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How To Make Ciabatta Bread

I’m so excited for todays post on how to make Ciabatta Bread, a delightfully airy, chewy and crusty bread that’s easy to make! You can make it as loaves or, my favorite, bread rolls. In this post I’m going to take you through the simple science that leads to amazing tasting bread that you can make at home. I’ll include step by step instructions too so that you know exactly what you’re doing at each step.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - front on shot of rolls cut in half

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - top down shot of rolls

Bread is something I want to explore more of on the blog. I’ve made some really simple ones on the site:

Some bread recipes in general intimidate me because some of them can be so complex. If sourdough has taught us anything, some recipes can need a lot of attention to be great. Not Ciabatta. Most of the time is used to let it rise. Enter this simple Ciabatta recipe. It’s easy to follow, uses simple ingredients and the end result is a chewy bread that has those large iconic air pockets with a crusty exterior. Making it perfect for scooping up delicious mouthfuls of sauce or dip like my thick Tzatziki recipe, or even for sandwiches like my Crispy Chicken Schnitzel Sandwiches.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - side by side

What Is Ciabatta?

Ciabatta bread has everything I love about bread. Chewy, light, cloud like inside with a crusty outside. You can often find them in Italian delis, covered in a light dusting of flour and in odd shapes. Honestly, if they’re not oddly shaped, a machine made them and they wont be as good as this recipe.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - halves stacked on top of each other

It’s large pockets of air are a good indication of ciabatta bread and it’s what makes it perfect for soaking up sauces, making delicious sandwiches or even burgers.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - how to use bread

The Secret Sauce: Water + Hydration

Apart from making your dough sticky, the amount of water in your bread dough plays an important role to its structure. It acts as a glue to the dough that helps create gas for nice big airy pockets and a strong gluten structure for a chewy texture.

This bread dough has a hydration of 80%. That means that for every 100 parts flour we’re adding 80 parts water. We work that out in grams, not by cups or milliliters.

The more hydration in your dough the stretchier and more flexible the gluten becomes, resulting in a chewy bread. It also helps trap air, giving you those nice big air pockets.

Let’s chat more about trapping air.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - hands holding a roll sliced in half

The Science Of Trapping Air!

We’ve all heard of gluten, but what does it actually do? The science behind it is actually super interesting. When you fold the dough you’re developing gluten. A group of proteins in the dough that help develop it’s structure. For Ciabatta that means a bubbly, airy, chewy inside and crusty outside.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - extreme close up of bread texture

Gluten gives bread its elasticity and chewy texture. Folding the dough helps the gluten align and create a strong network which traps air bubbles. The multiple folds and rise times also helps give this wonderful bread it’s delicious flavor! Honestly, you’ll be shocked at how good it tastes.

How To Fold The Dough

It’s simple! And the folding technique shown below is the same folding technique you’ll use throughout!

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - how to fold dough

  1. Lift the dough up from one corner,
  2. And fold over
  3. Then turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat, going around the bowl a total of 4 times.
  4. Allow to rise and repeat. That’s one round of folding and what you’ll be doing each time you need to fold the dough. A total of 5 rounds of folding.

An outline of the steps

Here’s a rough outline of what you’re in for. Full instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Most of your time is spent waiting so don’t let the steps intimidate you.

Make the dough

  • Rise for 30 min
  • Fold

Overnight rise

  • Rise overnight in the fridge

2 hour fold and rise

  • Rise 1: 30 min at room temp
  • Fold 1
  • Rise 2: 30 min at room temp
  • Fold 2
  • Rise 3: 30 min at room temp
  • Fold 3
  • Rise 4: 30 min at room temp
  • Fold 4 

Shape n Bake

  • Shape
  • Rise 5

The best way to get your dough to rise!

Most recipes, including mine will say to let the dough rise in a bowl (covered with plastic wrap) at room temperature. That’s 24C to 29C / 75F – 85F. But the best indicator of your bread having risen is by looking at it. In this case it should double in size. As you progressively fold and rise though, it will rise a little less each time.

What if it’s cold where you are? There are loads of ways to get your dough in the perfect spot to rise.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - letting dough rise

  • Warm day: let it rise on your countertop. It’s generally pretty warm inside on hot days, even with the aircon on. Alternatively, let it rise in a spot in the house where the
  • Mild day: let it rise in the car. It shouldn’t be blistering hot, but often cars are a nice little warm spot you can let your dough rise in.
  • Cold day (my favorite method) – boil your kettle and add to a deep baking dish. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes. Then place your bowl in there. It creates this perfect warm environment for your dough to rise. Make sure the dough is covered with plastic wrap so the humidity from the water doesn’t affect the bread dough.

A Couple Notes On The Ingredients

This recipe uses really simple ingredients. I’ve left the full list in the recipe card at the bottom of this page. Let’s go through a couple of the ingredients so you can get the best out of your home made bread.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - ingredients image

  • Lukewarm water – you want to make sure your water is the right temperature to activate the yeast. It should read between 49C – 55C / 120F – 130F.
  • Instant yeast – I used instant dry yeast which doesn’t need to be activated in liquid before using, but I just do it anyway to test to see if it’s active. You can also use Active dry yeast which does need to be activated in lukewarm water or milk before using. When either type is left to rest it becomes frothy so that you know it’s active. Both yeasts will work in this recipe.
  • Granulated sugar – I use caster sugar because this is what I always have on hand in my kitchen. Either sugar will work.

Again, full list in the recipe card below.

Let’s Run Through The Steps To Making Ciabatta Bread!

Making The Dough

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 01

  1. Add your dry yeast and sugar to a jug with warm water, stir
  2. Allow to rest for 5 minutes until it froths up. If it doesn’t froth up, it’s inactive and you’ll need to use a fresh dose of dried yeast from a new packet.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 02

  1. Add the flour, salt and salt and stir using a spoon. Set aside.
  2. Add the yeast mixture and stir until a scraggly dough forms.
  3. Cover and let it rise for 30 min.

Folding The Dough

This is a technique you’ll be using through the course of the dough rising. The same exact folding technique.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 03

  1. Lightly wet your hands and grab one corner of the dough. Stretch up without it breaking
  2. Fold over itself. Go around the dough and repeat this another 3 times.

Overnight Rise

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 04

  1. Let the dough rise in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight. This is super important!

2 Hour Fold And Rise

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 05

  1. Once risen, let the dough rest for 30 minutes at room temp and then repeat the folding and stretching technique.
  2. Repeat this for a total of 4 times. Rise 30 min then fold. It’ll take 2 hours in total.

Shaping The Dough

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 06

  1. Generously dust your workbench with flour
  2. Shape the dough into a rectangle shape. About 30cm x 20cm / 8 x 12-inches in size.
  3. Slice up into 6 rolls using a knife of bench scraper.

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 07

  1. Carefully transfer to your baking tray (lightly dusted with flour).
  2. Allow to rise for a final 30 minutes, covered.
  3. Or until the rolls have puffed up again.

Baking Your Rolls

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - steps 08

  1. Add a baking dish filed half way with water into the oven and lightly spray your rolls with water before placing in the middle rack of your oven to bake. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden!

How To Make Ciabatta Bread - top down shot of sliced up bread roll

Tips and Tricks to bake perfect Ciabatta Bread!

  • Measure out using kitchen scales – measuring ingredients out by weight and not cups is the best way to get consistent results every time! I wrote all about this in my post about using digital kitchen scales!
  • Don’t skip any of the rises or folds, these are vital to the bread developing it’s strength, structure and texture!
  • Make sure your rising environment is between 24C to 29C / 75F – 85F. Look at the dough as an indicator of when it’s ready for the next fold rather than relying purely on the time.
  • Be gentle when handling the rolls before baking so they don’t loose all of their air! I like to use a bench scraper to transfer my rolls to the baking tray but you can use cut them directly onto a large baking tray if you don’t mind them baking and slightly joining together.
  • Don’t be afraid of how much flour this recipe uses when shaping the dough! It stops things from sticking and is an iconic part of a rustic ciabatta bread!
  • Moisture! Adding a tray of water in the oven and spraying the dough before baking stops the rolls from developing a crust too early, allowing them rise as much as possible before getting a nice golden crust.
  • Be really gentle when shaping the dough rectangle before cutting the rolls. You don’t want to press too hard otherwise the dough will deflate.

Frequently Asked Questions about making Ciabatta Bread

How to store your ciabatta bread

Store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 3 days. I like to freshen mine up a bit by toasting or heating in the oven. To Freeze: wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature.

How to reheat

Reheat in the oven until warm. I like slicing mine in half and toasting it to freshen it up or if I’m using it for sandwiches or burgers.

Why didn’t my bread rise?

It’s the yeast Lebowski! It’ll likely be because the yeast is inactive. Use a fresh packet of dried yeast.

My bread didn’t rise in the oven, what happened?

Your bread dough was likely over proofed. Meaning the dough rose as much as it possibly could and then collapsed under its own weight and wasn’t strong enough to keep holding that air. To avoid this:

  • Let your dough rise in the correct temperature. Not too warm, not too cold
  • Judge it’s rising by looking more than the amount of time spent rising. The dough should roughly double in size each time it’s allowed to rise.

Why do you need to add a baking tray with water in the oven while baking the bread?

Humidity helps give the dough it’s nice stretchy and chewy texture. The moisture helps delay the formation of the crust, allowing the bread to rise as much as it can before the crust forms. It also helps the sugars in the bread caramelize resulting in a more golden crust!

Why this recipe is in grams and not cups?

The short answer is accuracy! It is far easier, more accurate and you get more consistent results when you measure ingredients by weight, especially in dessert and bread baking! I wrote all about this in my post about using digital kitchen scales!

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How To Make Ciabatta Bread - thumbnail

How To Make Ciabatta Bread

Learn hot to make these FOOL PROOF Ciabatta Rolls. These are perfectly light chewy and airy on the inside, with a crunchy and crackly crust on the outside!

Serves 6

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Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Rise: 15 hours
Total: 15 hours 30 minutes
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 308kcal

Ingredients

Ciabatta Rolls

  • 360 g water lukewarm
  • 6 g instant yeast see notes
  • 8 g granulated sugar
  • 450 g all-purpose flour plain flour
  • 10 g salt
  • 18 g olive oil


Instructions

A Note Before We Begin

  • The instructions and ingredient measurements in this recipe have been carefully written. They must be followed exactly. The majority of time spent making this recipe is allowing the dough to rise. The folding in the recipe helps develop gluten and structure to the bread giving it it’s distinct chewy texture.

Ciabatta Rolls

  • To make the dough - Add the water to a jug or small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the top and mix. Allow to rest in a warm spot for 10 minutes. It should froth. If it doesn’t it’s not active.
  • To a large bowl add the flour and salt and mix to combine. Add the yeast water and the oil and use a spoon to mix until no dry ingredients are showing.
  • First rise (30 min) - Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes or until it doubles in size. For rising temperatures, see the notes section at the bottom of this recipe card.
  • First Dough Stretch and fold the dough - Take the plastic wrap off (save it). Lightly wet your hands and slowly lift up a corner of the dough then fold it over itself. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and grab another corner of the dough, folding over itself. Rotate and fold another two times for a total of four folds.
  • Second rise (overnight / 12 hours) - Cover with plastic wrap again and place in the fridge to chill overnight. It will double (almost triple) in size again. The slow rise in the fridge allows it to develop its flavor.
  • Third rise (2 hours) - Take the dough out of the fridge and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Take the plastic wrap off and repeat the stretching technique. Cover with plastic wrap and rise another 30 minutes, then stretch. Rise and stretch another 2 times for a total of 2 hours and 4 stretches.
  • Preheat your oven - Preheat a fan forced oven to 200C / 400F (220C / 430F for no fan). Position one oven rack in the middle of the oven and one on the bottom. Add water to a baking tray and place on the bottom of the oven while it’s heating up. Lightly sprinkle a half sheet baking tray with flour. Set aside.
  • Shape the rolls - It’s time to shape the rolls and do the final rise. Take the plastic wrap off the bowl and sprinkle your workbench with a generous amount of flour.
  • Pour the dough out of the bowl onto your work bench. Sprinkle with more flour on top. Use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangle shape, about 30cm x 20cm / 8 x 12-inches in size. Don’t squash the top of the dough or it will deflate it. You want to keep those air bubbles. Just be gentle when shaping it.
  • Final rise (30 minutes) - Use a large knife or bench scraper to cut the dough into 6 even sized rectangles. Carefully lift up each roll using a floured spatula or bench scraper onto the lightly floured baking tray. Cover the baking tray with another baking tray of the same size or lightly spray a large piece of plastic wrap and cover the dough. Rise for a final 30 minutes.
  • Bake - Right before the rolls go into the oven, spray with water and place on the middle rack to bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. The rolls will be light and crispy.

Notes

Lukewarm water - you want to make sure your water is the right temperature to activate the yeast. It should read between 49C - 55C / 120F - 130F.
Yeast - Active dry yeast is a dry yeast that needs to be activated in lukewarm water or milk before using. When left to rest it becomes frothy so that you know it’s active. Instant Dry Yeast doesn’t need to be activated before using and can be added straight to your dry ingredients. Both yeasts will work where yeast is called in a recipe.
Room temperature rising time - Most recipes, including mine will say to let the dough rise in a bowl (covered with plastic wrap) at room temperature. That’s 24C to 29C / 75F - 85F. But the best indicator of your bread having risen is by looking at it. In this case it should double in size. As you progressively fold and rise though, it will rise a little less each time.
Storage - Ciabatta rolls can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. You can also freeze them by wrapping in plastic freezer bags and freezing for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature before using.
Nutrition - is an approximate and is based on per roll. This recipe makes 6 decent sized rolls.
A note on measurements - this recipe is offered in weight measurements. This is in an effort to offer the most accurate way to get the best results. Cup measurements simply aren’t accurate enough for a recipe that needs precision and cup sizes differ depending on where you are in the world. To learn more about how to measure ingredients using digital kitchen scales, click here!

Nutrition

Calories : 308kcal
Carbonhydrates: 59g
Protein: 8g
Fat: 4g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g
Monounsaturated Fat : 2g
Sodium: 651mg
Potassium : 90mg
Fiber: 2g
Sugar : 2g
Vitamin C: 0.003mg
Calcium: 14mg
Iron: 4mg
Nutrition Disclosure
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