Classic ciabatta bread recipe – Mother Earth News



From pool to plate, this easy ciabatta bread is as forgiving as it is tasty, making it an instant hit with the whole family.

item picture

by Guillaume Rubel

The classic ciabatta takes a long time. If you give the poolish 18-20 hours to ripen which I recommend the bread will take over 24 hours in total. Depending on how long you let the poolish sit and how hot your kitchen is, you should expect the whole process to take between 19 and 30 hours. Yeast is temperature sensitive, so rising bread in a 65-degree Fahrenheit kitchen will take hours longer than in an 80-degree kitchen. While poolish should ferment in a cool environment, bread dough will fare better in heat. Yield: 1 large loaf, 2 long loaves or 4 to 8 small loaves.



  • 1-1 / 4 cups (150 grams) unbleached white flour, preferably bread flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) of cold water
  • 3 pinches (0.3 grams) of active dry yeast


  • 1 cup (250 grams) lukewarm water
  • 2-1 / 2 rounded cups (350 grams) unbleached white flour, preferably bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) of salt
  • 1 slightly rounded teaspoon (6 grams) of active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) olive oil, optional
  • Cooking oil
  • Extra flour for sprinkling

To note: For more accuracy, weigh ingredients with a digital scale. Ciabatta is defined by the high ratio of water to flour by weight in the dough, and because volume measurements are imprecise, ingredients must be weighed to produce a true ciabatta.


Do the swimming pool. Combine flour, water and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 12 to 20 hours, preferably a minimum of 18 hours. The longer you leave it on, the richer the sensory qualities of the final bread will be. Smell and taste the poolish to judge its evolution. When it’s ready, the poolish will have spread out and become a mass of bubbles, and it will have started to develop sweet and complex aromas.


Make dough. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush a large mixing bowl or plastic fermentation tin with cooking oil and set aside.

Add lukewarm water to the poolish. Use your hands to free the poolish from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the poolish to a large unoiled mixing bowl, then add the flour, salt, baking powder and optional olive oil. Mix by hand or with a dough hook. When the dough is mixed, transfer it to the lightly oiled bowl or box. Cover and let rise until bubbly and doubled in size, about 2 hours in an 80-degree Fahrenheit fermentation oven, or 4 or more hours in a cooler kitchen.

item picture

Picture by Guillaume Rubel

Ciabatta dough will rise faster in a hot environment; go for 80 degrees Fahrenheit, if possible.

paste on the surface

First stretching and folding. Bakers use this technique to develop gluten in sticky, moist doughs. For a visual demonstration, search for “stretch and bend Peter Reinhart” on YouTube.

Lightly oil a work surface and place a bowl of water nearby. Turn the mixing bowl or measuring box upside down on the worktop and let the dough fall; it will free itself and spread. Dip a dough scraper and your hands in water as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Whatever shape the dough is at this point, you will need to imagine it as having four sides. With confident movements, use the dough scraper to go under the dough on one side, lift the edge, stretch it, and then fold it over the rest of the dough. Continue to work around all four sides. The first stretch and fold is normally a bit tricky, but keep going. When the fourth side is done, grab the dough with both hands and, with a quick motion, turn it over. I like to repeat this action again, but only on the first stretch and fold. Return the dough to the bowl and cover. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

item picture

Picture by Guillaume Rubel

The stretching and folding process is used to develop a moist, sticky dough.

Repeated stretch and folds. Repeat the stretching and folding step three more times, at 30 minute intervals. Each time, return the dough to the bowl or box and cover. With each repetition, the dough will become more and more firm. You can vary the spacing between the stretches and the folds. Some bakers allow less time between stages, and others more time. I prefer the 30 minute intervals because they give the dough time to rise and develop its taste. Note the number of times you’ve stretched and folded, and always finish with the covered dough in its bowl or box.

item picture

Picture by Guillaume Rubel

The dough will firm up with each stretching and folding step.

Preforming climb. After the last stretching and folding, cover the bowl with dough and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size. The time will depend on the temperature in your room.

Form. Generously flour your countertop and, while the dough is still in the bowl, sprinkle it with a generous amount of flour. Turn the dough over on the floured work surface. Sprinkle flour on the top surface of the dough and gently deflate any large air holes pushing through the top of the dough. Using a dough scraper or your hands, straighten the dough to form a rectangle about the size of a standard piece of paper (8-1 / 2 by 11 inches). With gentle movements, push and stretch the dough to get the shape you want.

Some common forms of ciabatta include:

  • Large amorphous bread. This method requires the least effort and results in an irregular drop. This is the form my favorite local bakery uses for their ciabatta.
  • Long loaves of bread. Using the dough scraper, cut the rectangle lengthwise, separating the two halves from each other. Because the dough is very sticky, you will need to make a cut and then immediately slide the cut piece at least 1 inch, or it will reattach.
  • Rollers. Cut long loaves, then divide each loaf into evenly sized pieces of your choice. Ciabatta rolls are often square.

When you have achieved the shape you want, use the dough scraper or your hands to slightly lift the outer side of the dough and add flour underneath, wherever the dough sticks, going around all the mass.

item picture

Picture by Guillaume Rubel

Quickly separate the cut pieces of dough to prevent them from reattaching.

Final climb. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet or, if using a baking stone, place parchment paper on the countertop and transfer it and the dough to the preheated stone when ready to bake. Once your dough is formed, quickly and firmly lift the dough off the countertop and place it on the baking paper. Cover and set aside 15 minutes to start rising again. The ciabatta dough is very forgiving; although the bread doesn’t look like it has risen much during this step, it will continue to puff in the oven.

parchment bread

To cook. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, then, on a preheated metal sheet or baking stone, bake the ciabatta for 35 minutes or until an internal temperature of 190 to 210 degrees is reached. Transfer the bread to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour before slicing.

Read more



The timeless appeal of fresh bread has been a part of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine since 1970 when they published their first issue. In Bread, the editors have put together their best recipes and techniques. Here you’ll find all the classics, including rustic white, wholemeal bread and sourdough. There are plenty of quick breads and page after page of country and holiday favorites, such as skillet cornbread, Irish soda bread, and fruit and nut stuffed harvest breads. Go beyond the traditional and try your hand at flat breads, boiled breads, naan, bagels, pizza crusts… even gluten-free breads. With over 150 proven recipes to choose from, you’re sure to find new breads to love.

Order in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store or by calling 800-234-3368.

Posted on January 19, 2021



Comments are closed.