The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Ciabatta vs Baguette

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LazySumo's picture

Ciabatta vs Baguette

This past summer/fall I've been trying to perfect my baguettes. I've used the recipe from the Julia Child's video dozens of times and I think I'm making a pretty decent loaf these days. For comparisome here's the baguette recipe:



5 cups bread flour
2 cups cool water (about 78 F)
One .6-ounce cube compressed (fresh) yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt 


Yesterday I decided to try something new: ciabatta. I found Jason's Quick Ciabatta recipe on these forums and trust me, it makes a very nice loaf, but here's the recipe:



500g bread flour
475g (~2 cups) water
2 tsp. yeast
15g salt


Anyone else see my question?  The ciabatta is a lot wetter but other than that they are almost the same recipe. If you think of Danielle Forestier's instructions to "slap and fold 800 times" to be the rough equivalent of Jason's "beat the hell out of it with your KA" then the process is very similar too.


So what differentiates a ciabatta from a baguette?

Pablo's picture

Certainly they're hugely different in shaping technique.  The baguette is patted and folded and shaped, and baked to create a thick crunchy crust with big ears.  The ciabatta is sort of pushed into the slipper shape, no patting down or folding, the bread is much lighter and the crust is much thinner.  Or so I have found.

Really, any recipe that is flour, water, salt, and yeast could be called "roughly equivalent", but the techiques and ratios produce strikingly different loaves.


fancypantalons's picture

"So what differentiates a ciabatta from a baguette?"

Good question.  After all, consider that recipe I've already referenced elsewhere, pain a l'ancienne.  Reinhart refers to this as a baguette, but the dough is far more ciabatta-like than it is french baguette-like, with it's ~75% hydration and unusual shaping technique.  'course, ciabatta is more like 80-90% hydration, so perhaps it's more fair to describe this bread as a cross between french baguette and ciabatta?

So, in summary, no idea, although in my mind, the only real difference is hydration.  Which just goes to show how *huge* a difference hydration can make. :)

LazySumo's picture

How about this take then:


Pasta is similar: The recipes for bowtie pasta and linguini are very similar overall, but the execution is dramatically different. After all, wheat flour and water are the basis of three major food items: beer, bread and pasta. Heck, that's a great meal right there.

Pablo's picture

Good analogy.  I'm amazed at the difference in eating linguine vs angel hair pasta with the same sauce and the same ingredients in the pastas.

Pizza and a cheese sandwich may have the same ingredients, but the experience of eating them is different.


LazySumo's picture

Pablo, you put pepperoni slices on your cheese sandwiches?? That's brilliant! :)

Pablo's picture

 and mustard and lettuce on my pizza.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

You've awaken my serious side....

The names originated in different countries, Italy and France, and most likely with different flours. Different flours can easily mean different wild yeasts. There is a lot of discussion about using flours from other countries other than the bread's original country of origin. Is a baguette still a baguette if made in America?    With any flour?    What about the local water? Sea salt vs mineral salts?

Having regional differences could also mean that earlier wood ovens may have been fired with different woods as well thus leaving their own "fingerprint" on the loaves. Electrical & gas ovens would eliminate these variations very quickly.

The shapes are different -- Baguette has more surface area and therefore more browned crust so here is also a flavour difference. It also sticks out of your shopping or bicycle basket for everyone to see that you've got fresh bread. A symbol of goodness. It's size makes it a favorite for "taking on a picnic," quick to cut up and one can use a pocket knife or just break it. It is a world recognizable shape.

-- Ciabatta takes just a little more effort to cut but is also a handy size, It doesn't stick out of the shopping bag so well but a slice of it can be considered more delicate and sweet. I also think of the surface as being much lighter in color and often floured. often do we consider the flour on the outside of the loaf, the first bit that touches the tongue, and all it's variations?  (Why does a mixture with hazel nut flour jump into my mind as a suggestion?)

I'm afraid that lack of local flour and commercial yeast, use of gas and electric ovens, and using the same water for both may make them seem alike but once properly shaped, there is at least two differences. With a little effort, maybe more.   

I know they are both good with mustard. 

Mini O