My wife and I love ciabatta, especially for soaking up soup, a handle for bruschettas, or a base for cheese. It was only natural I, obsessed with improving my bread baking skills (especially sourdoughs), would try a ciabatta.
I've been running a set of experiments trying to decide two things: 1) what hydration I should keep my SD seed starter at, and 2) is it worth the effort to do multiple builds to arrive at the formula starter I choose to use? This ciabatta was constructed with 250 gm. of 73% hydrated starter built with three intermediate stages. The initial seed starter was 10 gm. at 200% hydration. The target dough weight was 1050 gm. (three 350 gm. loaves) at 73% hydration.
My tentative conclusions are: 1) the 200% Hydration favors yeast, not bacteria, development. This results in short bulk, and final proof times, and good oven spring, but nearly indiscernable sourness. (This conclusion includes the results of two previous baguette bakes.), and 2) the three build starter time is worth it. This ciabatta has a distinctive, yet still mild, sour flavor: a nice compliment to bleu cheese, or French onion soup.
The crumb, is, to our needs, also near perfect. I expected an even more (undesired) dense crumb. I folded the dough more than its feel deemed necessary. However, neither I nor my wife are fans of the "more-holes-than-bread" crumb other bakers seem to strive for in ciabatta.
I've developed two spreadsheets: The first helps us baker's calculate the flour and liquid for a target dough weight and target hydration, using (or not using) a SD starter, poolish, or sponge while also allowing choices re which flours ahd how much of each, as well as fluids--water isn't the only choice (i sometimes use beer). The second spread sheet calculates the required seed starter needed to create a desired starter weight and hydration, achieved with three builds--the necessary flour and water for each build is calculated also.. Each build triples the starter's beginning weight, and increases (or decreases) by one-third its hydration %. If anyone is interested, send me a message with your email address and I'll send you the spread sheets. They were built with Microsoft Excel (.xls extension.)