April  4, 2021
4.4 Stars
Photo by Sarah Stone
Author Notes

This simple bread can be mixed by hand and involves virtually no shaping! —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Watch This Recipe
  • Prep time 12 hours
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Makes 2 loaves
  • Biga
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour (9.55 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (1 g) (or 1/2 teaspoon/2 g active dry yeast)
  • 1 cup room temperature water (8.00 ounces)
  • Dough
  • 3 cups bread flour (12.75 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (12 g) (or 4 teaspoons/15 g active yeast)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt (8 g)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (12.00 ounces)
  • Biga (above)
In This Recipe
  1. The night before you want to make the bread, mix the biga. In a medium bowl, mix the ingredients just until combined. Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in a cool, dry place overnight.
  2. When you're ready to make the bread, mix the flour, yeast, and salt to combine in a large bowl. Add the water and the biga and mix (with your hands or a wooden spoon) until the mixture comes together to form a ball.
  3. Continue to mix by hand until the dough develops some gluten structure and appears smoother in texture, 4 to 5 minutes. The dough will be very sticky (almost soupy)—never fear, that’s how it’s supposed to be! Transfer the dough to a slightly oiled bowl and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Sift flour onto your work surface and over the dough. Gently stretch the dough onto your work surface, forming a rectangular shape. Divide the dough into two even pieces.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly dust the parchment with flour. Stretch each piece of dough very gently as you transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Sift more flour over each loaf, and let rise for another hour.
  6. Heat the oven to 475° F. Place a baking sheet in the lower third part of the oven and measure out three cups of ice cubes into a large bowl. Place the sheet with the bread onto the baking stone (if you have one), and immediately toss the ice onto the empty baking sheet. Close the oven, and bake until the loaves are deeply golden, 35 to 45 minutes. If the ciabatta is browning too quickly, lower the temperature to 400° F.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • demeterbaking
  • KarenSiena
  • Martine PirGiamb
    Martine PirGiamb
  • sdrodgers
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, The Book on Pie, came out on November 10th, 2020, and my pie merch collaboration with Food52 is out now too:

66 Reviews

demeterbaking March 26, 2022
This was beautiful! I changed the recipe to a sourdough: 6 oz 100% hydration starter, 4 oz water, 5 oz flour for the biga, then left out the yeast in the dough. The second rise took 1 hour on the counter and then a couple more in the refrigerator (I'm at very high altitude and often have to slow down rises in the refrigerator). It's a delight to watch Erin, and the information is so helpful, thank you!
KarenSiena March 4, 2022
I, too, noticed discrepancies in measurements in the video and the written recipe. I'm crazy about Erin's videos, but I'm not going to try out the recipe at all.
sdrodgers March 3, 2022
To be honest, this is a horrible recipe. I followed the instructions exactly. I weighed all of the ingredients. I have experience making bread, as well. But in all of my experience I have never come across a recipe that is so deficient. The dough was more like Silly Putty and the resultant baked bread was flavorless with a gummy inside texture. The crust wasn't too bad, but was pretty tough overall.
I would not recommend this recipe to anyone. It was a waste of time and ingredients. Both loaves ended up in the trash.
Beth C. March 3, 2022
Perhaps you did something wrong? I’ve made this several times and get rave reviews. I will say, you have to watch the video because there are discrepancies in some of the measurements, which is frustrating. What she says in the video is more reliable than what someone transcribes.
chellsbell February 2, 2022
So easy to follow and the recipe was so delicious!
Cocoa A. January 4, 2022
I followed the recipe exactly and the dough was incredibly wet. I tried mixing it more and adding more flour, but it was still so wet. I baked it anyway, and it has just created very flat, not tasty bread. Any idea what went wrong?
My yeast is freshly bought and so is the bread flour.
AsheMischief January 20, 2022
In the video she uses 290 grams of flour in the biga, so that’s an extra 20 grams on top of the written recipe. The protein percentage of your flour can also affect hydration. Bread can be finicky depending on your environment as well - keep at it though! Maybe try mixing it a bit more or add a little less water at first. I’ve had situations with baguettes where my dough is totally sticky one day and not another with the same exact recipe because of humidity, temperature, different flour brand, etc.
@Sooke2018 August 31, 2021
Love it! You're video is full of great information, your supportive friendly delivery is wonderful. Thanks Erin
Lola April 4, 2021
Thank you so much for this video, funny, interesting and oh so useful! I made the Ciabatta and it was delicious! Never thought I would be able to make one!
Beth C. January 23, 2021
The measurements for yeast in the written recipe contradict that of the video. For the biga the video calls for 1/4 tsp (1 gram) active dry yeast. The written recipe says 1/2 tsp, which is double! The video doesn’t even mention instant yeast, but the written recipe gives the amount for instant yeast as the same amount the video gives for active. The same discrepancy occurs in the second part, where the written recipe specifies the amount for instant yeast that the video states is for active. Come on! You can do better. And yes, I agree, the measurements should be consistent if you are going to use weight, use one or the other, not both grams in one part and ounces in another. Grams are more precise.
Bakingnoob January 11, 2021
I’ve made this recipe twice now and just wondering if I’m doing something wrong. My dough/ loaves never really “rise”, they just spread out, making them flat when they’re baked. Is there a way to get more height so they’re not just huge, flat loaves of ciabatta?
Cocoa A. January 4, 2022
I have had the same problem. Extremely liquidy dough.
Whitiglil December 13, 2020
Just tried this and it came out delicious! Only issue was that because the dough was so liquidy, it was basically impossible to really shape with flour, so wasn't able to make it into 2 loaves, so it made for one monster loaf at 1076 grams. I would probably add slightly more flour when mixing next time to help remedy this. The texture and taste were absolutely fantastic and completely different than store bought (in the best way-- chewy but soft vs chewy and hard). Never worked with biga before, so that was an interesting experiment as well. Would also prefer if the recipe could be more consistent with the units (e.g., volume and metric vs volume and mix of metric and imperial), but solid recipe nonetheless. Thanks, Erin!
Tianamazzi November 26, 2020
I love this recipe, have made it multiple times and each time it turns out better.
A note to all first timers: WATCH THE VIDEO! There's some important "shaping" info around step four that's left out of the written instructions.
Gocubsgirl November 22, 2020
QUESTION: Can you freeze 1/2 of the dough after the final proofing?
Gocubsgirl November 21, 2020
Love your video, Erin! I learned more about baking bread in your 50 minutes than I have from watching 8 seasons of the Great British Baking Show. :)
Gocubsgirl November 21, 2020
Oops sorry, I kept getting errors when submitting, I didn't think it was leaving my comment.
Gocubsgirl November 21, 2020
Love your video, Erin! I learned more about baking bread in your 50 minutes than I have from watching 8 seasons of the Great British Baking show. :)
Gocubsgirl November 21, 2020
Love the video Erin! I learned more about baking bread in your 50 minutes than I have from watching 8 seasons of the Great British Baking show. :)
bbbug August 31, 2020
I'm curious about using ice cubes instead of, say, boiling water. Is that to retard the creation of steam till later in the baking time? Thank you!
Clau August 6, 2020
Looks amazing, but I would like you to choose 1 method for measuring ingredients, some items in the recipe are in cups and converted to grams great, others are in cups converted to ounces, please pick one, I need a translator here
Melanie June 29, 2020
Quick question before I start. Due to the vagaries of flour availability, I have a bag of organic white spelt flour (11.1g protein marked on the side) and a bag of stoneground strong 100% wholemeal flour (14g protein). Can I use either/both for ciabatta or should I wait until I can get hold of strong white bread flour? Thank you! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe.
Lisa June 20, 2020
I finally made this bread and it came out perfectly. My biga sat for closer to 20 hours (work got in the way). My dough looked a bit more watery than Erin's from her video (or maybe better said, my dough looked a bit "shiny" to me). I baked at 475 for 30 mins, then lowered to 400 for 10 mins (for a total cook time of 40 mins). The bread came out perfectly, with a lot of flavor, nice crispy golden crust and bread slightly chewy.
Martine P. May 18, 2020
So I just made this bread today!! with mill flour I got here in Canada.. certainly worked out great! the bread is brown..looks like wholewheat but its because its from a Mill and its unbleached.. the only thing was that the salt was a bit much..I used sea salt so maybe that is why?? but the loafs did come out a tad salty. It was hard to wait till it was cooled down and I do have pictures love to know if the bread is supposed to be very soft, It did not yield the crusty outer crust I wanted..but maybe this flour is just different?? not store bought.. I will try it once again with this flour, its so fun to try again!! But overall a very tasty bread!! Delicious!!