How to Make Ciabatta Bread

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Get ready to learn how to make ciabatta bread, a rustic Italian bread perfect for dipping in soups and creating delicious sandwiches.

For bakers who have mastered a basic homemade loaf, the next challenge is to explore different styles of bread, from sourdough to baguettes. Most bread dough is a basic combination of flour, water, yeast and salt, and different preparations of these ingredients will result in different types of bread.

This loaf is no different—and with a bit of patience and time, you can learn how to make ciabatta bread all on your own.

What Is Ciabatta Bread?

Ciabatta bread is an Italian bread made of wheat flour, yeast and salt. It originated in the province of Rovigo, Veneto, Italy in 1982, in response to the popularity of French baguettes.

Ciabatta is a broad, flat loaf of bread, characterized by large holes within the crumb. The dough itself is much wetter than traditional French breads, but not as wet as a focaccia loaf. Unlike focaccia, which is a flatbread, ciabatta is formed into loaves for proofing and baking. Your finished ciabatta should have a crisp crust and a chewy center.

To create authentic ciabatta, you’ll start by making biga, which is similar to a sourdough starter. Flour, water and yeast are combined many hours before the dough is made—and then added to the dough to improve the flavor and texture of the finished bread.

Use your finished bread to make delicious appetizers, such as this Florentine ciabatta.

How to Make Homemade Ciabatta Bread from Scratch

Ingredients

For the biga:

  • 5 ounces unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
  • 4 ounces water, at room temperature

For the dough:

  • 10 ounces unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 6 ounces water, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces milk, at room temperature

Tools You’ll Need

  • Stand mixer: This is an essential small appliance that every kitchen needs. It will come in handy when you mix the dough ingredients together and then use the dough hook to knead your ciabatta dough.
  • Food scale: Precise measurements are key when it comes to making bread, and a kitchen scale will help you measure your dry ingredients properly.
  • Pizza stone: Baking your bread on a preheated pizza stone will be essential to evenly cooking your bread and achieving a crisp crust.

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the biga

Biga Preparation How to make ciabatta breadApril Preisler for Taste of Home

To prepare the biga, combine the flour, yeast and water in a medium bowl until the ingredients are all incorporated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight. The biga should stand for at least 8 hours but no more than 24 hours.

Step 2: Make the dough

Dough Ingredients How to make ciabatta breadApril Preisler for Taste of Home

To prepare the dough, combine the biga along with the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on the lowest speed setting until the ingredients are incorporated. Continue mixing for 4-6 minutes until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Switch from the paddle to the dough hook and increase the speed to medium, and knead for around 10 minutes. The dough should be shiny, but very sticky. Transfer the dough to a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough stand at room temperature until it doubles in size, around 1 hour.

Step 3: Fold the dough

Folding Dough How to make ciabatta breadApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Using your fingers or a rubber spatula sprayed with cooking spray, fold the dough over itself by pulling at the edge of the dough, lifting the dough and bringing it toward the center of the bowl. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and fold again, repeating for a total of 8 turns. Cover the bowl again and allow to stand for another 30 minutes.

Step 4: Shape the dough

Divide Dough How to make ciabatta breadApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and cut in half. Turn each half of dough cut-side up and dust with flour. Gently press the dough into a 12 x 6 inch rectangle and then fold the short ends toward the center with a small overlap. You should be left with a 7 x 4 inch rectangle.

Shape Loaves How to make ciabatta breadApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Cut two pieces of parchment paper to 12 x 6 inches and flour liberally. Gently transfer the loaf to one of the parchment sheets, seam side down, and dust with flour. Repeat with second loaf and then cover with plastic wrap. Allow loaves to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

Step 5: Bake the ciabattas

Finished Ciabatta How to make ciabatta breadApril Preisler for Taste of Home

Adjust your oven rack to the lower middle position and preheat with pizza stone inside to 450° F. Allow the oven to preheat for at least 30 minutes before baking loaves. Before placing the loaves in the oven, fill a baking sheet with hot water and place it on the rack under the pizza stone.

Place the parchment sheets and loaves onto a pizza peel or inverted baking sheet. Gently poke the surface of the loaves with your fingers to stretch them out to 10 x 6 inch rectangles. Carefully slide the parchment sheets and loaves onto the pizza stone and bake for 22 to 27 minutes. The crust should be deep golden brown and the internal temperature should register 210° F.

Cool loaves on cooling rack for 1 hour before slicing and serving.

Other Methods for Making Ciabatta Bread

You can make delicious, chewy ciabatta bread in less time by skipping the biga step. By using a no-knead ciabatta recipe, you mix all ingredients together at the start of the process. You’ll still need 12-18 hours for the first proof; however, you take out the steps of kneading, folding and proofing. With this method you will still end up with a crispy, chewy loaf of bread; the preparation is just less traditional.

Ciabatta Bread Tips

How do I know when ciabatta bread is done?

If you have a probe thermometer, you can measure the internal temperature of the bread. When fully cooked, the internal temperature should register 210° F. You can also tap the bottom of the bread; it should sound hollow when it’s done.

How do you store ciabatta bread?

Make sure that your bread is completely cooled before storing. Tightly wrap your loaves in foil or an airtight plastic bag and store at room temperature. Storing in the refrigerator will force the bread to dry out quicker. When properly stored, the bread should last for 2-3 days.

What do you eat ciabatta with?

If you opt for turning your ciabatta dough into rolls, these are great for many different things! The texture and holes in ciabatta rolls are perfect for dipping in soups or wiping up sauces from a dinner plate. They are also perfect for creating hearty sandwiches, like these  Chipotle Roast Beef Sandwiches.

Sandwich Ideas for Your Homemade Bread
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April Preisler
April is a food and travel lover, wine enthusiast, ice cream obsessed and the vision behind the blog, Food n' Focus. Her favorite cuisine is Italian and loves to cook international recipes.