The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole Wheat Ciabatta

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songwritergirl's picture

Whole Wheat Ciabatta

I'm new to the Fresh Loaf website, and a new student of home bread-baking. I want to chronicle my journey on this blog, and I'm definitely after that ultimate taste and texture in creating bread.  

These whole wheat ciabattas aren't my first attempts at baking bread, but they are my favorite flavors and textures so far. They're made with white whole wheat flour, (hard white wheat), using the recipe formula for Whole Wheat Focaccia from "Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads:New techniques, Extraordinary Flavor."

The flavor and crust are excellent, although I was hoping for a little more open and airy crumb. I think next time I'll try using regular whole wheat, (hard red spring wheat), a better thermometer, and either a shorter or longer delayed fermentation in the fridge, depending on how the dough seems to be developing. Once I learn to create my own natural leaven, I may try that with this recipe too.

Here's short list of ingredients and tools that I use:

King Arthur Flours

baking stone

parchment paper

pizza peel

oven thermometer

I'm really enjoying this learning process, and eating the bread I bake is such an immediate and gratifying creative experience. I love the community that sharing food can create, and one of the things I love doing most is sharing an evening with great friends, food and conversation.

And great bread.



Mebake's picture

For more open crumb, you'd have to handle the dough as gently as possible, taking care not to degass it much. High hydration also helps.

teketeke's picture

I agree with Mebake, but they look delicious in deed! 


songwritergirl's picture

Mebake and Akiko,

Thanks for your tips and compliments! I'm new to the world of bread baking, but I think I'm obsessed already! This whole wheat ciabatta is the first high hydration dough I've worked with, just beyond having a batter-like consistency. I did try to handle it very gently and as little as possible so as not to de-gas the dough. The recipe uses instant yeast (I used SAF Red) and an overnight autolyse to develop the dough-I think it sat for about 16 hours in the fridge. I wonder if I could get more open crumb by using a starter or natural leaven in this recipe, but I've yet to dive into that whole world. I used King Arthur white whole wheat flour, which is slightly lower in protein (13%) than King Arthur regular whole wheat flour, (14.20%), so I wonder if the gluten development would be a little stronger with regular whole wheat flour. I do need to make sure the water temp is more accurate-it was around 80º or 82º and the recipe specified 70º. The loaves did have a nice oven rise though, and are my favorite tasting breads so far.

I'm waiting for my Tartine Bread book to arrive, because I'm interested in his methods-using a small amount of young natural leaven, so the bread has a sweet not sour taste, very high hydration, small amount of manipulation with the developed dough, baking in a cast iron pot with lid to insure good steam during the first half of cooking. I'm after that "holey grail" of whole grain bread!


wassisname's picture

I use this recipe for all sorts of things, but my ciabatta has never looked this good.  Nice job!  And this recipe does work well with sourdough starter, too, when you get that far.


songwritergirl's picture

Thanks Marcus! I'd like to try the transitional whole wheat focaccia recipe from Reinhart's book, too, maybe to send to family members who prefer a little lighter bread. Thanks for the tip on the sourdough starter!

pdiff's picture

I need to try a whole wheat version!

On the crumb, did you move from fridge straight to the oven or did it "proof" at room temp first?  How much folding or kneading was used?  Also, what were the oven conditions, e.g. temp, use of steam, etc?  Components will probably make a difference too.  I wouldn't expect as much open crumb in a total whole wheat recipe, but have gotten very open crumb in a mix like Hammelman's roasted potato bread; about 2-3:1 white to whole wheat, if I remember right (which I probably don't :-) ).

Still, I have to agree with the others, it looks delicious to me!



songwritergirl's picture

Hi pdiff,

Thank you! The recipe directions did not require bringing the dough to room temperature. I didn't knead the dough at all, but gently rolled it out of the proofing bowl onto a floured surface. I very gently shaped it into a rectangle, cut the dough in half, and lightly shaped each of those pieces into rectangles. Then I folded each piece into thirds, top over bottom, sprinkled flour over each piece, and let them proof, seam side down, for 45 minutes. Each piece is then turned seam side up for baking in the oven, and sprinkled with a little more flour for effect. I did as little handling of the dough as possible for each step.

Oven temperature was set to 500º for preheating. I set one of the oven racks in the middle position in the oven and put my baking stone on that rack. For steam, I put a small aluminum pie pan on the other oven rack which I put beneath the baking stone, on the second to lowest position in the oven, and after I put the bread in the oven I poured one cup of hot water into the preheated aluminum pan, and also misted the upper oven a bit with a spray bottle. Oven temperature was then lowered to 450º for baking.

I'll keep trying different things to see if I can get a more open crumb with the whole wheat. It does have a great flavor-I'm guessing the delayed overnight fermentation probably helps in developing that. I love the simplicity of ciabatta, and rustic breads in general. The Hammelman's Roasted Potato Bread sounds good too!


pdiff's picture

Sounds like you are hitting all the right things.  If the loaves are sitting out for 45 min, they are probably warming a good deal anyway.  Perhaps a fold or two during the cold bulking time can help encourage the good gluten formation necessary for a larger crumb.  I am curious to mess with this myself.  Good thing it is almost the weekend ;-)  You're doing better than I on the flipping before baking bit.  I always muck that part up.  I've taken to cheating a bit and placing my ciabatta directly on parchment straight away and then popping the whole thing in the oven.  Not authentic, but it works :-)


Do try Hammelman's RPB.  It's killer.



songwritergirl's picture



Good suggestion with folding the dough during cold fermentation. I saw something like that while looking through the Tartine Bread book, for the basic country loaf recipe. It's also a high hydration dough, and if I remember correctly, he does uses that technique, turning the dough a few times in its proofing container every few hours, although his dough is at room temperature. Txfarmer, a blogger on this website, does a great write-up of his experience making Tartine Bread's Basic Country Loaf.

Have fun baking this weekend!