Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

IMG 8110 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.]

ciabatta ingredients Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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.

kneading the dough1 Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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.

dough rising Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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

folding the dough Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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.

stretching the dough Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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.

deflating the dough Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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.

form the loaves Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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.

bake the loaves Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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.]

IMG 8104 1 Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

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108 comments to Fast Easy Ciabatta Bread

  • Ron sent me an email that I don’t see here stating:

    “I think there may be an altitude difference, which would mean a difference in air pressure, not sure though. Bread made at or near sea level I am quite certain would rise slower/less than the same bread made at a higher altitude, as the lower air pressure characteristic of higher altitudes would be pressing down less on the bread. Any idea what altitude you live at? You can find it here http://veloroutes.org/elevation/. Same question to the person with the question re the baking stone.”

    So to answer, I’m at: 956 feet. How about you Tanya?

  • ron

    Jen:

    Thanks.

    I wrote the reply because I have tried everything I can think of to get my bread to rise like yours…different flours, different yeasts, more water, less water, distilled water, high oven temps, lower oven, different temps for rising. I concluded that your bread rose so well was because of a difference in altitude. I am at 630 ft. You are at 956 ft. That is really no difference at all. If you were at 5000+ feet, for example a place like Denver, that would be a significant difference in air pressure and might have explained things.

    In any case, I have not tried the process/recipe on your blog in a couple of years. I may try again today. I am an experimenter at heart and it has been fun. There is a reason for the difference, just don’t know what it is……….yet.

    Best Regards

  • I believe the issue (for Tanya at least) is the flour. 00 flour has much lower protein/gluten than US bread flour. Do you have access to a higher gluten flour? If not, do several stretch and folds during the rise time, as that will strengthen the gluten strands.

    Ron: What kind of flour are you using? Also: By the time you dump the dough out of the rising container on to the countertop: would you describe it wildly “alive” and “full of bubbles” and really holding a dome shape well by then? If you do a “stretch and fold”, does it almost regain its previous volume without 5 minutes?

    I ask, because, like I explained to Tanya, I’ve revised my process over the years. I believe the more active method of doing a few stretch and folds during the rise allows the gluten strands to strengthen. If the gluten is stronger, the dough will hold its shape better and resist flattening out — which is probably what is happening to your breads.

    Let me know!

  • ron

    Thanks Jen:

    I was actually experimenting with the Ciabatta bread today (did some work on Saturday as well).

    Here is what I learned. First, at least two years ago, I found the right water balance for the flour I use (cheap stuff- Costco bread flour, about the same gluten content as King Arthur All Purpose flour)and began to use instant yeast. That took things up a healthy notch, but the bread,while improved, was inconsistent with regards to the rise and the cell size.

    I pretty much gave up, thinking “Jen must be making Ciabatta in a high altitude environment”. When I received a recent post from your blog, and we subsequently compared notes, I learned that your altitude was about the same as mine, so did some experiments having noted the thickness of the baking stone in your oven and how your dough quickly rose when baking began. My current “baking stone” is thin and light. I know believe it is worthless and perhaps has a negative effect, probably like many baking stones sold today .

    After some investigation, I went to our local Menards, bought several 6″ x 6″ 1/2 inch thick quarry tiles (unglazed meaning no lead) and stacked them double thick in the oven (total thickness, 1″). This made a big difference. I think these stones quite literally pour heat into the dough, expanding the gases and giving a consistent and substantial rise. Based on this I went ahead and purchased today several 1.25″ refractory bricks, the same ones that are used in bread ovens (these area the bricks that go underneath the bread). Hopefully these will work even better than the quarry tiles.

    Now, to the question you asked. As indicated above I use Costco bread flour estimated 11.5% gluten although there is no official spec. I am thinking that if get some decent bread flour, I could probably coax out little more height although I am now satisfied with what I have.

    To answer your question about the rise, the dough comes up quite fast. It at least quadruples in volume in approx 1.5 hours after I pour into the plastic container. I use a homemade proofing chamber (a plastic storage container with lid, 2″ of water in bottom with a fully submersible and somewhat large aquarium heater to keep the water between 90 and 93 degrees).

    Everything, now, looks very much the same as in your video through the process of making the dough, letting it rise, etc. , although I think you bread is perhaps a bit taller coming out of the oven. My standard loaf is about 5.5″ wide and about 2.25 inches high (middle of loaf). I think I can get another 1/2 inch of height or so with the right flour.

    Jen – What flour do you use?

    Many thanks for you blog.

    Ron

  • 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!

  • ron

    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

  • Theresa

    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.

  • MARY

    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!!!

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