- 'biga' or overnight starter
- 10g (¼oz) fresh yeast or 1tsp dried active yeast
- 100ml (3fl oz) warm water
- ½tsp caster sugar
- 150g (5oz) strong plain bread flour
- ciabatta dough
- 10g fresh yeast or 1tsp dried active yeast
- 150g (5oz) Italian type '00' bread flour
- 1tsp salt
- 1tsp olive oil
- 100ml (3fl oz) water
- you will need
- large baking sheet lined with baking parchment and floured
In a large bowl, stir the biga ingredients together for 2 minutes until they form a very thick, sticky and smooth paste then cover and leave to rise overnight for at least 8 hours. After this the biga can be left in the fridge for up to 72 hours; the longer you leave it the more time the flavour will have to develop.
The next day the biga will have large bubbles marking its surface. In a cup combine 2tbsp warm water with the yeast and mix to make a smooth, creamy paste. Add the flour, salt, oil, remaining water and creamed yeast to the biga and, using the dough hook attachment on an electric mixer or whisk work the dough until it wants to leave the sides of the bowl. It will still look very wet and sticky but as you work the dough, it will become firmer.
Tip the dough into an oiled, clean bowl then cover and leave for 1 hour 30 minutes until risen and doubled in size. With floured hands, tip the risen dough onto the prepared baking sheet and, touching it very quickly as though it were hot, roll into a long, flat ciabatta loaf shape about 23 x 10cm (9 x 4in). Cover and leave to rise again for 30 minutes to 1 hour until puffed up.
Preheat the oven to 240 C, 220 C fan, 475 F, gas 9 or its highest setting and place a roasting tin of boiling water in the bottom. This creates a steamy environment for the bread to form a good crust. Bake the ciabatta in the top third of the oven for 10 minutes before turning it around and baking it for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
Top Tip for making Ciabatta
Gently rub a whole, peeled clove of garlic over the rough surface of toasted ciabatta slices then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt for fantastic garlic bruschetta.