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What Is Ciabatta Bread?
Ciabatta is a rustic Italian bread that is made from wheat flour, water, olive oil, salt, and yeast. The name means “slipper” in Italian and refers to its elongated, broad, and flat shape. Ciabatta can formed into long rectangles or small squares or rolls; either way, it has a crisp and chewy crust with an airy, hole filled interior.
The soft, chewy texture and honeycomb holes make ciabatta perfect for dunking into soups or swiping up sauce from a dinner plate. It also makes for a delicious sandwich bread filled with layers of cured meats, cheeses, and balsamic vinegar.
8 Ways to Use Ciabatta Bread
- Serve it with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Slice ciabatta bread into thick slices or triangles and serve warm, as an appetizer alongside a small bowl of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can also use flavor the oil with chili flakes, basil, oregano, and garlic.
- Serve it with soup. Ciabatta's super power is its ability to soak up liquid without falling apart, making it perfect for dunking into soup. An Italian dish that incorporates this bread is pappa al pomodoro, a thick tomato-based soup that is mixed with stale ciabatta cubes.
- Make an Italian sandwich. Fill halved ciabatta loaves with any combination of salami, mortadella, capicola, prosciutto, turkey, ham, marinated artichokes, red peppers, olive tapenade, pesto, and provolone cheese.
- Panini. One of the most common uses for ciabatta bread is for a grilled Italian sandwich known as a panini. It is typically made with layered meats, cheese, and vegetables that are placed between slices of bread and pressed and cooked in a panini grill. Ciabatta bread works well for these sandwiches because it can hold multiple ingredients and be pressed without becoming soggy or falling apart.
- Burger Buns: Swap out your usual burger buns with ciabatta bread. Spread mayonnaise on toasted ciabatta bread slices and fill with a veggie or meat patty, lettuce, and tomatoes.
- Stews: Enjoy hearty meat and vegetable stews with ciabatta bread as a side dish. The white bread slices make a perfect sponge for soaking up extra sauce.
- Garlic Bread: Brush slices with melted butter or olive oil and spread minced garlic on top. Toast in the oven until the edges are golden.
- Croutons for salads: For the best croutons, use stale ciabatta. Chop or tear the bread into bite-sized pieces and tossed in olive oil, oregano, and minced garlic. Bake the pieces until they become lightly browned and crispy.
7 Tips for Making Ciabatta at Home
- Use a stand mixer. Ciabatta is easiest made in a stand mixer, since the dough is extremely sticky. With many homemade bread recipes, the inclination is to add more flour to wet or sticky dough, but it often leads to dried out bead. If you don’t have a stand mixer, try using a food processor.
- Lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Transfer the ciabatta dough to a lightly oiled bowl to rise. Most yeast breads, like ciabatta, need at least two rises. The first rise happens before the dough is formed and the second rise happens once the dough has been formed into loaves or rolls.
- Use a bench scrapers or a metal spatula. For easier bread making, use an oiled or floured bench scraper or a long metal spatula to let you handle this sticky dough without making a mess. They can be used to shape, cut, and transfer the dough.
- Have a bowl of water nearby. When you’re shaping the dough have a small bowl of water next to you. Sticky dough won’t adhere to wet hands, so dip your fingers in the water before you begin touching the dough and form it into a rectangle shape.
- Spray the dough with water. Spraying the dough lightly with water before going in the oven creates steam, which allows a chewy, golden crust to form while the bread bakes.
- Brown the bread. Many first-time bakers are worried to overbake things, and often don’t let bread brown properly before removing it from the oven. For the best ciabatta, bake until the outside is a golden. A nice crispy crust will sound slightly hollow when you tap it with your fingertips.
- Let it cool. Remove the ciabatta bread from the oven and let it cool completely before serving to give its interior crumb the best possible texture.
Homemade Ciabatta Bread Recipe
Prep Time6 hr
Total Time6 hr 25 min
For the Starter:
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon instant yeast or active dry yeast
For the Dough:
- Starter (from above)
- 1 ½ cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast or active dry yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- To make the starter, stir together the water, flour, and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for at least 3 hours, up to overnight.
- To make the dough, transfer the starter mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, or use a bread machine. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of yeast, and salt, mixing on low speed until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
- Grease a large bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Let it the dough rise for 1 hour, then gently deflate it with your hand. Let the dough rise a second time for another hour, then place it on a floured work surface and sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough.
- Use two floured bench scrapers and carefully shape the dough from the sides to form a rough rectangle shape. Cut in half and use the bench scrapers or wet hands to gently shape each half into a loaf. Alternatively, divide into quarters and make smaller ciabatta rolls (decreasing the bake time by 5 minutes).
- Slide the bench scrapers under the bread dough and transfer each loaf onto a kitchen towel with a generous amount of flour. Fold the cloth over the sides of the dough to separate and support each loaf. Let the loaves rise for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F. Invert a baking sheet or baking stone onto the lowest oven rack. Use parchment paper to line another inverted baking sheet.
- Slide your fingers under each end of the loaf and quickly transfer it to the parchment paper. Spray the dough lightly with water.
- Gently slide the loaves onto the baking sheet in the oven. Bake bread until golden brown and they sound hollow when you tap them, 20–25 minutes.
- Allow ciabatta loaves to cool completely on a wire rack. Fresh ciabatta is best enjoyed the day it's made. To store longer, wrap tightly with plastic wrap for 2–3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
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