Baking

Ciabatta

It's worth a little bit of extra effort.
16
2 loaves
45M

You will need to begin this recipe 2 days ahead. Biga is a bread starter used to make Italian bread with a more complex flavour and an open texture.

Create the biga today, prepare your loaves tomorrow and the next day you’ll be baking your two loaves of this marvelous rustic Italian bread made with olive oil to serve with dinner.

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To make biga, combine the yeast, honey and the warm water in a medium bowl. Whisk until yeast dissolves. Add flour, beat well to remove any lumps. Cover; stand at room temperature for 24 hours before using.

Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl; cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Stand in a warm place until dough has doubled in size. The time it takes for dough to rise will depend on the temperature of the room or ‘warm place’.

Gently place floured hands under dough from each end and lift onto a floured baking tray. This is a very soft dough; do this in one quick, gentle motion. Repeat with remaining dough to make two loaves.

Ingredients

Biga

Method

1.Make biga. Combine yeast, honey and the water in a medium bowl; whisk until yeast dissolves. Add flour, beat well to remove any lumps. Cover; stand at room temperature for 24 hours before using.
2.On Day 2, combine yeast and the water in a jug; stir until yeast dissolves. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add yeast mixture, biga and oil; mix on low speed to combine. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
3.Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl; cover with a clean tea towel. Stand in a warm place for 4 hours until dough is full of air bubbles; dough will expand considerably.
4.Carefully ease dough out of bowl onto a well-floured surface, taking care not to damage the air bubbles. Do not knead. Dust top lightly with a little flour and carefully cut mixture in half lengthways. Gently slide your fingers under the edges of the dough; ease each portion into a 10cm x 30cm (4in x 12in) rectangle. Don’t break the air bubbles. If dough sticks to your fingers, moisten lightly with water or dust with flour. Gently place hands under dough from each end and lift onto a floured baking tray. This is a very soft dough; do this in one quick, gentle motion. Repeat with remaining dough. Dust with the extra flour. Stand loaves, uncovered, in a warm place for 2-2½ hours or until doubled in size and full of air bubbles.
5.Meanwhile, preheat oven to 240°C/475°F. Place a shallow-sided oven tray on the lowest shelf of the oven while preheating.
6.Place 12 ice-cubes on the hot tray in the oven. Bake loaves for 15 minutes or until well browned and crusty. Transfer ciabatta to a wire rack to cool.

Chlorinated water is thought to stop some of the natural yeast growth; it will work, but filtered water will give a superior result. Organic flour is preferable to use when making a starter, to encourage natural yeast growth. The starter will still work with regular bread flour but organic flour will give a superior result. Adding the ice cubes to a hot tray creates steam, which in turn creates a crustier loaf.

Note

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