Ciabatta is such a classic that you might be forgiven for assuming that it is a very old recipe but a quick Google and I soon found out that it is not old at was first produced in 1976 by a baker from Verona, Francesco Favaron. Favaron named the bread Ciabatta because its shape reminded him of the slipper (ciabatta in Italian) of Andreina, his wife.

Drizzled with olive oil or spread with cold butter, it is ideal accompanying a dinner. Even better, sliced and drizzled with olive oil and topped with char-grilled veg or barbecue fare and eaten outside. That, for me is a summer’s treat.

Making ciabatte is unlike most bread making since the dough is very wet. I have tried a few recipes and can get close to what I think makes a good one but I haven’t got to ciabatta perfection. A task for Vanessa I think.

The ciabatta, the Italian “slipper” bread is tricky to make because it has a high hydration (high water content) dough which produces butter holes...or a more open crumb to use a baker’s term...but they are so worth it. I’ve come up with a simple recipe that uses a high protein flour (Mulino Marino “00” Soffiata) and while this recipe has a high hydration, I have not quite pushed it as high as it could go (to ensure that anyone can make it). Experienced bakers could add another 20-30g more water, but if you are a beginner or baking this for the first time, stick with my quantities.

New bakers please don’t be put off by my talk of’s bakers speak and it simply refers to the amount of water that the recipe uses and we talk about it as a percentage in relation to the amount to flour used.

Really it’s a matter of making a good stiff “biga” the night before, and then it’s mostly down to patience to let the dough rise, handling it lightly and baking it the right way to ensure success. “biga” is a very easy preferment which is lower in hydration than a “poolish” and uses only a small amount of yeast and increases the flavour of the bread.

You’d have to be insane working in a bakery to try and move a proved ciabatta or baguette without a flipping board. A flipping board is a simple tool, an overly wide ruler used to support proved dough while it is moved with minimal disturbance and deflation.

See how a flipping board is used Buying Couche

Finally if you want your ciabatte (or ciabattas) to come out of the oven looking fabulous then use an Oblong Baker. Domestic ovens are not great to bake bread in. The clay oblong baker is effectively a mini version of an ancient clay oven that you can pop inside your own oven. The clay pot heats up, and distributes the heat evenly around the dough giving it a uniform rise. The pot also retains the steam coming off the dough, which hydrates the crust, giving it that wonderful classically Italian crunch to the crust. You can also leave the dough in longer as the heat is somehow more mellow, allowing the crust to brown and the Maillard reaction of the sugars developing takes place, giving your bread a much more delicious flavour.

Last practical tip is that I like to place the couche on a tray, in case I need to transfer the dough into the fridge to slow things down on a hot summers day.

Vanessa Kimbell runs the Sourdough School, Northampton


Buy an Oblong Baker with its companions, the 50cm couche and the flipping board and we’ll give you the 500ml Pelia olive oil, sachet Bioreal organic yeast, 1kg Mulino Marino “00” Soffiata and a 400g pouch of the Himalayan super-fine salt FREE!

Simply put all 7 items into your basket and use coupon code AUGCIABATTA and we will do the rest. Valid until the end of August. (If anything is showing as out of stock on the site, don't worry we'll forward the item to you as soon as it comes back into stock (for overseas customers we'll send your order when everything is available).


The night before, make the biga

In a bowl that will allow the biga to triple in volume, add the yeast into the warm water and leave for 10 minutes then whisk until frothy. Next, add the flour and mix by hand with a dough whisk for 3-4 minutes. Cover the bowl and allow to ferment at room temperature overnight.

The following morning, make the ciabatta

Using a stand mixer bowl add the yeast and warm milk and mix well, stand for 10-15 minutes until frothy.

Next add the water, oil and biga and using a paddle to mix well then add the flour and salt then mix on medium speed for 4-5 minutes. I like to replace the paddle for a dough hook at this point, and mix on low speed for 3 minutes then on medium for 2 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes and repeat.

The dough should be silky smooth.

Transfer to a bowl that has been rubbed with olive oil and cover. Leave at room temperature until it doubles in volume, around 75-90 minutes.


Flour the work bench and turn the dough gently onto it and cut into 2 equal pieces, trying to avoid knocking the air out too, about 30cm x 10cm. Transfer, using the flipping board, onto a piece of floured pleated couche (I used the 50cm one).

Press your fingers into the dough to dimple the surface, cover and allow to rise for 90-120 minutes.

30 minutes before baking place your oblong baker on the centre shelf of the oven and heat the oven to 220°C.

When the dough is proved dust with flour and using a flipping board turn the dough and slip into the hot base of the oblong baker that has been dusted with fine maize flour, cover and bake for 30 minutes then uncover and bake a further 2 minutes (pop the other ciabatta in the fridge while the first is baking).

Lift the loaf and tap the base to see if they are baked and it should sound hollow. Repeat for the second one, placing on a wire rack to cool.

Just Baked

Makes: 2

1/4 tsp organic dried yeast
220g water at room temperature

270g Mulino Marino Type “00” Soffiata Flour
Olive oil for the bowl

Ciabatta Dough:

1 tsp organic dried yeast
75g warm milk

290g water at room temperature

20g Pelia olive oil plus a little more for the bowl

The biga from above

500g Mulino Marino Type “00” Soffiata Flour
16g super-fine salt

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