The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Authentic Ciabatta Recipe?

Anonymous baker's picture
Anonymous baker (not verified)

Authentic Ciabatta Recipe?

My eyes are swimming from looking at all the different "authentic" ciabatta recipes out there. Many look very good indeed and others I wouldn't look at twice. But all claiming to be the original recipe.

What say all of you? I'm sure someone on TFL can point me n the right direction. What I do know is this...

  • It is made with yeast and the preferment is a biga (I've seen so many recipes say "biga" and then instruct on how to make a poolish).
  • It's very high hydration (this makes me nervous).
  • Most recommend a dough mixer and warn if made by hand you'd better be well prepared.

So my plan is as follows. Try to obtain the original recipe and just make one change myself and that's turning the biga with yeast into a biga with sourdough. Otherwise everything else the same (apart from timing that is).

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

DesigningWoman's picture

might be a bit like looking for *the* authentic recipe for cornbread or Irish stew or curry mix; would traditional recipes like that not vary from village to village, if not from family to family?

If you're not a stickler, I found this recent post visually very appealing.

Whatever you undertake, I'm certain it'll look and taste gorgeous!

Happy baking.


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

My goodness those do look delicious. Thank you for the link. 

I thought since we know the origin of Ciabatta (unlike many traditional recipes where the origin is shrouded in mystery) and it isnt that old, I thought there might be an original recipe out there. But I'm beginning to think it's more about high hydration and technique rather than an actual recipe. 

Watch this space. 

dabrownman's picture

 and you can make it with semolina if you want to feel more Italian.  There is  no such thing as authentic.

Jason's Quick Coccodrillo Ciabatta Bread
Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

See above why I thought there might have been an original recipe. 

I've bought a flour which I think would suit Ciabatta very well indeed. It's from Doves Farm and its for pasta. A mix of bread flour and durum wheat, 00 grade and 14.3% protein.

Hope you approve.


dabrownman's picture

proofed dough over right before the oven then it isn't anywhere near a ciabatta of any kind

suave's picture

You know, even you could fish a more authentic recipe out of the sea of credible ones making the change would turn it into a non-authentic recipe.  So, if you are making a bread using a non-authentic recipe why bother with the quality of the source?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

I was thinking that even if I am changing the recipe it's best not to be altering a copy of a copy etc. 

Thought just adapting it for sourdough would be a legitinate "change" but as long as everything else is the same then it's an acceptable one. 

Rather like Chinese whispers. 

Our Crumb's picture
Our Crumb

Jeff Hamelman provides three ciabatta formulae in Bread:  a biga version, a poolish version and a variation with olive oil + wheat germ.  I made both biga and poolish versions several years ago in the first stage of my Tour de Hamelman.  They were terrific (while I, as a baker, was definitely not).  Chef Jeff makes no claims that I recall regarding the "authenticity" of his ciabatta formulae.  But he is, after all, Jeffrey Hamelman, not some random YouTube cowboy.

Happy baking,


P.S.: For some worthwhile ciabatta-esque inspiration ("authentic" in a different sense), search YouTube for "Roland Feuillas".  He's a miller/baker in Provence who bakes ciabatta-style loaves that are very appealing.  I learned about him in Sam Fromartz's book.  Would love to visit him and sample his product.  Someday.

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

And didn't think to check. Good idea! And I love everything else I've tried from Hamelman.

Thanks for that and I'll look up the YouTube video.

Colin2's picture

Reinhart's BBA also has both biga and poolish versions.

Colin2's picture

On the history of ciabatta:  

This is a nice recipe with good instruction in technique: 

If you search for "sourgough ciabatta" on this site you'll find good discussions on sourdough versions.  

If high hydration worries you, though, my suggestion would be to master the standard ciabatta first before adding the constraints of sourdough.  

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

I was helping someone the other day who was trying this very same recipe from the YouTube video. And now you recommend it to me. 

A sign? 

Just had a look through the video from start to finish and he certainly produces very fine ciabattas and I like his technique. 

Thank you! 

Colin2's picture

It's a great example of a video that doesn't waste your time: there's almost no gimmicks.  He fixed several errors that had crept into my own ciabatta-making, and helped me get the dough handling right.  I'm gonna consult his other videos.

I've been using his base ciabatta recipe and then experimenting with subbing in durum flour, and changing hydration.  Right now I'm liking 40% durum and 85% hydration.

It's funny. I've been making breads like this for decades and like to think I get better with time, but unless I'm making something weekly, my technique and understanding of a particular bread can deteriorate.  Youtubes by competent people are a wonderful way to recalibrate.

mutantspace's picture

There’s a great recipe from Craig ponsford in Maggie glezer s artisan bread book - very wet with biga very delicious 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

I've definitely heard of Maggie Glazer's famous challah recipe. Didn't know she had a Ciabatta recipe too. I'll look it up. 

Abelbreadgallery's picture

Ciabatta is one of the most modern breads in the history. It's very difficult being innovative in bakery. You know bread is very familiar to tradition. Ciabatta invention was about 40 years ago, or so. In part, it was invented by the italian artisan bakers to be an alternative to the frozen baguette industry that was invading the country in those years. I talked about it many times with maestro Ezio Marinato. In fact his father attended to one of the sessions in which ciabatta was presented for the first times. There's a lot of misunderstanding about ciabatta. As far as I know, ciabatta shouldn't include olive oil (first mistake). There's no need to hydrate ciabatta dough more than 80% to get nice wholes (second mistake). For me, these two are the more remarkable details. I've made many courses with italian bakers. I've seen many ways to make ciabatta. For me, the best one is with 90% to 99% biga (yeah, my famous biga post hehehehhe), with strong flour -maybe including some semola rimacinatta flour-, active malt powder, moderate hydration (around 80%).   

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

So your 90% biga is another way to make Ciabatta? Well I've done your biga recipe and loved it! Good to know. 

I've started on a biga so I'm locked into a less than 90% biga for this bake atleast. But thank you for getting to me in time before I made the final dough with the mistakes people do make with ciabatta. I will leave out the olive oil and keep the hydration to 80%. 

On another note I do like to add some wholegrain and thinking about 10%. Otherwise the flour is by Doves Farm. It's their pasta flour which is a mix of bread flour and durum wheat at grade 00. It's 14.3% protein. 

bottleny's picture

The Artisan gives some information and lists recipes using different methods.

One of them is using 90.9% biga with the total hydration of 76.4%.

grind's picture
Abelbreadgallery's picture

Favorite ciabatta (biga method)

Biga: 800 grams of strong flour (between 13 to 15 proteine content) + 360 ml water + 8 grams of fresh yeast (or 80 grams of sourdough). Disolve yeast in water. Add flour. Mix 1 minute just until there's no dry flour. No gluten developement required. Let rest 16-18 hours at 16-18ºC.

Final dough: Biga + 200 grams of any other flour (I prefer to use a weaker flour in this stage such as spelt or any other ancient or heritage grain) + 23 gr salt + 10 gr malt powder + 440 ml water. 

In the final mix, don't drop all the water from the beginning. Begin the mixing process with 60% of hydration. Once the gluten net is made, pour the remaining water litlle by little. If your room temperature is around 28ºC, bulk rise will take you around 1h30m. One fold in between will do you good. Once divided, let rest around 1 hour and bake at high temperature. Traditional ciabatta was baked without steam, as many of the rustic european breads. But you can bake with steam if you want a thinner and not so pale crust.

See you. Abel (Mexico).