/ A Fantastic Ciabatta Recipe with Biga – Real Authentic!

A Fantastic Ciabatta Recipe with Biga – Real Authentic!

This recipe makes a perfect ciabatta bread that’s fantastic for sandwiches, panini and dipping in soup! Enjoy using a biga preferment to which provides flavour, structure and aroma. We will also proof in a couche to support the shape of the dough- if you don’t have one I have a solution below! We’ll be making the biga the night before so it has time to ferment. Expect these ciabatta’s to take around 18 hours to make from start to finish.

Ciabatta is relatively common these days but real ciabatta bread is hard to find outside of Italy. A deep warmth of flavour with a crumb that’s subtle, yet chewy make ciabatta on many peoples favourite bread list. So let’s get making it so you can taste the difference!

What you need to make a authentic ciabatta bread

To make this ciabatta bread, you’ll need the following equipment:

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Using a thermometer will help you with controlling proofing times. For accurate dough temperature readings try this thermometer from Gdealer. Aim for dough temperature between 25C and 30C (77-86F).

What if I don’t have a baking stone?

A baking stone conducts heat into the loaf. Using one increases the height of the oven spring and helps to give an even bake on the base of the loaf. If you don’t have a baking stone, preheat the thickest baking sheet that you have.

Can I use a dutch oven to make this recipe?

Yes, if you would rather use a dutch oven to make ciabatta. You can, however many dutch ovens are quite small so it will be best to make one large ciabatta, instead of lifting individual portions. Simply preheat the dutch oven and drop the dough inside on a sheet of parchment paper to bake. You don’t need to add steam to the oven. If you are looking to get a dutch oven I recommend getting this one from Challenger, it’s massive!

What can I use instead of a couche

A couche is a food-safe fabric liner that is used to support the ciabatta as they rise/ If you don’t have one, you use a clean tea towel. Preferably a one that won’t fray otherwise you may find a few strands of cotton on your crust!

ciabatta recipe


For the biga:

For the dough:

  • 300g  White bread flour
  • 192g  Water
  • 5g  Fresh yeast (2.5g active dried)
  • 11g  Salt
  • 78g  2nd water
  • 6g  Extra virgin olive oil

Using dried or instant yeast

If using instant yeast, divide the amount of fresh yeast used by 3 and follow the same method as fresh yeast. Active dried yeast needs to be activated before use. In this case, warm the water for the biga to 35C (95F) – no higher. Add the yeast to the bowl, whisk and leave for 10 minutes to bloom. Combine the flour for the biga with the yeasty water, place the dough in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool. Return to the worktop and allow to ferment as above.

When ready to start the dough, warm 10 grams of water to 35C (95F), add the yeast with half a teaspoon of sugar, whisk and leave to stand for ten minutes before adding to the dough. Remove 10 grams of the 1st water addition from the recipe.

Changing the size of the recipe

This recipe makes 3 medium sized ciabattas, but feel free to make bigger ones or smaller ciabatta rolls. If you want to change the size of the recipe, use the bakers formula.

How to make authentic ciabatta with biga

1) Prepare the biga

Start the biga the day before by whisking the yeast and the water together. If using dried yeast follow the instructions below. Once dissolved, add the flour and gently mix for a minute or two until the mixture has a fairly even consistency. Cover and leave on the kitchen table for 12-18 hours.

2) Prepare the ingredients for mixing

When the biga is developed it will have large bubbles appearing on the surface. Weigh the remaining ingredients and add the biga to the water and then put all ingredients excluding the 2nd water and the olive oil in a large mixing bowl or dough mixer. 

Using a dough mixer:

Add the biga, flour, 1st water, yeast and salt to the mixing bowl and knead for 8 minutes slow, followed by 8 minutes fast. Next add the 2nd water and knead slowly. Once the dough has pulled together, knead on fast for a minute before adding the olive oil, again on slow speed. Move to step 6.

3) Slow kneading

Mix the dough slowly, first with a dough scraper and then using a stretching motion on the table. Continue this for 7 minutes, by now the dough should have an even consistency. Place the dough into the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a bag and place it in the fridge for 15 minutes.

4) Fast kneading

Take the dough out and back on the table to knead fast for 5 minutes. Use the stretch, slap and fold method for best results. Cover again and place back in the fridge for another 10 minutes. 

5) Add the second water

Remove the dough from the fridge and place on the table. Knead for 2 minutes before adding the 2nd water. To do this put the dough back in the bowl add the water and push the dough into the water until it incorporates then fast knead for 2 minutes. After the water, use the same technique to add the olive oil and again knead until the dough looks smooth, even and feels strong.

6) Bulk fermentation pt 1

Place the dough in a clean but oiled bowl and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

7) Stretch and fold

Complete a stretch and fold or give it a gentle knead for 20 seconds.

8) Bulk fermentation pt 2

Place back in the bowl, cover and leave to rest for another 20 minutes.

9) Stretch and fold again

Stretch and fold or lightly knead again and return to the bowl.

10) Bulk fermentation pt 3

Leave the dough to rest for a final 20 minutes. At this point the dough should pass the windowpane test. If not, repeat the stretch and fold and 20 minute rest.

11) Getting ready to divide the ciabatta’s

Dust flour and semolina onto the workbench and turn the dough onto it. Very lightly shape the dough into a rectangle shape – be careful not to push air out of the dough. Leave to bench rest for 20 minutes.

12) Prepare the couche

Prepare a couche by dusting with flour and semolina. Make a crease on the left-side edge of the cloth. Then, working left to right, as each ciabatta goes into the couche the edges on the righthand side are going to be folded to act as a barrier between the next dough piece. 

ciabatta in couche

13) Divide the ciabatta’s

Being careful not to push any air out of the dough, use a metal dough scraper to divide it into roughly 320g pieces – don’t try to be too accurate with this as you will knock the air out.

14) Final rise

Preheat the oven to 230C (440F) with a baking stone. Proof for 1 ½ hours, use the poke test to identify when they are ready.

15) Loading up the oven

Use a long peel to remove the ciabattas from the couche and either drop them into the oven individually, or place them on a floured board and slide them in one go.

You'll get a different style to the crust of your ciabatta depending on whether you flip them, or slide them onto the peel. Putting the keeping the smooth side down gives a smooth, more uniform ciabatta that you will be familiar with in supermarkets. Flipping them onto their rough side gives a more rustic ciabatta that looks like what you'd expect to find in the side streets of Tuscany.

16) Bake

Bake at 220C (420F) for around 25 minutes. Add a small amount of hot water to the tray beneath the stone as they go into the oven. Only a little bit of steam is necessary. Open the oven door ⅔’s of the way through the bake to release the steam.

Usually when baking bread, we bake with just the bottom heat setting turned on. You may wish to turn the top heat on during the last 5-10 minutes to get a nice golden colour on the top or your ciabatta.

17) Remove and cool

You can choose to bake them lightly or leave them in longer for more colour as you wish. When you are happy with the colour, use a peel to remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. 

How to make ciabatta bread video tutorial

Nutritional information per loaf

Calories: 695kcal | Carbohydrates: 142g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 0.5g | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 0.5g | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 9mg

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