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:
Ciabatta differences Info 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:
Easy ciabatta recipe
For tips on how to make garlic ciabatta, see the following post:
What bread can you use for garlic bread?
Ciabatta is baked with a much higher hydration level, making the holes within the dough much bigger than a baguette. Ciabatta is also baked with a much stronger flour, which has a more delicate and sweet taste. Baguettes also tend to be baked more golden brown.Why won't my ciabatta bread rise? ›
One of the requirements of yeast for fermentation is appropriate temperature. Cold dough straight from the fridge won't rise, or it will only rise very slowly. 25-30°C is a recommended temperature range for rising, although cooler temperatures can work.How do you make big holes in ciabatta bread? ›
The amount of water you add to your dough directly affects how the crumb in your baked loaf. A more open crumb results in bigger holes and a softer texture, whereas a closed crumb results in a more robust textured bread. Simply put, the more water in your dough, the more open the crumb will be.How many times do you fold ciabatta dough? ›
Once rested, begin to do a series of folds – lift the dough from the edge, pull up, over, then release it. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and do the same again. Repeat so you do a full turn of the bowl twice, or 8 folds. Rest for 30 mins, then repeat the whole folding process once more.What defines ciabatta bread? ›
A ciabatta is an Italian yeast-leavened artisan and hearth-type bread made with a lean formula. It is characterized by having a crisp crust and a large, irregular and open crumb grain (cell structure).Which is healthier ciabatta or sourdough? ›
Sourdough bread is healthier than traditional ciabatta bread. Ciabatta bread is a popular type of Italian bread, and therefore, is less nutritious than sourdough bread due to the leavening agent used. However, if you are searching for a healthier ciabatta bread, you can choose one made with sourdough or whole grains.How do you stretch and fold ciabatta bread? ›
Wet your hands and lift the dough from one side stretching it gently so that it doesn't tear apart and fold it back on itself. Do it twice and let it rest for 30 mins. After 30 mins repeat the stretch and fold once. Let the dough rest again for 30 mins.Why is my ciabatta so dense? ›
Dense or heavy bread can be the result of not kneading the dough long enough. Mixing the salt and yeast together or Losing patience in the middle of molding your bread and there is not enough tension in your finished loaf before baking.How sticky should ciabatta dough be? ›
Ciabatta dough is wet and sticky with hydration levels often 80% or higher. Both the recipe below and this sourdough version are 82% hydration.How do you make bread soft and fluffier? ›
- Do Not Over-Knead Your Dough. ...
- Ensure Dough is Well Hydrated. ...
- Lubricate With Oil. ...
- Add Sugar. ...
- Add Eggs. ...
- Reduce Baking Time. ...
- Create Steam in Oven. ...
- Add Milk.
The soft, chewy texture and honeycomb holes make ciabatta perfect for dunking into soups or swiping up sauce from a dinner plate. It also makes for a delicious sandwich bread filled with layers of cured meats, cheeses, and balsamic vinegar.How long does homemade ciabatta last? ›
Ciabatta bread will keep at room temperature or in the fridge for up to 5 days in a container or bag. It also keeps really well in the freezer for up to 3 months in a sealed freezer bag. You can also freeze the bread wrapped tightly in plastic wrap if you don't have any freezer bags.Is ciabatta bread better for you than regular bread? ›
“Ciabatta bread is relatively high in carbohydrates and has nearly zero grams of fiber,” Richards cautioned. Mowrer added some other red flags, which include “higher carbs, calories and sodium per slice compared to other bread.”
Although ciabatta has the same fundamental elements as other bread, it is more nutritious than white bread because it uses whole grains. However, as per experts, multigrain bread is a healthier option.Why is ciabatta bread popular? ›
One of the most famous of these bread varieties is the globally appreciated ciabatta loaf, a bread that revolutionised the Italian bread industry forever, putting Italy back on the map of remarkable bread producers. Ciabatta is a rustic Italian bread that has a wonderful soft interior with a crisp, chewy crust.What is the difference between ciabatta and regular baguette? ›
There are striking similarities between the baguette and ciabatta, but the biggest difference is in the level of moisture in the dough. The wet dough used in ciabatta creates alveolar holes in the bread during the baking process, which changes the texture of the bread.