Ciabatta Bread

Makes 4 loaves

This wonderful Italian bread is named after its ‘slipper’ shape. This recipe is the result of many trials, but is mainly based on a recipe Lotty Schellenberg sent me from Switzerland. There, of course, you don’t need to bake it: you can get it at the market. The trick to this bread is to let it triple in size during the first rise. European users, see Notes on Ingredients.


1 tsp. dry yeast

250ml/1 cup warm water

350g/1½  cup sifted flour


1½  tsp. dry yeast

5 tbsp. warm milk

1 tbsp. olive oil

250ml/1 cup warm water

600g/3 cups flour  

2-3 tsp. salt

(2-3 tbsp. warm water additional if needed)

  1. Sponge: In a mixer bowl, add the yeast to the water, allow to stand for 3-4 minutes, stirring gently. Sift the flour and add to the yeast. Combine ingredients well, cover and let stand at room temperature for 12 hours.
  2. Dough: Add the yeast to the milk, stir and let it stand 3-4 minutes to be sure the yeast is working.
  3. Add the yeast mixture, water and oil to the sponge and mix with a dough hook.
  4. Add 2 cups of flour and the salt and knead for 2 minutes at low speed, 3 minutes at middle speed, adding the remaining flour slowly, or more water, until the dough begins to pull from the sides of the bowl.

The dough should be quite soft; firm enough to handle without sticking to the hands, but still very soft. Add the last of the flour slowly. Or, add water if necessary.

  1. Place in a large, oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until tripled in size and bubbly.
  2. Place the dough on floured baking paper or other surface and divide into 4 pieces, but do not punch down. Form in rectangles about 10” x 4”/25 x 10 cm in size and press down lightly with the fingers. Cover the dough and let rise for 90 minutes. The dough will rise only slightly.

The flour on the surface where the bread makes its final rise is what remains on the top of the loaf after baking. With practice you can adjust the amount to get a pleasing appearance. You can also form the dough into about  6 to 8 rolls.

Preheat oven to 200°C/400° F.

  1. Heat two baking sheets in the oven for about 15 minutes. Pick up the loaves, turn them over and lay them upside down on the sheets, being careful not to press out the air.
  2. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until bread just begins to turn golden. During the first 10 minutes, paint or spray the bread with water 3 times.

Adapted from a recipe provided by Lotty Schellenberg, Zürich.

Copyright © 2001-2012 by The Still Waters Group

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