Ciabatta is the Italian word for slipper. It is a delicious and very popular kind of bread shaped like a short baguette.
For this loaf, we use our Texas Pure Milling Organic All-purpose flour. It has a slightly higher protein content than others and is ideal for artisan bread like ciabatta. We start with a biga, which is a sponge that is fermented for about 12 hours. We used milk in our biga. This milk adds richness and added depth of flavor. A combination of kneading and turning lent the dough just the right amount of gluten for the medium-size bubbles we were looking for in the perfect ciabatta recipe.
The dough for this bread is typically wet and very sticky. Work quickly and gently during the final loaf formation, as rough handling will result in squatty chewy loaves. We prefer using a large bowl scraper or spatula to move the dough. When moving with your hands, be sure you have floured them well. For proper gluten development in the dough, the use of an electric mixer is best. For baking, we suggest the use of a baking stone on the lower rack of the oven.
1 cup (4 ¼ oz. 120g) Texas Pure Milling organic all-purpose flour ⅛ tsp. Red Star instant or rapid-rise yeast ½ cup (4 oz., 113g) milk
4 cups (1lb. 1oz., 480g) Texas Pure Milling organic all-purpose flour 1 tsp. (3g) Red Star instant or rapid-rise yeast 2 tsp. (7g) table salt 1 ½ cup (12 oz., 340g) water, at room temperature
Biga: Combine flour, yeast, and milk in a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until uniform mass forms, about 1 minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (about 75°F) overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours).
Dough: Place biga and dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix on medium-low speed and knead until smooth and shiny (dough will be very sticky), about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
With a gentle hand, fold the dough onto itself, releasing the air bubbles. Turn bowl 90 degrees, fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough six more times (total of eight turns). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding, replace plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes longer.
Transfer the dough to a liberally floured counter, being careful not to deflate completely. Liberally flour top of dough and form into a square, approximately 12-inches by-12 inches. Divide in 4 horizontal cuts with a sharp knife creating four 12-inch by 3-inch loaves.
Gently transfer each loaf to a parchment sheet (14-inches by 6-inches) dusted with generous flour. Cover with plastic wrap. Let the loaves sit at room temperature for 30-40 minutes.
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 450°F at least 30 minutes before baking.
Gently transfer the parchment with loaves onto a pizza peel. Carefully slide parchment with loaves onto a baking stone in the oven using a deliberate jerking motion. Bake, spraying loaves with water twice more during the first 5 minutes of baking time.
Bake until the crust is deep golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of loaves registers 210 degrees, 22 to 27 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, discard parchment, and cool loaves to room temperature, about 1 hour, before slicing and serving. Yield: 4 loaves.