Flour, salt, yeast, and water . . . that’s all you need to make your own ciabatta. That, and a lot of patience! Ciabatta must be proofed very slowly at room temperature to achieve the lacy interior and chewy crust. If risen too quickly, the loaves with collapse and the bread will be flat. It’s worth every minute spent watching the dough rise when you spread a little salted butter atop a warm slice of this amazing bread!
1 lb. 2 oz. white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1/3 oz. salt (2 tsp.)
1/3 oz. instant yeast (2 tsp.)
11 fl. oz. cold water
3½ fl. oz. cold water
Put the flour, salt, yeast, and 11 fl. oz. of water into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (don’t put the salt directly on top of the yeast). Begin mixing on low speed. As the dough starts to come together, slowly add the 3 1/2 fl. oz. of water, drip by drip. Mix for a further 5-8 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and stretchy.
Lightly oil a 6-8 cup square plastic container with a lid. (It’s important to use a square container as it helps shape the dough.) Tip the dough in and seal with the lid. Leave for 1½ – 2 hours at room temperature, or at least until doubled, or even tripled in size.
Dust two large baking sheets with flour and semolina. Dust your work surface with a generous amount of the same. Tip out the dough onto the work surface (it will be very wet), trying to retain a rough square shape. Rather than knocking it down, handle it gently and keep as much air in it as possible. Coat the top of the dough with more flour and semolina, then cut lengthwise into four equally-sized loaves. Place on the baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for 30-45 minutes.
Heat the oven to 425°F. Bake the bread for 25 minutes, or until the loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.