Ciabatta is an Italian white bread made with wheat flour and yeast. The loaf is somewhat elongated, broad and flattish and, like a slipper, should be and somewhat collapsed in the middle. Since the late 1990s it has been popular across Europe and in the United States, and is widely used as a sandwich bread.
Ciabatta was first produced in Liguria, although at least one type of ciabatta can be found in nearly every region of Italy nowadays. The ciabatta from the area encompassing Lake Como has a crisp crust, a somewhat soft, porous texture, and is light to the touch. The ciabatta found in Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche varies from bread that has a firm crust and dense crumb, to bread that has a crisper crust and more open texture. The more open-crumbed form, which is usual in the United States, is made from a very wet dough, often requiring machine-kneading, and a biga or sourdough starter.
There are many variations of ciabatta. When made with whole wheat flour, it is known as ciabatta integrale. In Rome, it is often seasoned with olive oil, salt, and marjoram. When milk is added to the dough, it becomes ciabatta al latte.
A toasted sandwich made from small loaves of ciabatta is known as a panino (plural panini).
- 350g sifted wheat flour
- 280g lukewarm water
- 1 tsp of salt
- 38g olive oil (optional)
- 1 tsp of active dry yeast
- Dissolve salt and yeast in lukewarm water
- Add sifted wheat flour and olive oil into lukewarm water. Mix.
- After thoroughly being mixed and one is left with a dough that is of a uniform texture and consistency, cover and leave to rest in warm place for 45 minutes.
- Take out and begin to work the dough once more, stretching it and folding it over itself on all four corners; adding flour to surface to prevent its sticking. Cover and leave it to rest for ca. 30 minutes, during which time the dough will rise.
- Repeat this process, by stretching the dough and folding it over itself on all sides, allowing for air pockets to be formed (which will make the bread aery when it is baked). Cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Repeat above process once more and leave the dough to settle for 30 minutes while covered.
- Take up dough and place on cooking sheet, and cut the dough into equal parts to form into smaller, separate loaves (elongated).
- Place dough in pre-heated oven and bake at 430 °F (221 °C) for 18 minutes.
NOTE: Some doughs used for making Ciabatta bread were left to ferment 18–24 hours before being worked; the batch of dough then being refreshed with the addition of water, malt, and salt, after which it was again allowed to sit without agitation so that it could rise. Important: Before closing oven, mist the bread dough with a spray bottle to ensure a crusty top