Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

Redux.

I know I have written about ciabatta bread before, and I have the video up on YouTube. Yes. It should be enough. But until everyone I know is making their own bread, it is not enough. This ciabatta bread is so easy, I just won’t rest until you try it. So please, just comply. It will save me nag time.

Another thing:

Traditional ciabatta bread is made a little differently. I have made it that way, and I have made it this way. The traditional ciabatta bread is supposed to be better. Have more flavor. Better crumb.

Blah. blah. blah.

I just can’t tell the difference.

Maybe I’m just too rough around the edges.

Or dumb.

Uncouth.

Unsophisticated palatte.

Whatever.

I guess my point is, unless you are more refined than I, you won’t notice the difference either. So why go to the extra trouble when you can make it so quickly and easily? I keep coming back to my fast recipe. Start it in the morning, eat it in the afternoon, gone by nightfall. Go to bed. Repeat.

Anyway, I just thought that maybe if I posted pictures, instead of a video, maybe more people would read it and be engaged. Are videos off-putting? I have no idea…

I also think that maybe my weight version of the recipe could be off-putting. So I’ve tried to make it easy for regular volume measurement baking.

But you do need a stand mixer. So, if you don’t have one of those, and still want to make this bread, visit thefreshloaf.com and search ‘ciabatta no mixer’. There are lots of amish-types over there making it successfully by hand. And they probably have really nice looking, muscular arms, too.

Not me. I got a nice cherry red mixer so that I can have nice, puffy, shapeless arms.

Set up: Put a baking stone to go across one oven rack. If not using a stone, then plan to bake the ciabatta directly on a sheet pan/cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Plan to add a few minutes to the baking time if not using a stone.

If using steam (which contributes to slightly more rise and a thinner, crisper crust), place a medium cast iron fry pan in the bottom of the oven which you preheat in the overn and pour hot water in to create steam.

Go get some bread flour, salt and instant yeast (I use SAF instant yeast).

Measure 3-5/8 cups of flour (500 grams) into the stand mixer bowl, add 2 teaspoons of salt (10 grams) and 1 teaspoon of yeast. Then add 2-1/8 cups of tepid water (485 grams). Mix on low with the regular paddle attachment for about 3 minutes and let stand about 20 minutes. [When I’m in a rush, I skip this step, having no idea what the purpose of it is.]

After the rest, turn the mixer to high (speed 8 on a KitchenAid) until the dough starts to crawl up the paddle. Wait too long and you’ll have a mess on your hands, so watch carefully. I recommend a Mukka Latte and the newspaper to pass the time.

Once the dough begins to climb, clean the paddle off and switch to the hook, resuming mixing on medium high speed until dough begins to whack around the sides of the bowl and stay together, mostly clearing the sides of the bowl.

Pour into a greased container and cover either with a lid or plastic wrap.

Allow to rise as long as it takes to more than double the volume. For me it takes about 3-4 hours in the cooler months when my kitchen is about 66-67 degrees. It takes much less time in warmer months.

After it has more than doubled, dust the work surface well with flour and pour the dough out.

Flour the dough generously. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Using two bench scrapers (big hand-held spatulas), lift, pull and stretch the dough, folding it over on itself once in every direction.

Flour well once more and cover well with a kitchen towel for 30 minutes.

Turn your oven on to 500 degrees around this time. Stretch and fold each piece once more then, using your knuckles, gently pound out the bubbles and mostly deflate the dough (bottom left photo). Dust more flour across the tops when your knuckles start to stick. Don’t obsess about adding too much or too little flour. It will be impossible to completely flatten it — and you wouldn’t want to. What you are doing here is getting rid of the bigger bubbles so that you don’t have big, gaping holes in your baked bread. Even when you take this step, though, big bubbles do sometimes happen. After deflating, use the bench scraper, dust loaves well with flour again and coax the dough into the final shape of the loaves. Cover again for 30 minutes.

Dust a large sheet of parchment paper set on top of a similar sized cutting board, with flour. Using two bench scrapers (or any other MacGiver-type apparatus that works), scoop/pinch a loaf up/together and flip upside down onto the floured parchment. Dust the top with flour again, dip the scrapers into the flour and coax back into a nice loaf shape. Repeat for the other loaf. Dust with flour again before baking.

If using steam, fill a cup with about 3/4 cup warm/hot water and have it ready. Slide the loaves, along with the parchment onto the baking stone. Then carefully pour the hot water into the cast iron pan below. Shut the oven door and set the timer for about 8 minutes. You’ll want to keep an eye on things, however. I moved my loaves from front to back about 3/4 of the way through the baking time because the rear position tends to burn. You will learn your oven better after you make bread a couple times. 500 degrees is hot and things are a little more intense at that temp.

When the loaves are well browned, remove to a cooling rack. Internal temp should be at least 200 degrees. Let loaves cool completely before cutting. If you can’t wait, just know that the bread will compress if you cut it before it is cooled and the interior will be a little damp and mooshed. [But it will still taste good.]

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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Ron. Well guess what? That’s what I use too: Costco flour! So you think it might be the stone, huh? Maybe Tanya isn’t so far off track. The thing is, my previous stone was exactly as you describe: thin and cheap. And I seem to recall the same amount of rise. Do you have an oven thermometer? Wouldn’t it be fun if we could get together and figure it out! It’s so hard to do it this way!

  2. ron says

    Jen

    Checked with two oven thermometers. One read 500 the other 525, so I am in the ballpark on temp.

    Also, thanks for your comment about stretching the dough. I have tried handling wet dough before and usually end up with a gloppy sticky mess. So, what I did was slowly pour the dough from one plastic container to another. The dough “waterfall” was about 18″. I did four transfers. The dough definitely strengthened and the bubbles larger.

    So now I feel like I have crossed the finish line.

    Here is what is important for me to make bread like yours.

    ..Using a thick (about 1″) and heavy baking stone.

    ..Right Flour – King Arthur Bread Flour gave me best results. 470g water to 500 flour. Need to experiment to get right water level. The questions you asked about the dome of the dough etc, provided some guidance here.

    ..Using yeast that also contains Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid (same thing). Most yeasts that are labeled Instant or Rapid Rise contain Ascorbic Acid…I always check to see.

    ..Adding a tablespoon of Vinegar to the water that is used to make the dough. A single tbsp. of Vinegar does not affect the taste of the bread. Reason for adding – The water used to make bread needs to be slightly acidic for gas generation to be optimum. I think that Vinegar can either help or do nothing (for example if water is already slightly acidic). I don’t believe it can hurt the dough.

    ..stretching the dough by doing 3-4 container to container pours.

    Why I need to take some steps that you don’t …. still not sure. I am still curious, might try looking at hardness/Calcium content of starting water.

    Thanks again Jen. I will email a couple of pictures.

    Ron

  3. Theresa says

    Hi There!
    I have to say this recipe is pure awesomeness. I made two loaves today using AP flour. I had to add in about 3/4 of a cup more flour because I think I put in 1/4 cup too much water. I used my kitchenaide 600 to do the mixing and never got to the point of the dough climbing up the paddle. I actually didn’t even let it rise for the specified amount of time at any step. Just 2 hours, 15 min and 15 mins . Because I was in a hurry to get it finished to go with my pasta and homemade sauce. Let me tell you the ciabatta came out spectacular. My husband absolutely loved it as did everyone else who ate it. It came out about 5 inches high, soft and airy with a nice chewy, crispy crust. This is my go to bread recipe for every occasion. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  4. MARY says

    I have tried oh so many ciabatta recipes and so far this is the first one that actually produced the large bubble crispy crust ciabatta my husband loves. I have used both bread flour and regular unbleached white flour and both rose well. My only problem is that the bottom of my loaf doesn’t seem to cook as well as the top. I tried lowering the rack to the second to the bottom and I cook the loaves on a Hearthstone which is about an inch thick large rectangular baking stone. I have also turned off the oven and let the loaves sit directly on the stone. I have baked them on parchment first and then transfer them to the stone after the oven is off. Maybe I just need to bake them directly on the stone. Was hoping you might have something from your past experiences to help me out. I would also like to pass on that I let my bread rise sitting on a heating pad. If not we will be happy to enjoy this bread from now on. It is the only ciabatta recipe I will ever use again. It is easy and tastes incredible!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Seb says

    Jen – came here after viewing the video and thank you so much for posting such a helpful video. It helped a lot with getting the correct done-ness for the dough.

    Ron – you had mentioned that your dough quadruples before you go to the next step. That could be your issue. The yeast could be all spent and could be left with nothing to work with by the time it bakes. Try once with not letting it rise more than double.

  6. Soh says

    I don’t have Kitchen Aid. I used the dough function of my bread machine and after 2 cycles, it was still wet, and didn’t form a ball like you said it should. What should I do? Should I simply let it sit and rise?

  7. Brian says

    Allow me to help you a little bit.

    There are many elements in getting a proper rise of you dough. Altitude same little difference.

    The temperature of the dough when it comes out of the mixer is the MOST important element. You want that to be as close to 80 degrees as possible.

    General Mills has published a chart that tells you how to make that happen everytime. You need the temp of your flour in the bag you store in. You need the temp of the room your working in. Then you go to the chart and it tells you what your water temp needs to be to get you dough to 80 degrees… After your mixer whips it hard for so long. General Mills estimates that the mixing friction will 30 degrees.

    I made the ciabatta recipe for 10th time yesterday. My ambient temp was 72 degrees, my flour in the bag was 72 degrees and the chart said I needed to use 66 degree water. After the kitchenaid mixer did it thing… My dough was exactly 80 degrees.

    It tripled in mass in 2 hours.

    Try this process whether you are in Anchorage, Alaska or Phoenix, Arizona… Your ciabatta will come out exactly the same.

    The chart… http://www.generalmillsfoodservice.com/~/media/Files/Industry-Resources/Bakery/technical-support/water-temperature-chart.ashx

    Let me know if you try it…

  8. ron says

    Thanks Brian:

    I have not made this Bread in a while (although I love the recipe and the last few times I made it had good results). The rising after it comes out of the mixer is fast, 4x in two hours. Maybe a can can let it rise in a cooler place to slow it down. I will take a look at the chart you mention next time. Thanks

    Off hand, my observation is the Jenn gets at phenomenal rise in the couple minutes after she places her bread in the oven, it is like the bread is sprinting. Mine is not quite to that level yet, can’t really explain.

    Good News….my family loves this Ciabatta!

    Best Regards:

    Ron

  9. Brian says

    Ron…

    Getting a fast rise to 4x it’s size is not a bad thing. I don’t let it rise to 4x it’s original size. I let it rise to 3x . It take me about 2 hours when my room temp is around 72 degrees. I use King Arthur’s bread flour and 1 packet of active dry yeast.

    I’ve never had a batch of this dough fail… Yet.

  10. says

    Hi all,
    Love to hear that you are getting good results (though not always the same as mine) from this recipe. I have a couple questions for specific people:

    Ron: how much instant yeast are you using? I now use only 1 level tsp and it has helped the crazy amount of rise I was getting that was actually causing my bubbles to be TOO big.

    Mary: I back mine directly on a stone but on top of parchment. the oven is 500 degrees and preheats for at least an hour. My kitchen is quite cool. I no longer worry about the temp of the rising environment unless I am in a hurry and need it to rise fast.

    To everyone: The bread is definitely better when you don’t let it rise as much. That isn’t to say it won’t turn out fine if you let it triple or quad. but double is better. What I have found to be perhaps a bigger indication of the OVEN SPRING is the gluten development being strong enough to hold that wet dough UP rather than OUT. That is why I added a few stretch and folds during the rise time.

    I should update the video with this new info, but I’m not sure how to go about doing that without staring over. Anyone know how to do that?

  11. Alex says

    Thanks for sharing your recipe and tips on making a ciabatta! I was wondering if it is possible to substitute bread flour for all purpose flour with added gluten. What do you think? Thanks!

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