Ciabatta is one of the breads that I am able to make right on a consistent basis. It takes a while to get going and can be a pain to work with, but it is worth it. Ciabatta is delicious and honestly, except for the time factor, it's not really that hard.
This recipe will produce two loaves of ciabatta. The type of cheese you use doesn't really matter, but something firm to hard is usually best.
***Note: the ingredients for the starter and dough are listed in ounces because weighing out your ingredients will get you better accuracy when baking (especially with bread) and produce a better product. Not all flours are the same, they have different weights etc. and the consistency/texture of your bread might not be what you expected if these differences are not accounted for.
Digital scales are cheap and last forever, even the battery powered ones. I bought one from Amazon around 2011, probably spent less than $10, and the AAA batteries it came with just died. Not a bad deal.
Step 1: Bill of Materials
6.75oz AP Flour
1oz of white wheat flour (regular wheat or AP is fine)
Pinch of instant yeast
All of the starter
9oz AP flour
4 oz water
1-2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4-1 cup of cheese, diced small (plus another 1/4 cup grated for topping)
Cabot Cheddar (maybe a private or reserve stock?)
Step 2: Starter
Mix the ingredients for the starter together in a bowl. Use a bowl slightly larger than you think you'll need because the starter will expand a bit. Cover the starter and let it rest for 12-24 hours at room temperature. The starter will be super bubbly when it's ready to use. It may look a little gross, but don't worry, it's supposed to.
I forgot to take a picture of the starter this morning before I dumped into my bread machine.
Step 3: Mix
I don't have a stand mixer or a hand mixer, what I do have is a used bread machine that is only good for the dough cycles so that's what I use for kneading and making bread.
Put all of your starter and the other dough ingredients, liquids first, into your bread machine and let it run on the dough cycle. After the first knead, when you've got a nice little ball forming, add the cheese and let the dough cycle finish.
When the dough cycle is finished, transfer the dough to a floured or greased surface.
Step 4: Rise
Ciabatta can be a pain to work with, it's sticky and loose and you're going to want to add more flour---DON'T. It's supposed to be like this. As long as it's not liquidy you'll be fine. Expect it to stick to your fingers, expect it to stick to your tools (dip in water to help this), and expect it not to cooperate the way you think bread dough should.
Cut your dough in half and form two logs, or a bunch of rolls if you prefer. I use a pastry cutter and it makes everything much easier.
Transfer the dough to the surface you plan to bake on and then cover with greased plastic wrap--it might even be easier just to pour olive oil over the tops of your loaves and then add the plastic wrap.
Let rise for 45-60 minutes. Halfway through, remove the cover and use your fingers to create little dimples in the dough. Cover, and allow to continue rising.
Towards the end of your rising time, preheat your oven to 450.
Step 5: Bake
Remove the plastic wrap from your dough and sprinkle the grated cheese over your logs. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
To help get a good crust, you can stick an oven-friendly pan in the oven while it preheats. After you put the bread in, pour water into the pan and this will create a good steam that will help your crust develop. Spritzing the inside of the oven with water every few minutes also helps.
When baking is done, turn off your oven and leave the door slightly cracked to continue helping the crust along.
Step 6: Enjoy!
Move the bread to a wire rack to finish cooling. My husband couldn't wait and one loaf was gone before either had cooled completely :)
This particular batch wasn't as "holey" as ciabatta should be, but it still tasted fantastic and both loaves were gone by 8pm. I've got another starter going, I'll update with pictures when the bread is done :)