean and soft dough.
4. Once done, transfer the dough into an oiled bowl and then let it sit covered at 70-75 degrees for 3 hours or until it triples up in size. Once the time elapses, you will notice that the dough has tripled in size and has turned very sticky and bubbly. Now flour your working surface with generous amounts of flour and then transfer the swelled-up dough to the floured surface.
5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough and then cut the dough with a dough cutter into two roughly equal sized pieces. Then grease the dough pieces with a little cooking spray. Once done, try to poke the dough with the tips of your fingers to knock out some of the excessive air-bubbles from the dough. Then shape the doughs into loaves and then sprinkle some flour over them.
6. Once done, cover up the top of the dough pieces with a plastic wrapper and let them sit at room temperature for 1 ½ hours. In the meantime, set a temperature of 425 degrees Fahrenheit to preheat the oven and then prepare the baking tray. For preparing the tray, flip it and place a parchment paper over that. Once the time elapses, uncover the dough pieces and flour their tops once again. Then using two dough-scarpers, scrape up the dough pieces gently but swiftly to place them on the prepared baking tray.
7. Make sure that you invert the preformed breads while placing them on the baking tray. This helps to redistribute the bubbles in the entire dough. Then shape them up with a dough-scarper to restore their loaf-like structure and then let them sit on the counter while you steam the oven. For that, fill up a large bowl with hot water and place that at the base of the oven.
8. Then pop the baking tray into the oven and let the breads bake for 20-25 minutes or until they rise up and turn into a brownish color on the outer surface. The bread should become crusty on the outside but it should still remain spongy. Once done, take out the breads and transfer them to a wire rack to cool them down. Once completely cooled, shake the loaves of bread to discard the excess flour from their tops and then slice the bread loaves into medium thick slices or store them for later use.