The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


bwraith's picture

Sourdough Ciabatta 

 Sourdough Ciabatta CrustSourdough Ciabatta Crust: Sourdough Ciabatta Crust

Sourdough Ciabatta CrumbSourdough Ciabatta Crumb

Sourdough Ciabatta Crumb (lengthwise slice)Sourdough Ciabatta Crumb (lengthwise slice)

Sourdough Ciabatta w/Olive OilSourdough Ciabatta w/Olive Oil

One of the favorite family breads seems to be ciabatta, and this sourdough version is clearly preferred (wolfed down) by my kids for its flavor. I've achieved a little better crust and crumb with yeasted versions, particularly the one in Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking", but the sourdough flavor is hard to beat, especially with salty grilled left over meats in sandwiches. The recipe is loosely based on the BBA (Reinhart) "Poolish Ciabatta", as well as incorporating ideas from Maggie Glezer's version in "Artisan Baking".

This is a work in progress, but I like the way this one turned out. The flavor is a little mild, which may mean I need to lengthen and/or retard the fermentation, or maybe use somewhat more ripe starter, an exercise for future attempts.

Many thanks to various contributors to this site as always, and especially in this case to Zolablue, who encouraged me to pay more attention to ciabatta with some just great photos and discussions about how to achieve better holes in ciabatta through hydration, proper handling, and flour choice, all of which were used here.

Photos of process have been posted for this ciabatta and a sourdough raisin focaccia I made at the same time. A spreadsheet is also posted showing weights in ounces or grams.


  • 16 oz BBA style barm fed w/KA organic AP flour (1:1 by weight flour:water)

The day before this bread was baked, I took my "BBA style barm", a 100% hydration starter fed with KA Bread Flour, out of the refrigerator. I fed it 1:2:2 (starter:flour:water) three times over the course of the day at room temperature, which refreshed the starter and built enough starter for this recipe, the sourdough raisin focaccia I also made the next day, as well as some left over to return to storage in the refrigerator. The larger amounts were made by feeding with KA organic AP flour, to convert to KA organic AP flour, a choice of a slightly lower protein flour that should be good for irregular, large holes and artisan style bread.


  • 16 oz 100% hydration starter using KA organic AP Flour
  • 15 oz KA organic AP Flour
  • 2 oz KA Rye Blend Flour
  • 12 oz water
  • 0.5 oz salt (14 grams)


Mix the flours and water together in a bowl (I used a dough hook for this). Let sit for about 30 minutes.


Mix flours and water above with the 16 oz of starter, 0.5 oz salt, and mix for a couple of minutes - just long enough to thoroughly mix the starter and salt with the flour and water from the autolyse step. The dough should be quite "wet", meaning it will not clean the bottom or even much of the sides of the mixer bowl. It should be fairly sticky and already have a fair amount of gluten development.

Bulk Fermentation and Folding: (about 4.5 hours)

Make a fairly thick bed of flour on the counter about 12 inches square. Using a dough scraper, pour the dough out into the middle of the bed of flour. Allow it to rest for a few minutes. Then, fold the dough by flouring or wetting your hands, then grabbing one side of the dough and lifting and stretching it, folding it over itself like a letter. Do this for all 4 sides. Brush flour off the dough as you fold over the sides that were in contact with the bed of flour. You don't want to incorporate much flour into the dough as you fold. After folding, shape it gently back into a rectangle or square, spray it with a light coating of olive oil or some other oil spray, and dust very lightly with flour. Then cover it with plastic wrap, and drop a towel over it. If the dough seems a little stiff at this point, it unfortunately probably already doesn't have enough water in it. You can put it back in the mixer and add 1 oz of water and try again. Or, soldier on and adjust your water next time. Repeat the folds approximately every 45 minutes two more times. If the dough seems very resistant to stretching, only fold it from two directions instead of four. You don't want the dough to get really stiff from too much folding. The amount of folding you will need will be more if you have more water and less if you have less water. Note that even an ounce can make a very big difference in the consistency of the dough. After three folds, let the dough rise for another 2.5 to 3 hours, at which point, the dough should have doubled roughly in volume. Use the "poke test" to get a feel for how long to continue the bulk fermentation.


Divide the dough into four pieces of equal size, roll them in the bed of flour to dust the cut ends, and let them rest a few minutes. To shape, take one of the four pieces, stretch it out and roll it or fold it over itself very gently. With ciabatta this amounts to a gently stretch and fold like a letter. You want to create some tension in the surface of the dough by folding it over itself that way, then if you place the dough folds down on a couche, it will seal up the seams. Use the couche to create folds for the ciabatta and then nestle the folds between supports, such as bags of flour or whatever system you may have similar to what you might do for baguettes.

Final Proof:

Let them rise in the couche for about 2.5 hours, until they are puffy and have increased significantly in volume.

Prepare to Bake:

Preheat oven to 500F (yes, you can probably do it without preheating, as mentioned elsewhere on the site, but it's not what I did this time). While that is going on, take each loaf out of the couche, gently stretch it in one direction by about double, lay it on a peel, maybe with parchment paper underneath, maybe sprinkled with corn meal or similar, and use your fingertips to flatten out the loaf. You can press down fairly firmly to feel the peel underneath. It sounds crazy, but the loaf will bounce back just fine in the oven if it is not overproofed. This step is important to avoid "separation of crust and crumb" or "one gigantic hole" instead of many holes. It also evens out the loaf so it has a nicer shape after baking.


Place loaves in the oven and lower temperature to 450F. Bake for about 13 minutes, until the internal temperature is around 207F (I'm near sea level), rotating them after about 9 minutes. You can bake them longer to get a darker, harder crust. Actually, I think this KA organic artisan AP flour may benefit from a little bit of added diastatic malted barley flour, as the breads I baked with this flour today were more pale than previous results with KA AP or KA Bread Flour combinations. I don't think I overproofed them, but maybe that's a factor. The loaves should spring up from their "flattening" with your fingertips, such that not much evidence is left of the dimples you made with your fingers.


Let bread completely cool, if you can stand to wait.

This bread is especially good for sandwiches, sliced in half and then sliced along the "flat" direction to open up like a hamburger bun. It is great for burgers, steak sandwiches, ham, or just with olive oil and pepper.

redivyfarm's picture

After many starts and stops in bread making, I have found a passle of information in the community of The Fresh Loaf.  In less than a week of perusing bakers postings, I have confirmed that my softer doughs do indeed perform better and for good reason.  I have figured out how to keep my sourdough alive and kicking and am inspired to grow another using rye flour and fresh grapefruit juice.  I've read through all of the baking lessons and chosen to start with the last lesson and see where that goes!

Butler's picture
Steam Meat Bun
Steam Meat Bun (Rou Bao)
Over the weekend, I decided to experiment with my sourdough for a steam bun recipe. Having done a little research on "steam bun", there were recipes which use "old dough". So I decide to twist the recipe by incorporating firm sourdough starter. The result was really good. Just remember to use cake flour in the making of the firm sourdough starter and the final dough. And you will obtain the soft texture like those in the Dim Sum restaurant.
jthiessen's picture

I used sourdough lady's starter recipe and suddenly after two weeks of feeding...ITS READY!!! Wow, it really sprang to life and easily doubles every time I feed it! I'm like a proud father every time I look at it (which is about every 30 mins at this point).

So now I need help. I need SD recipes and advice on the next step. Thanks in advance for your help.


Portland, Oregon

Breadbaker70's picture

Slashing a loaf of very loose bread dough can be quite an experience. I've found a way that works on even very soft dough, without deforming or tearing the loaf. This sounds rediculous, but it works. 

An electric knife will cut the most slack dough without deforming the loaf. It takes practice, don't press down or you'll cut your loaf to the bottom. The knife blade doesn't even get dirty. No dough sticks to it and if you don't have one, you should be able to get a low cost knife for $5.00 at a Big Lots or other discount store. Give it a try.

Breadbaker70's picture

I've found a product which makes it easier to transfer your loaf to the oven.  I use a Regency Professional Parchment sheet to form my loaf on.  It is a silicone coated, thin and slick, fiber glass woven cloth.  It come in 13 X 17 inches and will slide off the bottom of a small baking pan onto your stone.  Leave it in the oven.  Your bread will bake on it and come off easily when done.  These can be used over and over for years.  A package of 2 shouldn't cost more than $5.00.  I've bought them at World Market and on the Internet.  Made in Dallas, Texas by Regency Wraps, Inc.  Don't try the French sheet, they don't slide.  I even use these sheets for cookies, pizza and anything else which might stick to the pan.

tattooedtonka's picture

I am doing this after seeing so many create a blog of their efforts.  Hopefully I will be able to look back on this over the next years and see some sort of improvement, hopefully.  Ha, ha

April 1st bread

jthiessen's picture

Here is the result of watching the video clip of Danielle Forestier on Julia Childs show where she slaps the dough some 800+ times.  And I attempted to do just that.....800 times!!!

And what difference did it make?  Mine came out kind of flat, not much oven spring, mis shaped due to their incredible second rise right into one another, and complete lack of large holes.  Where are those darned holes!!!?!?!?!

Taste good, though (despite the Carpel Tunnel Syndrome I'm now expriencing).

Any suggestions?

800 slaps on the bench!!!800 slaps on the bench!!! 

Sam-I-Am's picture

My new starter is only about a week and a half old, but today I was able to make sour bread with it!

Last year I tried my first starter, and while the starter was sour, I could never figure out how to get nice sour bread. I then got busy with other things, and the next thing I knew, my starter was looking quite black and fuzzy in the back of the fridge. Ew.

My new starter at 4 days old:


This is from sourdolady's starter recipe; rye flour and OJ the first days, then moving to a white flour and water feeding.

The bread I made today:


I wasn't trying for a such an open crumb as this; I was mostly interested in getting sour flavor. The bread turned out quite flat! 

The below paragraph is my notes to myself on how I made this bread; skip it if you get bored! 

I didn't really use anyone's recipe...I combined a cup of starter with two cups of flour and some water, with a tablespoon or two of rye thrown in. I let it autolyse for 20 minutes then added salt (1/2 - 1 tsp) and kneaded. I kept the dough VERY wet. I'm a beginning baker so I had some trouble handling it. It did, however, develop nicely while kneading. Then I refrigerated the dough overnight as it was getting late. This morning I pulled it out of the fridge and let it resume fermenting on the countertop. It was about 70* in our house. The dough took a very long time to rise at first; the internal temp of the dough didn't get above 70* till after the folding. I folded (ala JMonkey) it when the dough was double and let it ferment again. Then I shaped it, degassing just a little, and let it rise in the coldest room of the house. When it was doubled, I put my baking stone in the oven and heated it to 550*. I slashed the dough (which didn't work so well; it was too wet for me to use my usual technique of Very Sharp Knife) and then threw it in while spraying the oven with water. There was hardly ANY oven spring, which is likely a result of my abysmal shaping skills. I turned the heat down to 475* after 5 minutes, then let it bake for 25 additional minutes, until the bread was golden brown and sounded hollow. I impatiently let it cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then eagerly sliced into it. Crispy crust, lovely large irregular holes, and best of all, sour taste! I'm sure I can get better sour bread in the months to come as my starter matures, but for a first bread, this was pretty incredible!

Next time: work on shaping technique. Like Floydm said, a baker needs an iron hand in a velvet glove. I think I didn't get very good tension or a good seal. I also think I left too much air in there before shaping.

Let me know if you see anything that can be improved! 

TinGull's picture

Made some pizza a few nights ago and am now just getting to posting the pic. Was tasty, but I still can't get the dough thin enough to where it can be a "thin crust"....I guess I'll just have to try again, shucks! It wasn't anything but a regular ol' pizza dough and some tomato sauce,sliced tomatoes, mozz and basil. Simple ingredients.

Last night I decided I wanted to bake again today (starting to become an every day affair now) and I wanted to ciabatta. My shaping is awful with these slack doughs. I got 1 out of 4 looking good, but I bet they'll taste fabulous anyways. Here's a picture of the gluten developement on one that just came out of the oven about 10 minutes ago...

and the dough as it rose overnight...


Again, a simple recipe that included my starter (about a cup worth), maybe 1 3/4C water and a couple cups of KAAP flour and a slight bit of SAF yeast and some salt. Totally guestimates on the amounts, as I dont measure much.

The crumb...amazing! This is the most delicate bread I've made yet, which is cool. I did an autolyse for about 40 minutes, and this was the first time I'd ever done that process. You can bet I'll be doing that every time now!

 And the much needed "ciabatta dipped in oil" shot:



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