The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ciabatta Quest, Week 1: Double-Double Trouble

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Ciabatta Quest, Week 1: Double-Double Trouble

Time to begin another question for bread perfection improvement! By popular request/persuasion, I've decided to attempt a ciabatta quest, and leave off on perfecting crusty sourdough dinner rolls for another day.

For the next however-many-it-takes weeks, I will bake a batch of ciabatta dough, and post my results to this baker-blog. My goal: to reliably produce a ciabatta with a thin, crisp crust, open, moist crumb, delectable wheaty flavor, and which is tall enough to slice longitudinally for sandwiches.

A modest goal, I hope.  We'll see how it goes!

I've not yet found a ciabatta formula that delivers the results I'm looking for, so for the first few weeks I'm going to experiment with different formulas.  If one produces exceptional results, I'll stick with it.  If they all seem about the same in my clumsy hands, I'll pick the one that's easiest and stick with that one.  Either way, eventually I will settle down to baking one formula and tweaking/practicing it until I meet my goal.

Let the adventure begin!  For week one, I tried SteveB's Double Hydration Ciabatta.  Here's the formula, partly for my own future reference as I found Steve's writeup a little hard to read (call me old-fashioned, but I'm not crazy about recipes written in present perfect tense).  I had a little trouble with his mixing instructions, as he refers to mixing speeds 1, 2 and 3, whereas my Kitchenaid has speeds "Stir" 2, 4, 6 etc.  In the formula below I've reprinted his instructions, with the speed I actually used [in brackets].



  • 500g King Arthur AP Flour (100%)
  • 380g water (76%)
  • 15g Olive Oil (3%)
  • 10g Salt (2%)
  • .7g instant yeast (1/4 teaspoon,  .14%)


  • 190g Flour
  • 190g Water
  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast

Final Dough

  • 310g Flour, divided
  • 190g water, divided
  • 15g Olive Oil
  • 1/8 tsp inseant yeast
  • 10g salt


  1. The night before, mix poolish ingredients, cover and let sit for 12 hours
  2. On baking day, combine poolish, 150g water and olive oil into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on low speed using the whisk attachment until smooth.  
  3. Add 30g flour and increase speed to speed 3 [4 on my Kitchenaid] for two minutes.
  4. Stop mixer, add remaining flour and yeast.  Switch to the dough hook and mix 2 minutes more, just until the flour is hydrated.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic and autolyse for 30 minutes.
  6. Add salt, turn mixer to speed 3 [2] and mix 10 minutes.
  7. With mixer still running, gradually add the remaining 40g water, dribbling in a few drops at a time and allowing each addition to be incorporated before adding more.  Mix a total of 10 more minutes.
  8. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, ferment for 3 hours
  9. [I poured the dough out for a french fold at 1-1/2 hours, which Steve does not call for]
  10. Empty the dough onto a well floured work surface, divide in half, and place on a well-floured couche.
  11. Proof 1 hour [I proofed for 1-1/2, having forgotten to pre-heat the oven!]
  12. An hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees
  13. Gently flip the dough from the couche onto a sheet pan or peel lined with parchment. 
  14. Transfer loaves to a stone in the oven.  Bake 35 minutes total, with steam for the first 15 minutes.
  15. Turn off oven, open oven door and leave the loaves in for 6 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

And the results:




Crust was a bit thick, but was crisp and had good flavor.  Crumb was moist and flavorful but barely open at all, despite a decent rise.

I'm not sure what to make of the formula. There are a number of possible explanations for the poor crumb here, most of which can't be blamed on the formula: Poor mixing (mixer not turned up high enough), not enough stretch and folds, degassing from the added stretch and fold, clumsy handling, etc.  Certainly the flavor was good, and I definitely liked using a well floured couche for proofing rather than a bread board as some other formulas suggest (less spreading, easier flipping).  But the mixing proceedure is awfully fiddly, and 20 minutes of high-speed mixing after an autolyze seems excessive, even if it gets the job done.

Food for thought (and for dinner!).

Happy baking everyone,



arlo's picture

Darn good start though Ryan.

Glad to see another baking adventure of yours by the way.

Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

I think it helps that during my baguette quest I worked out a lot of the kinks in my standard baking proceedure (steaming, adjusting for my lousy oven, etc).

Syd's picture

Yes, great start Ryan. :)  I doubt it was poor mixing that resulted in a less open crumb.  I have had very good results with Seve's formula and I have don't even have a mixer.  I would suspect over-degassing or shaping/handling.  Another possiblility is that you over proved it when you forgot to turn the oven on, it collapsed somewhat and you didn't get much oven spring.  Steve's is a perfectionist and I am almost certain he tests his recipes thoroughly before he posts them.  I have found his recipes to be extremely reliable. I would try again and not change anything this time (not even add the extra fold) and see how it goes.

And, by the way he uses a lot of the passive voice in his recipes, not the present perfect. :)  It's the passive without the subject, so you will get a sentence like:  The next morning the dough is mixed and the poolish is added [by you of course]!  I guess it is just part of his self effacing nature to take himself out of the equation!  But I agree with you, I would prefer it in the active voice. :)



Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Could have been over-proofing.  I was certainly kicking myself when I realized an hour had gone by and I'd forgotten to turn the oven on.  My  clumsy handling seems more likely though--I feel like the loaves should have been flatter if they were over-proofed.

You may well be right, although I'm thinking that the passive voice is achieved through the use of the present perfect tense.  But then, I had to turn to google to figure out what tense to call it, so I'm not authority.  My high school English teachers (to say nothing of my novelist mother) would be horrified, I'm sure :)

ehanner's picture

Pretty good first effort Ryan. I'm with Syd, in that having confidence in Steve's recipes, I would try to create the product he is show casing. I haven't made a Ciabatta as nice as the one pictured on Steve's site. That tells me I'm not paying attention to the details well enough. I try to use the same flour which is important I believe. Was it Whole Foods 365 Organic AP?

After rereading your post and looking again at SteveB's original post, I decided to come back and try to point out where you might be shortening the details. When I first started reading Hamelman's "Bread", I was able to produce great breads but it wasn't until after I had made a few dozen loaves that I came back and read carefully the background and notes that I finally started to understand the importance of certain details. I'll just make a few observations.

Steve makes a point of mentioning what the dough temperature should be. Every major bread author has said that the most critical thing the baker must control is dough temperature during the fermentation process. If you want to duplicate another bakers products, it is essential to follow the temperature guidelines or you won't have the expected activity in the dough. The open nature of Ciabatta is the essence of controlling yeast activity and gas production.

I suggest you pay less attention to the times Steve mentions and more to the stage of development he is striving for. The time is a guide the term describing the state of the mix is all that you should be looking for. The flour used, the type of dough hook you have may not be a spiral and thus less effective, you might be using city tap water instead of filtered. There are many possibilities or variations that will affect your results in every stage. "Let the dough be your guide".

Learning to perfect the process of making perfect Ciabatta is an admirable task. I look forward to seeing your progress.


Ryan Sandler's picture
Ryan Sandler

Hmm, I hadn't thought about temperature.  I've gone back and forth about whether to worry about temperature.  My tap water and typical room temperature are such that, as long as a dough is mixed lightly (hand mixed or a short time in the mixer) I end up with the right dough temperature without the fuss.  But this was not a dough with a light mix, and it was noticably warm after it finally came out of the mixer.  I'll have to pay more attention when I try this formula again (and I will try it again, whether or not I do so next week).

You're also right that watching the dough is important.  That's part of why I threw in the extra stretch and fold -- the dough seemed far too slack halfway through the rise.