This 3-Ingredient Italian Bread Has a Green Trick Up Its Sleeve

Color us impressed.

December  7, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

Warning: I’m still in full holiday recipe mode, and this is not some secretly “healthy” recipe. Sure, I’ve subbed spinach for water in a favorite bread recipe, and the resulting loaf is green. But in this case, green is merely a color, and not an indicator of some cleanse-worthy snack. In fact, I’ll just own up to it right now: I found a way to introduce a hefty amount of carbs into a recipe that starts with juiced spinach.

But to my credit, it produces a really lovely loaf of bread that’s excellent for serving on cheese boards, is great dunked in olive oil, and makes the perfect pairing for hot dips. I’ll never regret adding spinach to my ciabatta (there, I’ve said it).

Photo by Rocky Luten

The idea first came to me a few months back: I’d made homemade spinach wraps and was delighted with the color. I wondered about introducing spinach into other loaves. I was picturing a deeply brown, crusty loaf, that when cut, revealed a green internal crumb.

As I began testing spinachy breads, I was especially interested in recipes that featured high hydration. The more water a base recipe called for, the more spinach would be needed to produce a similar amount of liquid, which meant a higher chance of the resulting loaf staying green, even after a lengthy bake time at a high temperature.

Photo by Rocky Luten

The clear winner of my search was ciabatta: a very wet dough that ultimately produces a crisp outer crust, and a tender, chewy crumb. The recipe needs just three ingredients (spinach, bread flour, and yeast) and comes together quickly. You can definitely mix it by hand (stir with a wooden spoon or spatula for about 6 to 8 minutes), but I usually opt for the mixer because the dough is quite sticky and I find it much easier.

The dough strengthens noticeably during its first rise, becoming strong enough to be handled a bit. Both the work surface and the dough are dusted generously with flour—this makes the dough easier to work with but also gives the loaf its signature crackly, floury finish. Shaping is minimal due to the delicate nature of the dough—basically once it’s divided in half, it’s gently lifted onto the baking sheet, and whatever shape it ends up with is where it will stay (remember, ciabatta means “old slipper”).

Photo by Rocky Luten

The loaves are baked at a high temperature (450°F), and a tray of ice cubes is added to the base of the oven to create steam, which will ultimately produce a crispier loaf. In the oven, the outer crust will darken in color—that’s good! The interior crumb will darken a bit in the oven too, but stay a vibrant green.

Be sure to bake the loaves long enough: This bread is best when the outside is crisp, and the inside is tender and chewy. If you feel that the outer crust is browning too much, lower the oven temperature to 400°F for the remainder of the baking time. And don't forget to let the bread cool completely before you dive in (though it’s also great sliced thin, toasted, and served warm as crostini).

Are you baking anything this weekend? Let us know in the comments below.

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!