There is nothing quite as satisfying as baking bread by hand (fortunately, my family loves bread, in particular, my focaccia). You can find my recipe for a very simple focaccia here.
But today I am going to give you my recipe of sourdough ciabatta. It’s rather different in taste and also in methodology. I prefer the ciabatta, actually, because it’s chewy with that sourdough taste which I love. It’s just sooooo good!
But warning, don’t attempt this if you get freaked out by sticky dough….it’s difficult to wash off!
First, you have to make the biga, the starter.
- 1/4 teaspoon, dry yeast, but make sure that it is still alive, which means it should get frothy after standing in warm water;
- 1/4 cup warm water;
- 3/4 cup water at room temperature;
- 350g unbleached all-purpose flour.
DIRECTIONS for the biga
Mix the yeast in the warm water and let it stand for about 10-15 minutes. It should get frothy and creamy.
Stir in the flour and the remaining water into the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon and stir for about 5 minutes until a sticky dough forms.
Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 24 hours (and more!).
- 500g biga (what you made above yields that);
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast;
- 5 tablespoons warm milk;
- 1 cup water at room temperature;
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 500g unbleached all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
DIRECTIONS for the ciabatta
Mix the yeast and milk together, and let the mixture stand for about 10-15 minutes.
When it is frothy and creamy, mix it with the biga, oil and water.
Add the flour and the salt. Knead in the mixing bowl. Note: the dough will be sticky, but DO NOT add more flour. Then knead in a floured surface for a few minutes.
Put in an oiled bowl, cover with a warm towel and let it rise for 1 hour 30 minutes or thereabouts.
Then knead again until the dough is elastic (it’s OK if it is still a bit sticky).
Divide into four, knead again and let it rise for another 1 hour 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350degrees.
Pull dough into rectangular shapes (shown below).
Bake in a heavy baking try lined with parchment paper. I dusted mine with cornmeal (or semolina).
Bake for about 30 minutes, opening the door after 10 minutes to spray the oven with cold water. Do this a couple of times.
You may wish to add chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes and/or pesto to make a really delicious Italian bread.