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BBA Challenge #7: Ciabatta

I baked this over the weekend, but I’m just getting around to posting it now. I was a little concerned going into this challenge since I had been unsuccessful with my last attempt at ciabatta. I think my problem the last time was that I was so concerned about keeping my dough wet that I didn’t add enough flour to provide structure. So I ended up with something that resembled a cracker more than a nice loaf of ciabatta.

I was hoping maybe Peter Reinhart could help me out with a good new ciabatta recipe. This try turned out much more successful than the last attempt, but I think maybe either I or the recipe could have done better.

I made the poolish version, so I started with…a poolish. I made this on Saturday. Flour, water, and yeast. Reinhart says it should look like “thick pancake batter,” and mine did:


I let it rise for a little over three hours. It was warm that day, so it rose well.

Risen Poolish

Risen Poolish

Then I refrigerated it overnight. On Sunday, I mixed the dough. I used my Kitchen Aid with the paddle attachment as specified and then switched to the dough hook for the end. I started with 3 ounces of water, but that didn’t get anywhere near a “sticky ball.” I ended up added almost all the rest. I think there was an ounce left, so I added probably 5 ounces. But the dough stuck to the bottom of the bowl and cleared the sides, like it was supposed to.


For cleanup’s sake, I made my bed of flour on my KAF silicone rolling mat.

Bed of Flour


As directed, I stretched and folded it.



I let it rest and did it again.


Then I let it rise.


I prepared my couche for the very first time. I also ordered this from King Arthur Flour. I don’t know if they will be able to stay in business once I cut back on my ordering due to my upcoming mortgage.

Preparing the Couche

I didn’t want to make it too complicated by getting out the scale, so I just divided the dough in half roughly and shaped. Then they went on the couche for proofing.


In the meantime, I prepared my pizza peel with cornmeal. My peel is small and my pizza stone is small, because my oven is small. I was worried both loaves wouldn’t fit, but they did fine.

Peel with Cornmeal

Again, because of the heat, I didn’t let them proof too long. I think it was a half an hour and they were “noticeably swelled.”


This is the first time we have had to follow Reinhart’s “hearth baking” directions, which amount to preheating the oven higher than the final temperature, putting hot water on a steam pan when you put in the dough, and spraying the oven three times at 30 second intervals in the first few minutes of baking. I did all of this, but I wonder how much it helped. I almost would like to redo the recipe with a control loaf to see the difference.

I was very happy with the way the loaves turned out, visually.


They also tasted delicious. I did not get the full open holes, like the ciabatta photo in the book. Did I add too much flour this time? I know a lot of my fellow BBA bakers have noted the same thing. The consensus seems to be that the biga method worked better than the poolish method. Or maybe I should have added all of the water? Because of that, I give this recipe a 4.5.


My mom claimed a loaf of ciabatta before I baked it. It’s in the freezer waiting for you, Mom. Not quite bubbly enough, but it still tastes good.

7 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #7: Ciabatta

  1. Beautiful loaves! I also had a tight crumb with mine. I think ciabatta is one that’s going to take some practice, at least for me.

  2. Nice pictures! Mine turned out much the same, delicious but lacking the big holes. I am thinking it was under hydration that was the problem.

    Keep on keeping on! Cinnamon rolls are very easy, this I know.

    ~devany Hilo, HI

  3. My first time was not so good, but for the second try I tried the biga version with the maximum amount of water, and even though I didn’t get huge holes, I did get nice holes with a beautiful crumb and deliciously soft loaves.

    I say try again with more hydration. It really is a good bread.

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