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Sourdough Ciabatta

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Sourdough Ciabatta is a perfectly chewy tender bread that is perfect for sandwiches, or eating by the slice! Use your sourdough starter in this recipe for a great sourdough tang in your favorite bread.

This easy and delicious sourdough ciabatta recipe is the perfect bread you need to go with all your soups, stews, and bread needs!
loaf of ciabatta sliced in half lengthwise with top at a diagonal to show inside crumb
two loaves of ciabatta stacked on top of each other

Ciabtta bread is mostly used a side bread dipping in oil or for sandwiches. It is a soft bread with large open holes and a crunchy crust that are perfect for catching all manner of great ingredients.

Ciabatta is Italian for “slipper”. The story goes that some Italian bakers (in 1982!) were trying to replicate/mimic the French baguette, and the resulting loaf reminded the baker of his wife’s slippers. So, they called the bread “slipper” or Ciabatta.

loaf of ciabatta sliced in half lengthwise with top at a diagonal to show inside crumb

Recipe Note:

Ciabatta, if you have never made it before, is a very wet, very sticky dough. Not so much a “bread dough” as a “dough soup”.

This is a high hydration dough recipe (which means there is more water than flour in this recipe). This helps to create those beautiful open holes that make ciabatta great, but also makes it tricky to work with, especially for those who are new to baking with sourdough.

slices of ciabatta stacked at an angle with full loaf beside

 How to make sourdough ciabatta

This recipe is very simple to make! Here is a brief overview of the recipe to give you an idea of how it works. For the full set of directions and measurements, please make sure you scroll down to the recipe card below!

Note: This recipe is long, because I wanted to make sure I really broke down each step for you, but its not hard and you can do it!

The most important thing is to remember the the less you handle the dough, the better the bread will be!

Mix the dough

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the starter, flour, salt, olive oil, and most of the water. Mix just until the ingredients blend together.
  2. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the water to the dough and mix slowly until it is absorbed (Adding the water slowly in stages like this is called the bassinage technique, and it helps make mixing easier for the dough hook to “grab” the dough). The dough will be very soft and very sticky but will look smooth.
  4. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it.
mixing ciabatta dough

Bulk Fermentation

This part of the recipe takes 2 hours and needs three sets of stretch and folds to help develop the gluten.

  1. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. While keeping the dough the bowl, and using wet hands, grab one end of the dough and pull it and stretch it (imagine taffy) out of the bowl, and then fold it back on itself. This is messy, and more like oozing than folding at this point.
  3. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap again and allow it to ferment for another 30 minutes.
  5. Repeat the stretch and folds, rotate the bowl 90 degrees, and do another set of stretch and folds.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap again and allow to ferment another 30 minutes.
  7. Repeat the stretch and folds, rotate the bowl 90 degrees, and do another set of stretch and folds.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap again and allow to ferment another 30 minutes.
stretch and fold

Proofing

This bread will be proofed overnight in the fridge, also called Retarding. This helps to deepen and develop the sourdough flavor and help you bake on your own time schedule.

  1. Place the covered bowl in the fridge and let it sit overnight for 7-12 hours.
  2. In the morning, take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Shaping the dough

This is the part that feels the trickiest because the dough is such a high hydration. Remember, the dough is more soup than anything else, so it’s not going to be perfect, and it is going to be messy. If at any point you feel frustrated, throw a towel over the dough and walk away for a few minutes. Then come back to finish.

  1. Liberally dust your counter with flour, and turn the dough out onto it.
  2. Sift a little flour on top of the dough.
  3. Starting at the center of the dough, and being careful not to deflate the dough too much, gently slide your fingertips under the dough and gently stretch the dough outwards into a rectangle shape about 1/2 an inch thick.
  4. Cut the rectangle inhale with a pastry scraper or a very sharp knife so that you can form two loaves.
  5. Take each loaf and push the sides in a bit, gently forming each half of the dough into a “loaf” shape about 10-11 inches long and about 4-5 inches wide. It will not be perfect and is more of a blob than a loaf, but thats ok.
  6. Place each loaf onto a well floured couche, sift a little flour on top, cover with another couche or a plastic bag, and allow to rise until the dough has doubled, about 1.5 to 2 hours. The dough should look bubbly, and when poked it should have little to no spring back. If your kitchen is warmer, this will take less time. If your kitchen is colder, it could take longer. Watch the dough here, not the clock.
shaping ciabatta

Baking the ciabatta

  1. Preheat the oven to 475 F with a baking stone on the middle rack and a cast iron pan on the bottom rack for creating steam.
  2. When the oven has been preheated for quite a while, prepare a large single piece of parchment paper that will cover your entire baking stone.
  3. Flour the top of your dough again to make sure there are no sticky parts.
  4. Gently and quickly transfer the loaves from the couche to the parchment paper.
  5. Carefully place the parchment paper onto the baking stone (I like to use a large wooden peel or cutting board to help transfer it without the dough sliding all over the place).
  6. Toss about 1/2 cup of ice into the cast iron skillet below, and close the door.
  7. Lower the temperature to 450 F and bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Rotate the bread loaves to ensure even baking and bake an additional 10 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.
  9. Turn off the oven, leave the bread in the oven, and crack the door open with a wooden spoon wrapped in foil, and allow the bread to cool for 5 minutes.
  10. Place the loaves of bread on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing. Some baking still happens inside the bread while it is cooling, so make sure you give it plenty of time to cool before you cut it.
baking ciabatta

Ciabatta FAQ

What kind of sourdough do I need for this recipe?

This recipe uses a 100% hydration starter that has been fed and is active. Make sure you read Feeding Your Sourdough Starter to refresh what hydration rate is, how to feed your starter, and how to tell if it is active and ready to use.

You do need quite a bit of active starter for this recipe, so make sure that you give it a few good feedings without discarding before starting this recipe.

What kind of flour should I use?

The best kind of flour to use in this recipe is a high protein bread flour. The protein will help the gluten development, which will help the texture or chew of hte bread.

You CAN use unbleached all purpose as well, but know that your gluten might be harder to develop and your texture might not be as good. I suggest sticking with bread flour if you can!

Can I mix this by hand?

You can, but I do not recommend it. This dough is very wet and sticky, and hard to handle. If you do decide to mix by hand, make sure you knead by hand until the dough passes the windowpane test. Keep the dough in the bowl and scoop and pull the dough around the bowl in the opposite direction.

What can I use if I don’t have a couche?

A baker’s couche is a piece of untreated and unbleached canvas cloth you can use to help shape loaves of bread. The loosely woven cloth keeps the doughs surface evenly dry as it rises, which helps it get a great crusty crust when it bakes. If you don’t have one, you can use a heavily floured tea towel, or even a piece of parchment paper with rolling pins underneath to help hold up the sides.

Can I measure this in cups and teaspoons?

No. This is a more advanced sourdough baking recipe, and for best results you need to be specific in your ratio of flour to water and the weights of each ingredient. You need a kitchen scale to make this recipe.

inside of ciabatta loaf

Food tastes better when its shared! If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and rate below! Love and links are always appreciated! If you’d like to share this post, please link to this post directly for the recipe, please do not copy and paste or screenshot. Thanks so much for supporting me! xoxo

loaf of ciabatta sliced in half lengthwise with top at a diagonal to show inside crumb

Sourdough Ciabatta Recipe

This easy and delicious sourdough ciabatta recipe is the perfect bread you need to go with all your soups, stews, and bread needs!
4.67 from 12 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 11 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 11 hours 55 minutes
Servings: 24 Servings
Calories: 155kcal
Author: Jenni – The Gingered Whisk

Ingredients

  • 465 grams flour
  • 76 grams whole wheat flour
  • 17 grams salt
  • 26 grams olive oil
  • 610 grams mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 355 grams water
  • extra white flour for dusting

Instructions

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, starter, salt, olive oil, and 280 grams of water until the ingredients cohere.
  • Switch to the dough hook and knead for 10 minutes.
  • Add the rest of the water to the dough and mix slowly until it is absorbed. The dough will be very soft and sticky.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • While keeping the dough mostly in the bowl, grab two ends of the dough, pull and stretch it (imagine taffy) and fold it back on itself. This is a messy, and more like oozing than folding. Repeat.
  • Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap again and allow it to ferment for another 30 minutes.
  • Repeat the folding, then re-cover the dough and allow it to sit for another 30 minutes.
  • Place the covered bowl in the fridge and let it sit overnight (7-12 hours).
  • In the morning, take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours.
  • Liberally dust your counter with flour, and turn the dough out onto it.
  • Sift a little flour on top of the dough.
  • Starting at the center, and being careful not to deflate the dough too much, use your fingertips to gently stretch the dough out into a rectangle.
  • Cut the rectangle in half with a pastry scraper so that you form two loaves.
  • Take each loaf and push the sides in a bit, gently forming each half of the dough into a "loaf" shape (about 10-11 inches long and about 4-5 inches wide).
  • Place each loaf onto a floured couche, sift a little flour on top, cover, and allow to rise until doubled, about 1.5-2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 475 Degrees, with a baking stone on the middle rack and a cast iron pan on the bottom rack.
  • Gently and quickly transfer the loaf from the couche to the baking stone.
  • Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the cast iron skillet below, and close the door.
  • Bake for 5 minutes.
  • Lower the temperature to 450 and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown (rotate the bread at 10 minutes to ensure even baking).
  • Turn off the oven, leave the bread in the oven, and crack the door open with a wooden spoon wrapped in foil, and allow the bread to cool for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the bread from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack until completely cool.
  • Brush off any excess flour from the surface of the bread.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 155kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 276mg | Fiber: 2g

Sourdough Ciabatta (adapted from Wild Yeast and “The Bread Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum )

slices of sourdough ciabatta standing up on end

17 Comments

  1. Amy (Savory Moments) says:

    Looks delicious and pretty enough to have come from a bakery!

  2. Jenny,
    Your Ciapatta looks delicious! Thank you very much for participating in BBD49.
    Ciau

  3. Hello Jenny!
    Thank you so much for your participation on BBD#49! Your Ciabatta looks real good and I loved your blog.
    Now I'm following you on facebook. Invite you to know Cravo e Canela FB page.

  4. I am just itching to try to make bread but I never have enough time to be in one place for long enough for it to rise etc. I did make a brioche for a Daring Kitchen challenge (the consumme one), and the fact that it is apparently within the realms of my ability really excited me. This one looks great!

  5. What a lovely ciabatta! I've also done ciabatta for this BBD, it's so nice to see everyones results 🙂

  6. Is the starter added at the beginning with the flours? Perhaps I’m missing it but I’ve read over the instructions a few times and I don’t see it. Or should it be added with the first set of stretch and folds?

    1. I’m also missing this information! Looking at other/similar recipes, I assume it was added between steps 5 and 6? But I’m really not sure. I don’t even want to start following the recipe before knowing when/how the starter is added because it’s such a crucial part of the bread.

      1. It is added in step one.

  7. You didn’t say where you use the starter in your recipe

  8. Not a champion baker but have made about 10 loaves of sourdough prior to trying this ciabatta. I followed directions and weighed the ingredients but was a gloppy mess that was like pancake batter. I tried more kneading, I tried more flour? Not sure why this did not work, did not develop gluten, and therefore, did not rise in the oven (was bubbly like starter prior to oven). A fail…will not make this again…

    1. I am sorry you had trouble with this recipe! Sourdough Ciabatta is a very high hydration dough, and is very wet and tricky to work with! I would recommend watching some videos on doing the stretch and fold technique!

  9. This recipe was perfect. The best sourdough anything I have ever made. Slightly chewy on the outside, soft on the inside, and full of holes!

  10. Looks fantastic! Pics of the dough at each stage would be super helpful for me…I haven’t added the rest of the water and I’ll be shocked if this dough stretches, much less folds. I know you said it’s more like oozing but wow this is a wet dough…😬

  11. This ciabatta recipe is the 4th that I have tried. It is my first success with ciabatta. The loaves look almost professional. And they taste great. I have just started baking bread in the last few months and am very happy with this recipe. For me, the biggest help was using the stand mixture and the large amount of very active starter.
    Thank you!

  12. Hint: in the ingredients list, separate the two amounts of water, since they are used at separate times

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