The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

My First Ciabatta

bakingbadly's picture

My First Ciabatta

Based on a recipe by Steve from Bread Cetera, I recently prepared and baked 4 loaves of ciabatta. My version of Steve's ciabatta contains fresh mozzarella (made from Buffalo milk), dry herbs such as oregano and rosemary, a bit of medium rye flour and extra water, bumping the dough to approx. 80% hydration.


The dough of this ciabatta had the highest hydration that I've handled so far. I admit, it was not very easy for me to manipulate, despite frequently wetting my hands and baking utensils to prevent sticking.


My biggest problem was transferring the dough from my homemade couche (a linen tablecloth dusted with rice flour) to the sheet pan. I did my best but ended up with slightly warped loaves rather than rectangular loaves that I was aiming for. 

Also, I'm not sure where I got this idea but I decided to lay a sprig or two of Thai basil across each of my loaves. I was hoping it'd leave a nice, clean imprint...



In the photo above, the top is my first ciabatta, proofed for only 30 to 40 minutes. On the bottom is my forth and final ciabatta, proofed for nearly two hours. (The other two were given away.) This was not done for purposes of experimentation. Simply put, I miscalculated the amount of dough I was preparing, realized that I had an extreme excess, and couldn't proof any of my dough in the refrigerator. My fridge was completely full.

Although, I'm glad I committed that major error. I observed and learned how the proofing times can affect the crumb.


How to describe the flavour? Well, it tasted slightly nutty and mildly savoury (presumably from the mozzarella), accompanied by a faint aroma of herbs. Moreover, the crumb was much softer than I expected. It'd make a nice sandwich bread, me thinks.

Unfortunately, the dough was dusted with too much flour (both type 00 Italian flour and rice flour), which resulted in a very dry mouthfeel, at least initially. To compound that effect, the mozzarella was deyhydrated, which took on a nearly powdery form. Another concern was the bottom crust... It didn't brown at all--too soft and compliant. Perhaps my oven was not preheated long enough? 

Anyway, I now have a better understanding on how to handle higher hydration doughs. My goal now is to produce a palatable sourdough ciabatta with holes as large as craters of the Earth's moon.

Yeah, you're right. That's too large. 

Happy baking all! :) 


dosidough's picture

And I'd say you're not; baking badly that is! I aspire to ciabatta this nice. The closest I've come is Daniel Leader's Pizza Bianco, and that's not as high a hydration. The crumb looks just like the high end Bakery/Sandwich shop loaves. I like the idea and look of the basil leaves. Did they taste good or turn bitterish after baking? I keep a stiff brush for brushing out my cane brotforms and I also use it on overly flour bread after the loaves cool. Just lightly brush of some of the excess flour to avoid that mouthfeel. A job well done. Congrats.

bakingbadly's picture

:) Thank you for your compliments. Your words are too kind.

Surprisingly, the basil leaves did not taste bitter at all. In fact, nothing poignant or peculiar. Although, during the baking process, I could definitely smell the basil--a smoky yet pleasant odour.

I think I'll go ahead and purchase a good sturdy brush. Thanks for the suggestion!



Mebake's picture

I like the fossil-like looks of the crust with the basil on ;)

Looks liks the over proofed one ended up with a better looking crumb. 

Yikes! I had that flour streak at the bottom. I'd say, stay away from rice flour during final shaping, as it doesn't get absorbed easily as does wheat flour.

They'll taste great, i'm sure. I'm willing to have that floury part at the bottom, now :)




bakingbadly's picture

You know, I didn't see it that way until you mentioned it. My loaf really does look like a fossil. Thankfully, it's not as old and tasteless as one. :P

You're absolutely right. I should probably avoid rice flour and use wheat flour instead.

If you have any other suggestions, please blast them my way. Advice from a great baker such as yourself is always appreciated. :)


dabrownman's picture

video out bb that Marc made on ciabatta and how to handle wet doughs.  Using this method you can ditch almost all the flour.  I do oil my hands though,  I also like to do the final proof on a peel covered with parchment and dusted with corn meal and semolina with floured rolled up towels running down the sides held in place by canned goods and encased in trash bag, . The towels support the ciabatta as it proofs.  This way no touching, remove the towels and cans and slide it onto the stone -  no stone then proof on two stacked overturned rimmed cookie sheets with parchment covering same floured towel rig running own the sides.

Oh...and the crumb on your ciabatta is excellent too!  A couple of more bakes and you will be pleased as punch :-)

Happy Baking bb

bakingbadly's picture

Thank you Dab for the video link! I'm not sure how but I overlooked that video, despite viewing most of the tutorial videos on The Back Home Bakery's website. Anyway, I don't know the hydration of his dough, but it seemed a lot less sticky and more manageable than my ciabatta dough. He was able to stretch and fold his dough with relative ease, whereas the dough I handled kept slipping out of my fingers.

Proofing on a parchment lined peel is a darn great idea. I wish I thought of that before preparing the ciabatta. Thank you for this excellent and valuable suggestion. I'll certainly use this method on my next ciabatta bake, or any high hydration doughs for that matter.



varda's picture

You've made a great first stab at ciabatta and I expect the next one will be even better.   -Varda

bakingbadly's picture

I may need to change my user name in the distant future but I'm rather fond of it. :) 

Happy baking, Varda.