If you are confident in your bread-baking skills, I wrote this post, “How to Make Ciabatta with a Bread Machine” just for you.
Bread-Machine Ciabatta tastes fantastic and boasts a characteristically open texture, but it can be a challenge for the home baker. Using a bread machine or bread maker to mix the dough means you won’t have to handle the sticky dough until you get ready to shape your loaf. Check out my “almost-no-touch” method for making that easier, too.
Have you seen the British Baking Show on PBS or Netflix? After a friend at church told me about it, I was binge-watching within 24 hours.
In one of the first episodes, Paul Hollywood picked Ciabatta as the “Baker’s Challenge.” When questioned about his choice, he told Mary Berry, “because it is so hard.”
Those are fightin’ words…
I took the challenge personally and henceforth, pulled out my bread machine along with several recipe books. After I perfected the recipe, I had to figure out a way to shape the loaves without losing my mind over all the messy dough stuck to my fingers.
Why is Making Ciabatta in a Bread Machine a Good Idea?
Ciabatta begins and ends as a slack or very sticky dough. Kneading by hand would be quite a mess.
The dough doesn’t “stick and pull away cleanly from the side of the pan” like the average bread dough. On the other hand, it should not level out like cake batter either. The dough should stick to the sides but still maintain some shape as it kneads. It will become smooth and shiny as the gluten develops.
A companion show to the British Baking competition is the Masterclass where the two judges show exactly how to make the recipes they assign as challenges. Paul makes the ciabatta in Masterclass 2 of Season 1. I watched it more times than I can count.
The Secret to “Almost-No-Hands Shaping”
In my opinion, Paul Hollywood’s method of shaping the dough is genius. He uses a well-greased rectangle-shaped plastic container to contain the dough while it proofs.
When ready to shape, slowly and patiently dump the dough onto a well-floured silicone baking mat. From there, you can do all the manipulation with a bench knife. This is SO difficult to explain with words. See the pictures below or better yet, the video.
***The secret to success with this process is “well-floured” and “well-greased.”
Is this bread really worth the trouble?
I think so. The yeasty flavors are well-developed and flavorful, not to mention the chewy texture and tender but crispy crust. Executing this bread successfully is high on my list of satisfying kitchen experiences.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- YEAST: Instant or bread-machine yeast (same thing) does not need to be dissolved. I use it in all of my bread-machine recipes.
You can now substitute active dry yeast without dissolving it first. Just be aware that it may be a little slower on the uptake, but it will get there. Allow more time for rising.
- WATER: If you have spring water in the house, use that. Otherwise, tap water is fine.
- FLOUR: All-purpose flour is called for in the recipe. Bread flour is a good substitute. I like Trader Joe’s all-purpose flour which has as much or more protein as many of the bread flours on the market–4 grams per serving.
- MILK: Whatever milk you have on hand is fine.
- SALT: Diamond Crystal Kosher salt is what I use in all my bread recipes. If you use table salt, you might want to cut back 1/4 teaspoon.
- SEMOLINA: This is not an ingredient per se. Sprinkle semolina on the silicone mat where you shape the loaf to prevent sticking. I use this combined with a minimal amount of flour. You can use flour alone or finely-milled cornmeal in combination with the flour if you don’t have semolina (available online and sometimes in bulk bins).
Equipment You Will Need:
- BREAD MACHINE: I only use my bread machine to knead the dough, so it doesn’t have to be fancy. How it bakes doesn’t matter because we are only going to use it for what it does best–knead bread dough.
You could use a stand mixer to knead Ciabatta dough, but I wouldn’t try to knead it by hand. It’s impossibly sticky.
- DIGITAL SCALES: Measuring the flour correctly is extremely important in this recipe. If you scoop it out with a measuring cup, you’ll probably get too much. Your Ciabatta won’t turn out light and airy. See this post for the correct way to measure if you don’t have scales.
- 3-QUART RECTANGULAR-SHAPED PLASTIC CONTAINER with LID: I got this one at the dollar store. It doesn’t need to be fancy. If you can get something that holds exactly 3 quarts, then you will know precisely when the dough has risen enough because it will almost fill the container.
You can make a square container work but you’ll have to get your well-greased hands into the sticky dough. Stretch and reshape each half of the dough after you divide it with a bench scraper to make the loaves long and skinny. While there’s nothing wrong with square and fat, both loaves might not fit on one cookie sheet.
- SILICONE BAKING MAT: A nonstick silicone mat is essential for making loaves with my “almost-no-touch” technique.
If you don’t have a mat, you can try using parchment paper, but it’s not nearly as sturdy. If you are shaping the loaves on a floured countertop or a large cutting board, you will have to move the loaves to a cookie sheet by hand. That dough is sticky, man. You can find yourself in a mess before you know it.
- BENCH SCRAPER: This is a key part of my strategy to avoid touching the dough. Spray the scraper with olive oil. If it starts to stick to the dough, you can spray it with more oil or sprinkle it with a little flour.
- WATER SPRAY BOTTLE: If you want a crispy crust, spray the crust before you put the loaves in the oven, then once or twice again in the next five minutes.
In addition, I fill a loaf pan with boiling water and place it onto the bottom shelf of my oven when I put the Ciabatta into the oven to bake.
- RIMLESS COOKIE SHEET: A cookie sheet with no rim makes it easy to transfer the silicone baking sheet with bread on top of it to your cookie sheet. If all your cookie sheets have rims, turn one over and use the back side.
- COOLING RACK: If you don’t want your crust to be soft and soggy on the bottom, they must have air circulating under the loaf. A cooling rack makes it easy.
4 Secrets to Success with Ciabatta:
Use cool water and cool milk in this recipe, but never ice cold.
Often, bread recipes will call for warm liquids. However, this hastens the proofing or rising. Paul Hollywood mentioned more than once that you don’t want to do any thing that will rush the process.
Let the dough rise at room temperature.
For the same reason as #1, don’t use that warm and humid spot where you usually proof bread dough. The longer it takes to rise, the better the flavor. If the dough rises too fast, it won’t be strong enough and will result in a flat loaf.
***Here’s a tip: If uncooked ciabatta loaves flatten out in the last rise, fold them lengthwise to make them double in height. Use your fingertips to lightly dimple the dough again. Wait another 5-10 minutes and then bake as usual.
Ciabatta must be started the day before you want to serve it.
This recipe involves a biga which is a pre-ferment. A biga is a water and flour mixture with a small amount of yeast added that needs to incubate from 12-24 hours before adding the remaining ingredients. With that in mind, you must start the day before you want to eat your Ciabatta.
If plans change, you can always refrigerate the biga after the first 12-24 hours, then use it sometime in the next 3 days.
Check bread with a thermometer to be sure the bread is baked in the middle.
Use a quick-rise thermometer to test the internal temperature of your loaf. The temperature should be around 190˚-200˚F.
Some people claim they can tell by thumping the loaf on the bottom. They are probably the same people who can pick the best watermelon at the store by thumping it. But not me. I need something more precise.
My favorite thermometer is a little pricey, but I love how fast and accurate it is. If you like to cook, you’ll be surprised how often you reach for it.
How To Make Ciabatta with a Bread Maker:
There are LOTS of process pictures here. I really want you to be successful with this tricky bread. Let me know if you have a question as you go through the steps.
Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
More Recipes for Bread Makers
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Did you try this recipe and enjoy it? Consider helping other readers (and me) by returning to this post. Leave a rating on the recipe card itself underneath the picture. Although always appreciated, comments aren’t required.
If you have a question or tip to share, please leave it in the regular comments after the recipe so I can answer back. Or, email me privately: paula at saladinajar.com.
Thank you for visiting!
- 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) water (filtered, if you have it)
- 1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour (120 grams)
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) milk
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (240 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon bread machine yeast (yes, that's all)
- flour or semolina for flouring the board and your hands
Mixing the Biga
- Combine yeast, water, and flour in bread machine (or another container if you don't want to tie up your bread machine that long.) Select the dough cycle and turn on for about 5 minutes to mix the ingredients. You may need to use a small spatula to scrape excess flour from the corners into the wet flour mixture. Turn off machine (or unplug) and let sit for 12-24 hours.
- If not using the biga within 24 hours, place the foamy mixture into the refrigerator where it will keep for 3-4 days and only get better. Allow the biga to come to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.
Mixing the Ciabatta Dough
- When ready to mix Ciabatta dough, add all ingredients to your bread machine in order listed, starting with the biga.
- Select the DOUGH cycle and push start. After 12-15 minutes, check dough. It should be sticky and have some shape. (See video.) Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if dough is too dry. If dough is too wet and looks more like thick pancake batter, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If you have weighed your flour, you shouldn't have to make any adjustments.
- When kneading stops, remove the pan from the machine. (Do not let dough finish the dough cycle as you normally would.) Dough should stick to the sides but still hold a loose shape.
Shaping the Ciabatta Dough
- Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil into a 3-quart square or rectangular container. Use a brush or your hand to coat the inside of the container as well as the lid.
- Use a greased spatula to remove the sticky dough from the bread-machine pan into the well-greased 2-qt plastic container. Flip the dough over so that all surfaces of dough are greased. Pour another teaspoon or two of olive oil around the edges of the dough so it will not stick to the sides as it proofs.
- Cover and allow dough to rise at room temperature. Don't try to rush it. Let the dough rise until almost tripled in size. If you are using a 3-quart container, it will be full.This could easily take 2 hours or more depending on the ambient temperature.
- When fully proofed, empty dough by slowly tipping the container upside down onto a very liberally-floured (semolina flour works well if you have it) surface. (I use a silicone baking sheet since it's easy to throw into the dishwasher). The dough should be in the same general square or rectangular shape of the container it proofed in. DO NOT PUNCH THE DOUGH DOWN like you would normal bread dough.
- Spray or coat a bench scraper (or large knife) with olive oil. Cut the rectangle of dough in half longways.
- Use the bench scraper to catch the inner edges of each loaf and pull it up over over the top about halfway and toward the outer edge. This leaves more room between each loaf. (This is quite challenging in the beginning, so don't expect perfection the first few times.)
- Now catch the outer edge of each loaf (the one that looks like it's about to fall off the tray at this point) with the bench scraper and pull it up over the loaf about halfway in the direction of the middle of the tray. (See the video.)
- Straighten and clean up the shape with a bench knife. Use your well-greased or floured fingers (as if you were playing the piano) to dimple the surface of the bread.
Second-Rise and Baking
- If you are using a silicone mat, transfer or pull the mat with the shaped loaves onto a rimless baking sheet or turn a rimmed sheet upside down. (See video)
- If you are not using a silicone mat, use liberally-floured hands to carefully transfer the two cylinders of dough to a cookie sheet that has been covered with parchment paper or greased, and then sprinkled with flour and/or semolina (or cornmeal).
- Cover the loaves so the dough won't dry out and form a crust. I like to use a plastic storage box turned upside down so it won't touch the sticky crust. You can also spray a large piece of plastic wrap with oil and cover the loaves with it.
- Preheat your oven to 425˚F.
- Let loaves rest for about 30-45 minutes or until they get puffy.
- If you notice any large bubbles just beneath the surface, use your well-oiled finger to gently press it down. Otherwise, the crust will tend to burn over the top of that bubble as it bakes.
- Spray loaves lightly with water using a spray bottle. Bake at 425˚ F for 25-30 minutes. Spray loaves one or two more times during the first 5 minutes of baking. Do it quick so your oven won't lose too much heat.
- When loaves are golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 190-200˚F, remove from the oven.
- Allow loaves to cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour before slicing.
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Spring Chef Cooling Rack - Baking Rack - Heavy Duty, 100% Stainless Steel, Oven Safe, 12 x 17 Inches Fits Half Sheet Cookie Pan
AmazonBasics Stainless Steel Bowl Scraper/Chopper
AmazonBasics Silicone Baking Mat - 2-Pack
OXO 11214800 Good Grips 11 Pound Stainless Steel Food Scale with Pull-Out Display,Black,1.2
King Arthur Flour All-Purpose Flour, 10 Pound
GDEALER Waterproof Digital Meat Thermometer with Bottle Opener Super Fast Instant Read Thermometer BBQ Thermometer with Calibration and Back-lit Function Cooking Thermometer for Meat Kitchen Candy
Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Breadmaker, 2 lb. loaf of Bread, Stainless Steel/Black
Spicy World Semolina, 2 Pound Bag
Fleischmann's Yeast for Bread Machines, 4-ounce Jars (Pack of 1)
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 slices Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 167Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 213mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 6g