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‍A bread well worth the effort. Bears little resemblance to its commercial counterparts. A surprising bread with a soft crisp crust concealing an open textured loaf within. Split in half and eaten with cheese or any filling of your choice.

Makes 4 - 10 loaves

Biga made 12-24 hours ahead

7g (1/4 oz) yeast

400ml (14fl ozs/1 3/4 cups) warm water

500g (1lb 2ozs/4 1/2 cups) plain flour


7g (1/4oz) fresh yeast

100ml (4fl ozs/1/2 cup) warm milk

300ml (10fl ozs/1 1/4 cups) warm water

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) olive oil

500-600ml (17-20fl ozs/2 – 2 1/2 cups) biga

500g (1lb 2ozs/4 1/2 cups) plain flour

15g (1/2oz) salt

Make the biga by stirring the yeast into 50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) warm water and leave until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining water and then the flour.

Put the biga into lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 12-24 hours.

It will more than double in volume, will be wet and sticky.  It will also have a very strong fermented smell when ready.

To make the Ciabatta.

Measure out 475-600ml (17-20fl ozs/2 – 2 1/2 cups) of the biga. Save the rest for the next batch. Stir the yeast into the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer, let stand for about 10 minutes. Add the water, oil and measured biga.

Mix with the paddle until blended. Add the flour and salt, mix for 10 minutes. Change to the dough hook and beat for 15 -25 minutes at high speed, or until the dough is stringy and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.  Getting the dough to this stage is essential for final shaping of the dough.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, leave to rise for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in size. The dough should be full of air bubbles, very supple, elastic, and sticky when fully risen.  Don’t knock the dough back

Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F / gas mark 7.

Turn the dough out on to a well floured work surface.  Cut the dough into 4 - 10 pieces depending what size you want and what occasion you are making the bread for. Generously flour 2 baking trays. Place the pieces on to the tray.

Dimple the loaves with the tips of your fingers.

Cover with tea towels and leave to rest until puffy, for 30 – 45 minutes.   The loaves will not have risen much and when pressed with a finger will still be quite active.  Dust lightly with flour before baking

Bake for 20-25 minutes, Cool on wire racks.

22/05/2008 (SH) (6442)

This is a recipe by
Darina Allen
View all my recipes

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