One of my strong experiences in Italy was getting to the local bakery during the morning grubbing a few fresh ciabatta loaves, then going to the grocery and picking up a good salami sausage and some parmesan cheese, making a simple and delicious sandwich hard to imitate elsewhere.
There is nothing like the crunchy crust of the ciabatta, it’s so crispy almost breaking in your mouth, this is all in contrast of the inner part which is soft and tender full of air pocket holes.
The history of ciabatta (hint… it’s not long)
We might think ciabatta bread been here forever but in fact it was invented in 1982 by a Verona baker called Francesco Favaron who wanted to fight the popular french baguettes and create an Italian version for a rich crunchy bread.
The name Ciabatta comes from the shape of the bread which is a rectangle and reminded Francesco his wife’s sleepers (Ciabatta).
Making the dough
If you haven’t experienced the ciabatta dough, you’re in to a surprise, it’s sticky and flexible, hard to shape and control, nightmare in every aspect for a baker, I would recommend using a spatula or dough scraper in order to fold the dough.
In this recipe I used a version by Jeffrey Hamelman which incorporates a Poolish into the dough, the use of the starter dough gives the bread an amazing depth of flavor and complex taste.
I have replaced some of the original recipe bread flour with whole-wheat flour, it adds another layer of rich flavor and does not make the bread a lot denser than if using only bread flour.
The great Italian bread is not difficult to make although it takes a bit of planning because of the Poolish made a day in advance. The other factor we need to keep in mind is that the dough is super sticky and wet, so beginner bakers might want to add flour to the dough, it’s OK to add a bit of flour just to make the dough workable on our working surface but at no point we want the ciabatta dough to be in a tough texture, so if this is your first ciabatta just take your time and give the dough minimum handling, it will turn out amazing.