How to Make Authentic Ciabatta Bread
Learn how to make ciabatta bread with this step-by-step recipe. This recipe will help you achieve artisan homemade ciabatta bread that is chewy and moist with the best flavor! Pin it for Later »
This recipe was developed in partnership with Red Star Yeast. Thank you for being supportive of me working with brands I use and love. For more recipes, yeast baking tips, and coupons visit RedStarYeast.com and check out their social media pages for more yeast bread inspiration! Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google +
Ciabatta Bread Recipe Overview
- Skill Level: Advanced
- Techniques Used: Pre-Ferment (Biga) & Stretch & Fold Method for Bread Making
Ciabatta is a classic Italian style of bread similar in makeup to its French counterpart, baguette. Ciabatta is made from a lean yeast dough meaning that there is not fat present in the dough. This creates a very chewy bread with a slightly crispy crust.
Ciabatta is made from a very wet dough which gives it its unique moist texture and one-of-a-kind flavor. The flavor is not only created from the high hydration dough, but also from a preferment called a biga.
The word ciabatta translates to mean slippers which makes sense you you see the classic shape.
What is a Biga?
A preferment is when part of the flour, water, and yeast of the bread dough are combined many hours before the final dough is mixed and allowed to ferment. A biga is an Italian style of preferment that has a lower ratio of water than a poolish, which is a French version.
The biga is added to the ciabatta dough to improve the flavor, texture, and keeping quality of the final bread.
What is the Difference Between Ciabatta and Focaccia?
Because of their names, ciabatta and focaccia sometimes get confused for each other. Ciabatta and focaccia are both Italian style breads but they are different in their makeup. The main difference is that ciabatta is a bread that is formed into loaves while focaccia is a flatbread. Ciabatta also typically does not contain any fat which creates a very chewy texture while focaccia typically has oil in its dough which creates a softer texture.
Tips, Tricks, & Techniques
- By design, ciabatta dough is an extremely wet dough (almost a very thick batter.) You may have the urge to add more flour to do the dough, but trust the process and avoid doing this. It will take a little practice to get comfortable shaping this wet dough.
- I highly recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients for this recipe. This is by far the most accurate way to measure for baking, especially for bread baking.
- Wet dough does not stick to wet surfaces, so keep a bowl of water close by and to dip your fingers in before handling the dough.
How to Make Ciabatta Bread
As with any bread recipe, there is not one way to approach it rather many different techniques that could be used. This technique produces authentic ciabatta bread that are soft, pillowy, and chewy.
Note: I prefer to utilize Red Star’s Platinum Superior Baking Yeast for my ciabatta because it increases oven spring and creates a beautiful texture for the bread. However, you can also use their quick rise yeast or their active dry yeast.
Mix the Biga
Ciabatta starts out with an Italian style preferment known as a biga. Making the biga is very simple to do. Some of the flour, water, yeast and salt is mixed together at least 12 and up to 24 hours before the final dough will be made. I typically do this the night before I’m going to make the bread.
Mix the Dough
After the biga has fermented for at least 12 hours, combine it with the rest of the ingredients for the ciabatta dough. Since ciabatta is a lean dough it only contains four ingredients: water, flour, yeast, and salt!
Use a wooden spoon to stir together all of the ingredients. Resist the urge to add more water or flour. It will at first look shaggy and then will look too wet. Just trust that it will work out well!
The Stretch & Fold
Ciabatta dough is an extremely wet (high hydration) dough. To give you an idea, most bread recipes sit around 60% hydration while this ciabatta recipe is at almost 75% hydration. Because of this, the dough is not kneaded the same way other yeast dough is. Rather, it is allowed to slowly ferment with a series of brief stretch and folds. (This is exactly the same process as when we made baguettes.)
The stretch and fold method serves three main purposes: it layers the gluten to build structure in the dough, it redistributes the heat within the dough, and it puts the yeast back in contact with its food source.
The dough will ferment for 3 hours, with 3 rounds of brief stretch and folds between each 45 minutes. To stretch and fold, lightly damp your fingers (this will help the dough not to stick) and pull up on the side of the dough and fold it back down on itself. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Do this until you have stretched and folded all 4 sides of the dough. Turn the dough over, cover, and allow it to ferment for 45 more minutes until the next round.
Prep the Oven
To prep your oven you need a surface to bake the loaves on as well as a surface to create steam. The oven should be preheating for at least an hour before baking so that every part of it is extremely hot.
A baking stone or baking steel are by far the best surfaces to bake bread on. If you do not have one of these, then you can use a sheet pan turned upside down. Position your baking surface on the middle rack in your oven.
To create steam in your oven, preheat a cast iron or other oven proof skillet on the very bottom rung in your oven. You want the skillet to get very hot so when you throw ice cubes into it in the oven it will immediately start evaporating, creating steam. This helps with oven spring and the texture of the bread.
Shape the Dough
After the dough has fermented, pour the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. It will be very wet and sticky. I find that if I dampen a flexible bench scraper it is a great tool to scrape the dough out of the bowl. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel, unrimmed baking sheet, or sheet pan turned upside down and dust it with semolina or cornmeal. This way you can slide the parchment right onto the hot baking surface.
Dampen your hands and then pick up one piece of the dough and place it on the prepared parchment paper. Stretch and pat out the dough to a flat rectangle shape. It will be very sticky but wet hands work best to shape it. It can be a rustic shape. Repeat this step with the second piece of dough. (alternatively you can shape all of the dough into one big loaf)
Let the Ciabatta Rise
Dust the top of the shaped loaves with some flour and cover with a floured towel. Let the loaves rise for one hour.
Bake the Ciabatta
Fill a bowl up with about 2 cups worth of ice cubes and set it near the oven. You will need to work quickly and carefully.
Open the oven and slide the parchment with the ciabatta onto the preheated surface. Pour the ice cubes into the hot skillet and quickly close the oven door. Bake the ciabatta bread until they are golden brown and sound hallow when tapped.
Making ciabatta bread is a technique that takes some practice and patience, but even imperfect ones will taste incredible! Each attempt at this Italian style bread will reveal something new about the process and I encourage you to dive in and give it a try!
MORE RECIPES FROM BAKER BETTIE!
If you enjoyed this tutorial, you might like to try these other delicious bread recipes.
How to Make Authentic Ciabatta Bread
Make authentic ciabatta bread at home with this recipe!. Ciabatta bread is a classic Italian style bread that translates to mean "slipper bread" due to the shape of the loaves. Ciabatta is a soft and chewy bread made with a preferment called a biga, which gives great flavor.
For the Biga (preferment)
- 165 grams (1 cup plus 6 TBSP) bread flour
- 130 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP) water, room temperature
- pinch of Red Star platinum, quick rise, or active dry yeast
For the Final Dough
- the biga
- 180 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tsp) water, room temperature
- 250 grams (2 cups plus 1 1/2 TBSP) bread flour
- 3 grams (1 tsp) Red Star platinum, quick rise, or active dry yeast
- 5 grams (1 tsp) kosher salt
- cornmeal or semolina for dusting
- MAKE THE BIGA: At least 12 and up to 24 hours before making your ciabatta, make the biga. In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the biga and stir together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
- COMBINE THE DOUGH: Add the rest of the ingredients for the ciabatta dough into the bowl with the biga. Stir until well combined. It will appear as if there is not enough liquid at first, but as you work it together it will become a very wet and sticky dough. You may need to use your hands to knead it slightly to hydrate all the flour. As soon as all of the flour is hydrated with no dry spots, cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and let it set at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- STRETCH AND FOLD: After the dough has rested for 45 minutes, you will do a series of three stretch and folds with the dough. With the dough still in the bowl, lightly dampen your hand (this will prevent the dough from sticking) and pull on one side of the dough and stretch it up and then fold it down over the top of the dough. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and do the same with the next side. Do this again until you have stretched all four sides of the dough up and over on itself. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 45 more minutes. Stretch and fold the dough for the second round. Cover and let rest for 45 more minutes. Stretch and fold for the third round. Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 more minutes. This is a three hour process from when the dough is mixed to when it is ready to be shaped. Four 45 minute resting periods with three stretch and folds in between.
- PREP THE OVEN & OTHER EQUIPMENT: During the final resting period, prep your pans and your oven. Position one oven rack in the very bottom position in the oven and another rack in the middle position. Place a cast iron skillet or another heatproof skillet on the bottom rack and a baking stone, baking steal, or a sheet pan turned upside down on the middle rack. Preheat your oven to 450F (230C). You want your oven and pans to be heating for at least an hour before the bread goes into the oven. Additionally, prepare a pizza peel or an unrimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper sprinkled lightly with semolina or cornmeal.
- SHAPE INTO CIABATTA: Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. It will be very wet and sticky. Use a damp bench scraper to scrape the dough out of the bowl. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Dampen your hands and then pick up one piece of the dough and place it on the prepared parchment paper. Stretch and pat out the dough to a flat rectangle shape. It will be very sticky but wet hands work best to shape it. It can be a rustic shape. Repeat this step with the second piece of dough. (alternatively you can shape all of the dough into one big loaf)
- LET THE DOUGH RISE: Lightly flour the top of the loaves and then cover with a floured towel. Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
- BAKE: Fill a small bowl with about 2 cups of ice cubes. You want to work quickly and carefully when transferring the ciabatta. Open the oven and gently slide the whole piece of parchment paper with the ciabatta onto the preheated baking stone or sheet pan. Quickly pour the ice cubes into the preheated skillet and immediately shut the oven door. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the ciabatta loaves are a light golden brown and sound hallow when tapped.
- COOL: Allow the ciabatta to cool before slicing. This will completely develop their flavor. Ciabatta is best when eaten the same day. However, leftover ciabatta can be wrapped in foil once completely cooled and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days.
62 Comments on “How to Make Authentic Ciabatta Bread”
Love this tutorial! So helpful, and I LOVE ciabatta!
Thank you Laura! <3
When I baked at 450 the outside burned before the inside could cook all the way. What could I do to fix it? Should I adjust the temperature? Should I cover the bread with aluminum foil? It rose wonderfully just didn’t bake well.
Hi Nicole! I’m so sorry to hear you had this problem. It sounds like your oven might be heating hotter than what you set it at. Do you by chance have an oven thermometer to check what temperature it is at? I’m going to test this again tomorrow for a little longer baking time at 425 F to give some margin for error with oven temps. Thanks for letting me know!
I’m wondering if I could bulk ferment the dough after the last stretch and fold. It would ferment at room temp for an hour or two, before I dump it, and shape it, before the final rise.
Hope my question made sense!
Hi Mary! The whole period during the stretch and fold process is the bulk ferment phase. Just with some folds during. Am I understanding you correctly that you want to extend the bulk ferment time by 15-75 minutes longer than what is stated in the recipe? It should be fine to go longer if you need to for your timing.
I made this today. I make yeast breads a lot. I think there is a typo in this recipe. I used my kitchen scale to measure ingredients and realized that the first amount of water listed cannot be 130 grams if it’s also equivalent to 1+ cups water. So I used the cup equivalent instead, which measured about 245 g. I live in a desert yet my final dough was so sticky that I had to add 25 more g of flour to even imagine it looking like yours in the Stretch and Fold gif. I baked it as one giant loaf because it was still too gooey to attempt two separate loaves. It’s out of the oven just now and looks like a flying saucer–not pretty. I’m sure it will taste delicious because of the long prep with the yeast, but I’m not feeling very successful in this endeavor.
Hi there! I’m so sorry for the issues you had with the recipe. You are correct, there is a typo! The water in the biga should read “130 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tsp) water.” The “/2” seems to have accidentally been deleted. I always write my bread recipes by weight but give the volume measures just in case someone doesn’t have a scale. Truly sorry that made your dough much more wet. This is an extremely wet dough and definitely takes some practice to work with regardless. Thank you for bringing to typo to my attention!
I find only two fold rising work better. Four and hte bread is flat on cooking.
Also, two cups of ice is a waste. I suggest using a large cooking pan in place of a frying pan, more heat source, more steam. one cup of ice on a large cookie sheet works best for me
I tried it AGAIN THOUGH, and this time is came out perfect! Crusty crunchy, inside bubbly and moist. Heaven! ( I made two sponges to work from, last one was far better than first, maybe the first sponge (biga) needed more time…)
So glad to hear that you enjoyed this attempt! Thanks for sharing!
This a GREAT recipe. After trying and failing with Carol Field, this saved me
I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this recipe! That makes me so happy! <3
Thanks so Much Baker Bettie,
Like I mentioned, tried a LOT of other recipes, and in the end they all failed. Your direction was far superior. The Pinch and Fold method, really was critical to success. Same for the quicker intervals, amking the dough so much more resilient. I was a bit wary for the final bake, because it looked kind of flat. But, boy, did it bounce back. Your recipe is a wee bit hotter than others, and that made the difference in my view.
Any idea for biga crackers? I’m swimming in biga now.
I am so happy to hear that! I truthfully have never made biga crackers so I’m sorry I’m not much help there!
Baker Bettie, the flour measurement for the final dough disappeared! Is it my computer? I love this recipe and have made it a couple of times. thank you!
Hi Franzi! My site was going through some update and some of my recipes got a little messed up. It is fixed now! So glad you enjoy it!
Oh no! The flour disappeared from the dough recipe list. I guessed wrong. But, I did end up finding it on an older version of the page on the Wayback Machine: https://web.archive.org/web/20180812213438/https://bakerbettie.com/authentic-ciabatta-bread-recipe/.
So, if anyone is looking for it: “250 grams (2 cups plus 1 1/2 TBSP) bread flour”
Hi Angela! My site just went through an update and some of recipes did not transfer over properly. Thank you for this catch. I have been going through them one by one and checking them but it has taken some time. It is updated now!
You say the biga has salt, in the comments, but the ingredients list does not show salt.
Which is correct?
I just left a comment and then read more of these other comments. I have also found that baking it as one loaf works better for me and gives me a fuller and better rise. Also I use a technique I learned from America Test Kitchen (I think): I use two aluminum pie pans, one directly under the baking stone and another one on the floor of the oven directly beneath that one. I poked a hole in the top one so the water drips into the bottom one and is immediately turned into steam. This seems to work perfectly. I also use a linen cloth with the sides propped up to shape the loaves before I transfer them to the parchment paper lined peel to transfer to the baking stone. I get a pretty good rise in the oven this way and my loaves are not quite so flat.
Others have noted a typo error or alternatives on folding cycles, etc. I have been baking bread at home for several years as a serious hobby. Among the varieties of breads that I bake are all those in Ken Forkish’s Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Your ciabatta recipe was one of several recipes that I tried several months ago. It was far and away the best. Because I bake bread on a weekly basis to hone my skills, and more importantly because I love the hands only process described in Ken’s book I bake far more than my wife and I can eat so I give them away to friends, neighbors and colleagues at Emory University School of Medicine where I am a professor. A number of my colleagues/friends were born and educated in Italy’s eastern coastline. To say they love rustic breads is an understatement. They especially liked sourdough breads, Italian bread and Baguettes that I have been baking for several years, but when I baked your ciabatta they went wild! I can’t bake them fast enough. So from them and from me, many, many thanks. Bob M.
Hi Bob! Thank you so much for this kind comment. It truly means a lot to me! I’m so glad that you are your friends have enjoyed this bread!
I’ve tried your recipe for the 2nd time and it turned out dense. Is there anything that I missed out ?
Hi Delia! It’s possible that your dough is either under or over proofed. Is your kitchen particularly hot or cold?
Could be under but I did make sure its double in size. I’ll try again! Thanks for sharing this recipe and replying.
So I just made this recipe for the first time and I wish I could show you a picture because I think it turned out beautifully! I’ll definitely have to work on the shaping portion but I’ll have more opportunities to do so, but nothing wrong with a misshapen loaf, it’ll taste just as good. The instructions are super easy to follow and I know my patience will be worth it.
This recipe is my first time making bread. Letting the loaves cool now and they smell amazing. I really appreciate the clear instructions (never heard of Biga before and never seen this technique). Pending the taste test, I can see myself making this weekly.
Can I utilize all-purpose flour? Bread flour that is readily available i n the country where I live is dark, not white.
Yes, you can use unbleached all purpose flour
Great success the first time. This is going in my “winner” file. I would like to increase the recipe to 4 cups of flour (total) to use in the Emile Henry ciabatta baker. Can you give me amounts?
Hi there, are you wanting 4 cups of total flour including the biga? If so, you will want to multiply the recipe by 1.15. Honestly, it is close enough to 4 cups that it will likely work as is in the baker!
Thank you for such a great recipe. Is it possible to increase the ingredients by a bit to use the Emile Henry ciabatta baker? If so, by what %. The recipe included calls for about 5 cups of flour (total).
i love your recipe for ciabatta! mine always turns out. but your time in the oven at 450 seem excessive. mine is done at around 18-20 minutes. my oven has been checked for temperature and is within 8 degrees.
Hi Gord, The bread will be cooked through in the center before the full time, but the last bit of time is to get a nice dark color on the crust for flavor. I will update the recipe notes to specify this as I understand not everyone enjoys as dark of a crust.
I’m from Russia and I don’t know English very good. Thanks to you recipe I know, what a biga is. But now I cook with 60% water on the weight of biga. Then I will try with 44% water.
Followed recipe exactly. Ingredients by weight. Came out quite well. Good crust and crumb. Thanks
So happy to hear that Gino!
Thanks for the awesome recipe ! Is there a way to hold a bit of dough back for the following day’s Biga ( or poolish for baguette)?
Hi Adam, yes, you can always save a portion of the dough, wrapped in the refrigerator, to incorporate into your next dough!
Please advise on the correct Hydration as you state this recipe is close to 80%
But the calculation is like 67%
Hi Cliff! Looks like I did misspeak about the hydration as it is about 75%, not 80%. But when you calculate the ingredients from the biga and the final dough it comes out to be 415 gr of flour and 310 water. This math works out to be about 75% which is correct. I’ve made and tested the recipe many times and amounts listed are correct! I will update the copy to edit that text to reflect what is accurate. Thanks for the heads up!
Great recipe!! Making it for the third time today. Essential for first time bread makers to have a recipe that works and your detailed instructions. Thanks so much.
The half cup pulse few tablespoons of water can’t be right for the biga . It’s much too dry. Other recipies have much more.
I followed this recipe to the letter. It was a disaster. After three 45 minutes resting period there was no rise. It was impossible to shape it it just flooded the pan. However I cooked it and it burned on the top and didn’t cook inside. Having read the previous comments apparently the water measurement was incorrect. I might try it again but am reluctant.
I made the ciabatta bread and it turned out fantastic.
I worked in a commercial/wholesale bakery for over 40 years and was never able to get a loaf of bread that tasted this good thanks for the recipe.
First time I made this. I Dont have a baking stone but still went ahead, used exact ingredients and it turned out perfect
I’m so glad!
Fantastic results. Thank you. All you could ever ask for in home cooked bread.
Awesome, thank you!
We tried your recipe. It is terrific. I made eight sandwich-size ciabattini. Baked them for 16 minutes at 450. It was the first time and I did not want to over bake them. Might leave them in a little longer next time, and there will be a next time. Grazie.
Should the liquid be measured in millimeters and not grams?
The gram weight is accurate in this post. However, typically you would use milliliters (that it what I would use now) however, this is one of my older posts.
Excellent recipe and the steps were well laid out.
I would like to point out that instead of the stretch and fold, I used the lamination technique and the results were just brill!
The three folds were done on a lightly oiled surface. The dough was degassed the first two times and then folded like a business letter. The third time around, I patted it down gently, degass a bit but not too much- save them airholes!
The result was a ball of bread, the oven spring was out of this world and the crumb structure was to die for.
Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing!
That recipe is absolutely amazing. My husband and I ate half a loaf for dinner and will eat the other one tomorrow. Thanks, Bettie
Hi Bettie. I have a question. How long I can keep biga active in refrigerator. And what can I do after?
Always before when make Biga, it has been very wet. This, with the ratio of flour to water is not. Should it be very wet or more solid as this is?
Followed recipe but ended up with a wet sticky mess that spread out into a pizza base when transferred to baking sheet. So I gathered it together and stuffed it into a loaf tin. Never again.