Ciabatta is a unique bread type and can often seem a bit daunting if you’re making it for the first time.
In this post, I’ll be showing you what makes ciabatta different from other bread, tips on how to make the best ciabatta and ways that you can use ciabatta in meals. So what does make ciabatta bread different from other types of bread?
Ciabatta bread is different from other types of bread because of the process used to make it. The holes in ciabatta are created by gas bubbles which develop as the bread rises. Unlike many other bread types, the bubbles which generate during the rising process are retained rather than kneaded out.
Read on to find out more about ciabatta along with some easy tips on how you can create homemade authentic ciabatta bread.
What is ciabatta bread
Before we get started, here’s some information about ciabatta bread, so you can understand more about what makes ciabatta different from other bread types.
Ciabatta is a bread which originated in Italy in the early ’80s with the intention of being the Italian version of the French Baguette.
The Italian word ciabatta translates to ‘slipper’ in English, which refers to the slipper-like shape of the bread.
It can be made in various sizes from smaller rolls to larger loaves for a family to share.
Below are the key differences between ciabatta and other types of bread:
|Higher dough water content
|Ciabatta dough is much wetter
which helps to create more air bubbles
|It’s easier to make ciabatta
with a dough hook on
a stand mixer
|Because of the higher water content in
ciabatta dough, it can be easier to use
a dough hook to knead the dough
|Ciabatta dough takes longer
|Ciabatta dough needs a longer rise
to create more bubbles and a deeper
|Ciabatta dough isn’t
knocked back after the first
rise to retain air holes
|Most doughs are knocked back after
the first rise to remove air holes in the
bread. For ciabatta, the dough isn’t knocked
back and air bubbles are retained.
|Ciabatta dough doesn’t need
|Unlike many other loaf type bread
ciabatta doesn’t need much proving time
after the dough is shaped
|Ciabatta loaves are shaped
by hand and baked on oven
|The loaves take very little shaping and are
placed directly onto a tray for baking.
In the next section, I’ll expand more on the techniques that are used to make authentic ciabatta bread.
Tips on how to make the best ciabatta bread
The table above details the different techniques used to make authentic ciabatta. I’ll now expand on these techniques and show you some tips which will help you to get the best results from your ciabatta recipe.
You can also view my full ciabatta recipe here.
1. Don’t be afraid of the additional water content
Good ciabatta loaves have a higher water content ratio. Whereas most bread recipes are around 5:3 flour to water, ciabatta dough should be around 5:4 flour to water.
The added water content helps the yeast to easily ferment in the dough and create the gas bubbles which you see inside a ciabatta loaf.
The downside of using more water is the dough is very wet and sticky and often difficult to handle.
To make kneading easier, I recommend using a dough hook, although don’t worry if you don’t have one, it’s still possible to knead a wet dough by hand.
2. Don’t rush the rising process
As the yeast in the ciabatta dough begins to ferment gas bubbles develop and the dough will rise.
The longer this is allowed to happen, the stronger the flavour will become and the bubblier the dough will become.
Unlike proving (or the 2nd rise), you can’t really rise the bread for too long, some doughs can even be left to rise overnight in cool temperatures.
This is all dependent on factors such as temperature and how effective the yeast is, but letting the ciabatta dough rise for 3 or 4 hours will help to achieve the best results.
3. Handle the dough as little as possible when shaping
A classic ciabatta loaf has a rustic look and doesn’t require the same level of shaping as many other types of bread.
It’s important to handle the bread as little as possible so that you can retain the air holes. The dough can be divided into various sizes depending on what size you want the loaves to be.
The easiest way to divide the dough is by quartering it lengthways to make four longer loaves.
Here are some easy steps and tips you can follow to cut and shape the dough into shape:
- Rise the dough in a well-oiled bowl or a large square tup if you have one – this way you can tip the dough out onto the surface and retain the dough volume.
- Make sure the surface is really well oiled or floured to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Divide the dough with a dough scraper and separate slightly (so they don’t stick together) while handling as little as possible.
- Have a large baking tray/trays ready to transfer the dough to – make sure the tray is oiled or covered with a sheet of baking parchment to prevent sticking.
- Lift each loaf by placing a hand on each end of the dough and keeping it close together so it doesn’t stretch and quickly transfer to the baking tray.
- Leave the loaves to rise for around 15 minutes to regain their shape and then bake.
TIP: Not sure if you have all the necessary bread baking equipment at home? Check out my recommended picks below (Amazon links):
What can you do with ciabatta bread
Ciabatta can just be eaten alone or dipped in some good olive oil, it also makes a really good sharing bread for parties and barbecues or as a side dish to soups and stews.
You can also use ciabatta to make some more exciting dishes, here are some ideas of ways to make ciabatta more interesting:
Ciabatta garlic bread
Ciabatta makes an amazing garlic bread, especially if the bread is homemade – but it works well on shop-bought too.
Crush a large clove of garlic in a large wedge of softened butter and stir in a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley, then slice slashes across the top of the bread (go about halfway through) and spread the butter between each cut. Bake until golden brown and enjoy.
Ciabatta bread makes a really good pizza base, you just need to slice a loaf open through the middle, top with tomato sauce and sprinkle over the cheese of your choice and your favourite toppings. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and golden brown.
Ciabatta rolls and smaller loaves can be sliced through the middle and used as sandwich bread.
The chewiness of ciabatta makes it a great alternative for sandwiches especially when paired with some classic Italian meats and cheeses.
Thin slices of ciabatta make really good bread for bruschetta, rub with garlic and top with some juicy red tomatoes, onions and basil for a simple summertime dish.
Until next time…
I hope this post has helped you understand the key differences between ciabatta and other white bread types. Ciabatta is fun to make and it goes well with many dishes, I recommend having a go at making it at home, click the link below to see the recipe:
For tips on how to make garlic ciabatta, see the following post: