Classic Ciabatta Bread Recipe

From poolish to plate, this easy ciabatta bread is as forgiving as it is flavorful, making it an instant hit with the whole family.

Photo by William Rubel

Classic ciabatta takes a lot of time. If you give the poolish 18 to 20 hours to mature, which I recommend, then the bread will take more than 24 hours total. Depending on how long you let the poolish sit and the warmth of your kitchen, you should plan for the whole process to take between 19 and 30 hours. Yeast is sensitive to temperature, so bread rising in a kitchen that’s 65 degrees Fahrenheit will take hours longer than it would in an 80-degree kitchen. While the poolish should ferment in a cool environment, the bread dough will do better with warmth. Yield: 1 large loaf, 2 long loaves, or 4 to 8 rolls.

Poolish Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cup (150 grams) unbleached white flour, preferably bread flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) cool water
  • 3 pinches (0.3 grams) active dry yeast

Dough Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250 grams) warm water
  • 2-1/2 rounded cups (350 grams) unbleached white flour, preferably bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) salt
  • 1 slightly rounded teaspoon (6 grams) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) olive oil, optional
  • Cooking oil
  • Extra flour for dusting

Note: For accuracy, weigh ingredients with a digital scale. Ciabatta is defined by the high ratio of water to flour by weight in the dough, and because volume measurements are imprecise, the ingredients need to be weighed to produce a true ciabatta.

Poolish Directions

Make poolish. Mix the flour, water, and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Cover, and set aside at room temperature for 12 to 20 hours, preferably a minimum of 18 hours. The longer you leave it, the richer the sensory qualities of the final bread will be. Smell and taste the poolish to judge how it’s developing. When it’s ready, the poolish will have spread out and become a mass of bubbles, and it will have started to develop sweet and complex aromas.

Photo by William Rubel

Make dough. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush a large mixing bowl or plastic proofing box with cooking oil, and set aside.

Add the warm water to the poolish. Use your hands to release the poolish from the bowl’s sides. Transfer the poolish to a large, unoiled mixing bowl, and then add the flour, salt, yeast, and optional olive oil. Mix by hand or with a dough hook. When the dough is mixed, transfer it to the lightly oiled mixing bowl or box. Cover, and let rise until it’s filled with bubbles and has doubled in bulk, about 2 hours in an 80 degree Fahrenheit proofing oven, or 4 hours or more in a cooler kitchen.

Photo by William Rubel

First stretch-and-fold. Bakers use this technique to develop gluten in sticky, wet doughs. For a visual demonstration, search “stretch and fold Peter Reinhart” on YouTube.

Diana Escobar Parker
3/4/2020 3:00:56 PM

Am I not seeing it. What is the temp. And cook for how long?

12/17/2019 11:02:16 AM

My poolish was 50 g of active sourdough starter, 150 g water and 150 g bread flour. Let the Polish build up for 18 hours and then followed the above recipe/directions. Came out very well, with just a bit of sourdough tang. (I also followed the Tartine method of doing the turns in my proofing container.)

11/28/2019 1:05:31 PM

Okay, I've tried this one; and it's pretty good. I did add some whole wheat flour to the dough (20%), and did the stretch-and fold part leaving the dough in the container (Tartine-style). Next time, I'll use leven (fermented starter) instead of yeast to the dough, along with the poolish; and keep the longer rising times (just because I like the effect of the leven. (I might wind up with sourdough ciabatta; but that wouldn't be ALL bad...) Also, steamy oven makes it rise higher....

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