Ciabatta - BC20 style

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Did you know that Ciabatta was only invented in 1982?

It's was first produced by Arnaldo Cavallari and called Ciabatta Polesana after Polesine, his home in northeast Italy. 

It took until 1999 to license the product to Molina Adriesi. Meanwhile, it had been taken to the UK by Marks and Spencer in 1985 and to the Orlando Bakery in Cleveland, Ohio in 1987. 

Why did the Italians need ciabatta? 

Well, by 1982, the French baguette was pretty much dominant throughout Italy and Cavallari thought that there was a need for a serious competitor. Ciabatta or 'slipper' as it translates was made at a far higher hydration producing much larger holes or 'alveoli' as they're sometimes called. 

The BC20 ciabatta starts life as a biga, made with yeast and plain (all-purpose) flour at a low protein level. Yeast is added and this is allowed to ferment overnight. 

The following day, the biga is introduced to more liquid and strong bread flour, mixed, kneaded and proofed into ciabatta - traditionally a high hydration, very loose dough. 


for the biga

¼ teaspoon dried active yeast mixed with 50 gms warm water

165 gms plain (all-purpose) flour mixed with 80 gms of warm water

for the dough

½ teaspoon dried active yeast

160 gms warm water

35 ml warm milk

250 gms strong white bread flour

1 teaspoon crushed sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil


prepare the biga the night before

Add the yeast to the 50 gms warm water and leave until it froths. 

Slowly add the flour and the 80 gms water and mix until you have a loose dough

Place in a well-oiled bowl, cover and leave for 12 hours or overnight. 

You can see that this biga has risen and is just starting to fall back...ideal time to be used. 

the following morning

Stage 1

Take the milk and the yeast and leave in a warm place until it froths. 

In a bowl, add the milk and yeast mixture. 

Add water and flour. When thoroughly combined, add the salt. 

Now add the biga and mix together until fully amalgamated. 

Knead for 10 minutes until silky and elastic. 

This is a very wet dough. 

Place in a well-oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This may take an hour, but it may take longer. 

Stage 2

Now, taking the bowl, pull one side of the dough upwards and fold over itself. 

Rotate the bowl and repeat. 

Keep repeating until you have rotated, pulled and folded the dough eight times. 

Cover and put a timer on for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, repeat the eight sequences of pull, fold and turn. 

Stage 3

Tip the dough onto a well-floured surface. 

Divide the dough into two. 

Very gently, form the dough into two large squares. 

Take each piece of dough in turn... and, only if you need to fold over a third from the right and then fold over from the left, as though making a booklet.

Otherwise....with a scraper, carefully transfer the dough to a piece of baking paper. (The ones below weren't folded) 

They're not known as 'ciabatta' for nothing....they are supposed to look like slippers...well, you get the idea...Pompeiian slippers!

Repeat with the other piece of dough.

Flour the tops of each piece. 

Cover with a cloth and allow to rest for 30 minutes. 

Heat the oven to 220⁰C and heat a baking sheet.

Stage 4

Slide the baking paper onto the baking sheet

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and the bread taps hollow underneath. 

Cool on a rack for one hour before cutting. 

Happy baking...


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