Italian Ciabatta

Italian Ciabatta

Italian Ciabatta

We baked these several times a week at the cafe, because it was the perfect roll for so many sandwiches and paninis!  They are easy to make, just make sure to allow 12-20 hours for the "biga" to work before making the dough; it gives the ciabatta so much flavor!   They freeze wonderfully, and since the recipe makes 16, you can make these and wrap and freeze some for later use. You really can't buy ciabatta rolls this good!

Equipment needed:  Kitchen Scale    4 quart covered plastic container     Stand mixer  

Half-sheet pans     Wooden Board    Pizza Cutter

12 1/2 ounces unbleached flour

2 ounces whole wheat flour

16 ounces tepid water

1/4 teaspoon Instant Yeast

21 ounces unbleached flour

1 cup warm water

4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon Instant Yeast

Make the biga (sponge) by combining the first four ingredients in a 4-quart plastic container until very well blended.  Cover with a lid (or plastic secured with a rubber band, or a shower cap), and let rest at room temperature for 12 to 20 hours, until the biga is very bubbly.  (I tend to let it go for the whole 20 hours as I think it gives more complexity to the flavor of the finished ciabatta.)

Place the biga along with the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer (place the bowl on a kitchen scale.  Weigh each ingredient into the bowl, using the tare key to zero out the scale for each new ingredient).  Stir on low speed (using the dough hook) for about 4 minutes.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for 6 more minutes; the dough will be soft and slightly sticky.  (If it is too soft add a small amount of flour a little at a time.  If it is too dry, add a bit of water, a few dribbles at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.)  Transfer to a greased bowl, turning the dough to grease the top, and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, until very puffy.

Flour a wooden board well (or the counter top) and turn the dough out onto the board.  Shape it into an even 12 X 12-inch square.  Cut dough in half, then in quarters in both directions, which will create 16 3-inch squares, with a well-floured pizza cutter. Place them, floured side up, on parchment-lined baking sheets.  (I often use a metal spatula to move them, as they may become misshapen if you use your hands only.)  Cover the rolls and allow to rise in a warm spot for 45-55 minutes, or until very puffy.

While the rolls rise, preheat the oven to 425-degrees.  Place a cast-iron skillet or heavy metal pan in the lower part of the oven.  Place the rolls in the oven, then quickly add 1 cup of hot water to the skillet or pan and quickly close the door.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating pans half-way through the baking time.  Remove when the rolls are light brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

Cool on a wire rack.  Freeze if not using within one day.

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