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May 16, 2014

Ciabatta with Biga

Ciabatta with Biga Karen's Kitchen Stories

This ciabatta formula really pushes the hydration limit. The dough is super wet, resulting in a super airy dough, and because of the biga that ferments for 12 hours, the flavor is pretty amazing.

Ciabatta with Biga Karen's Kitchen Stories

This recipe produces a lot of dough, enough for two 1 1/2 pound ciabattas and eight ciabattini or four stirato (ciabatta baguettes). I'd love to show you photos of the ciabattini, but they were quickly consumed by my cutie pie grandsons before I could take photos. Priorities people. Those boys own my heart.

Ciabatta with Biga Karen's Kitchen Stories

I started this bread without fully reading the recipe (of course) and didn't realize how much dough I would end up with.  Unless you have a large oven, you will have to bake the loaves and rolls in stages. This had me a little worried about over proofing, however, this dough is amazingly resilient.

I had to proof the dough in a linen couche, and had some sticking problems. Even so, the loaves were amazing. You can pretty much manhandle it and still get an incredible loaf. It was like working with a gelatinous blob that had a life of its own.

Stirato are stretched out pieces of ciabatta dough, which are wonderful for sandwiches. Check out this post for how to shape them.

This recipe is adapted from Baking By Hand: Make the Best Artisanal Breads and Pastries Better Without a Mixer. This book is wonderful.

The recipe calls for setting the dough in a "warm place" when resting. I usually heat two coffee cups of water in the microwave, set them in the corners of the microwave, and then place the dough container in the center. Each time I "stretch and fold" the dough, I reheat the water to maintain the warm temperature.

By the way, ciabatta makes amazing garlic bread on the grill

Ciabatta, Ciabattini, and Stirato with Biga

Makes 2 one pound 8 ounce ciabattas plus 8 rolls or four stirato. Or any variation you like. Just chop the dough up and bake!



9.25 ounces water
440 g bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast

Final Dough

765 grams bread flour
60 grams whole wheat flour
All of the biga
25.25 ounces water at 90 degrees F
25 grams salt
1 tsp instant yeast


  1. The night before baking, mix the biga ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 10 to 12 hours. 
  2. Whisk the flours together and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or bucket, mix the water and biga, breaking up the biga in the water. 
  4. Add the flours to the water and biga and mix by hand until it comes together, about a minute. Be sure to moisten all of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand in a warm place for 30 minutes. 
  5. Sprinkle the yeast and salt over the top of the dough and stretch and fold the dough over itself. Mix by hand by alternatively squeezing the dough with your fingers and folding it over itself for about a minute. Cover with plastic wrap and set the container in a warm place for 30 minutes.
  6. Stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four "sides," shape it into a ball, cover, and return it to the warm spot. Repeat three more times, every 30 minutes. 
  7. After the final stretch and fold, let the dough rise for another hour. The total rising time is about 3 hours. 
  8. Gently turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and cut it into two 1 1/2 pound loaves, about 5 inches by 10 inches. Place a floured plate on your scale and weigh the dough. You can add more dough on top of your loaf. The beauty of this dough is you do not shape it, you simple cut it. 
  9. Cut the leftover dough into rolls or strips. 
  10. Place all of the dough pieces in a well floured couche or linen towel, pulling up the floured fabric between the loaves to separate them (it sort of resembles drapes with loaves nested in the folds), and cover with a floured towel or oiled plastic wrap. 
  11. Place a baking stone and a steam pan in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Let the loaves rise for an hour. 
  12. Flip the rolls over onto a parchment lined peel and slide them onto the stone. Add a few ice cubes to the steam pan (which is under your baking stone or on the top rack, your preference). Shut the oven door quickly. After 5 minutes, spray your oven (carefully not to break the light or door) with water and quickly shut the door. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. 
  13. Cool on a rack. Repeat the process with the larger loaves, but bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 200 degrees F. 
  14. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Hi Karen, you are the queen of baking, this bread looks amazing and so delicious! When I want to bake anything anymore I just check out your site. Thanks! Happy week-end!

  2. Karen I only recently found your site but I must say I'm enjoying every single blog I receive very much!

    These look fantastic - not sure when I'll have time to give it a shot [I'm in that chauffeuring young teens life stage] but I'm saving it for some day when I am just going to be home - has to happen sometime!

    Maybe they'll leave me alone for it - they all love ciabatta!

    1. Thank you so much Cherie! I've been there. Now that my kids are grown, I've had time to learn the finer points of bread baking =)

  3. Hello,

    Is that water measured in ounces by volume, or ounces by weight? Thanks!

    1. By weight, although water is the same by weight or volume =)

  4. Ive made your Ciabatta bread recipe and its the best Ciabatta I've ever made. I have to ask, what is the purpose of adding the whole wheat flour? Thank you, Doug

    1. Hi Doug, I'm happy to hear you like this! Just a little bit of whole wheat really helps develop flavor.


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