Hot Homemade Ciabatta Bread
(… made with a little help from the Bread Machine)
Ciabatta is that beautiful Italian bread that everyone is using for sandwiches now … it has just the right chewy texture to hold up to a hearty sandwich filling. It’s a sort of flat shaped bread, so if you cut it horizontally, you can get a nice sturdy base for your sandwich. It’s also great with soups or just for dunking in olive oil with dinner.
If you’ve never made it before, I have to warn you, it takes 2 days to make. It doesn’t take much effort … just a lot of waiting. But it’s SO worth it! This is my third attempt at ciabatta and I think I’ve finally mastered it. I’m sure somebody will say I didn’t do it the right way, but the result in my opinion was perfect, so that is all that matters. Well, that and my daughter’s take on it. I’m waiting to hear her verdict. She fell asleep early tonight … first day of school was tough on her!
Yeast bread can be a little testy sometimes and it varies a bit with the weather, so the same recipe you use today might not work quite right tomorrow. Don’t worry about it too much. It’s ok if it doesn’t turn out perfect. It’s probably still pretty dang yummy.
I started with a recipe from Allrecipes … but had to revise it a bit. I found the directions kind of confusing and needed to simplify it a LOT to be able to fit it in with work and back to school and, well, all the busy family things we have going on. If you don’t have a bread machine, you can do this the old-fashioned way.
Ciabatta Bread with some help from the Bread Machine
For the Sponge:
- 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 – 2/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon gluten (optional … depends on how the gluten is in your whole wheat flour … don’t use it if you’re not doing whole wheat flour!)
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- First, make the sponge: In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1/8 teaspoon of the yeast and the warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. What does creamy mean? I’m not really sure, but I guess it looks kind of white-ish and milky after you let it sit a bit … don’t worry about it too much. I really over-worried this step on my first two times, but I really don’t think I needed to bother.
- Add 1/2 cup of the water, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. You can use bread flour here if you prefer an all-white ciabatta, but I encourage you to try the white whole wheat.
- Stir it a while till it’s mixed, then cover the bowl and let it sit for at least 12 hours and up to a day. I didn’t use plastic wrap–I think that’s a waste and bad for the environment. Just set a plate over it that covers the bowl tightly. That works just as well and you can wash the plate afterwards if the sponge happens to rise high enough to touch the plate. (Mine did, surprisingly!)
- Toss the sponge into your bread machine along with the rest of the ingredients and put it on the “dough” setting and set your bread machine to take care of the hard part. (Start with 1/2 cup of water and add a little more if the dough isn’t turning into a nice ball of dough like it should.)
- When the dough is done, dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and cut it in half. Shape each half into an irregular oblong oval shape about 9-11 inches long.
- Spray the loaves with cooking spray, cover with a towel, and let the loaves rise for a couple hours.
- Bake at 425 degrees, preferably on a cooking stone, for about 20 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. Probably is best to bake them one at a time.
- Now here is the controversial step: I like to spray the loaves with cooking spray right away when they come out of the oven. It makes the loaf look more brown and shiny and tenderizes the crust a little. If you want a chewier crust, skip this step!
- And now you finally get to enjoy your ciabatta. My daughter’s favorite way to eat this is just to dip it in olive oil, but I love to make a good sandwich with it.
What’s your favorite use for ciabatta?
Please leave me a comment and let me know. I’m on the lookout for some creative sandwich recipes!
So far I’ve found this lovely Eggplant Sandwich Recipe from Chef in Disguise.