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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Baking Ciabatta Using A Sourdough Starter

Ever feel like you longed for a specific kind of bread? I felt that way today, and the bread I wanted was an authentic Italian Ciabatta (pronounced Cha-BAH-tah). I decided to bake one that was truer to the real thing than the previous recipe I've shared with you. I actually dislike making this version of the bread as the dough is very runny and tends to make a huge mess. But sometimes a girl has to bake what a girl wants to eat and no mediocre version would satisfy this craving. I show you how to deal with the pitfalls of authentic Ciabatta in today's blog.


Start by measuring 500 g (4 cups or 4 x 250 ml) white bread flour.


Add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt and a packet of instant dry yeast. This addition is important to create the large aerated holes in the dough. Mix the dry ingredients well.


Add 3 cups (750 ml) lukewarm water, 4 tablespoons (50 ml) milk and 4 tablespoons (50 ml) olive oil ...


... to a medium mixing bowl.


Prepare yet another very large mixing bowl by oiling the sides and bottom with olive oil.


Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix well.


Measure 2 cups (500 ml) sourdough starter.


Add the sourdough starter and another 1 1/2 cups white bread flour to the bowl.


Bring the dough together. It will be a sticky liquid dough. This is as it should be.


Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl.


Cover with plastic and allow to develop in a warm dry place.


Prepare your work surface for the messy business that is about to hit it. You need to coat 2 large baking trays with non-stick coating and lightly flour it. You also need to lightly flour your working surface. Keep a bowl of water ready. The sticky dough will not cling to wet utensils and hands. Keep your utensils and hands wet while working with the dough.


The dough has risen beautifully.


Turn the dough out on the work surface and use a spatula to divide it into four equal parts.


Keep your utensils and hands wet!


Transfer two pieces of dough to one of the baking trays and shape into a slipper. Ciabatta is Italian for slipper, the traditional shape of the bread.


Transfer the remaining two lumps of dough to the other baking tray. Use your wet spatula to transfer the dough. Leave to rise. Do not cover again unless you can keep the plastic off the dough. Removing the plastic from the risen dough will cause it to fall flat, resulting in flat bread.


My dough lost a bit of its shape in the rising process (no doubt because little hands showed their curiosity!). Do not fiddle with the dough.


Bake for roughly 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 220 °C. The bread will rise a little in the oven.


The bread will make a beautiful crackling sound when you tear it. The crust will be crispy and the inside will be chewy. You will also see the gorgeous large holes in the dough, that is tell-tale ciabatta holes.


I love to serve ciabatta hot from the oven with olives and/or olive paste, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a variety of cheeses. Sun-dried tomato also go really well with this bread.


Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy the books here:
You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
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