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Image of Ciabatta

Makes 3 Loaves

For the starter

7g/¼ oz fresh yeast
175-200ml/6-7fl oz/¾-scant 1 cup lukewarm water
350g/12oz/3 cups unbleached plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

For the dough

15g/½ oz fresh yeast
400ml/14fl oz/1⅔ cups lukewarm water
60ml/4 tbsp lukewarm milk
500g/1¼lb/5 cups unbleached white bread flour
10ml/2 tsp salt
45ml/3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


1. For the starter, cream the yeast with a little of the water. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Gradually mix in the yeast mixture and sufficient of the remaining water to form a firm dough.

2. Turn out the biga starter dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with lightly oiled clear film (plastic wrap) and leave in a warm place for 12-15 hours, or until the dough has risen and is starting to collapse.

3. Sprinkle three baking sheets with flour. Mix the yeast for the dough with a little of the water until creamy, then mix in the remainder. Add the yeast mixture to the biga and gradually mix in.

4. Mix in the milk, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Using your hand, gradually beat in the flour, lifting the dough as you mix. Mixing the dough will take 15 minutes or more and form a very wet mix, impossible to knead on a work surface.

5. Beat in the salt and olive oil. Cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise, in a warm place, for 1½-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

6. With a spoon, carefully tip one-third of the dough at a time on to the baking sheets without knocking back (punching down) the dough in the process.

7. Using floured hands, shape into rough oblong loaf shapes, about 2.5cm/1in thick. Flatten slightly with splayed fingers. Sprinkle with flour and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounding hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

VARIATION:- To make tomato-flavoured ciabatta, add 115g/4oz/1 cup chopped, drained sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. Add with the olive oil in step 5.

Energy 1084Kcal/4597kj; Protein 27.6g; Carbohydrate 223.4g of which sugars 5.2g; Fat 15.1g of which saturates 2.4g; Cholesterol 1mg; Calcium 425mg; Fibre 8.9g; Sodium 1327mg

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