Serves a Crowd

Rosemary Ciabatta with Stout Beer

April  6, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Serves 2 boules
Author Notes

This is a flavorful dough that I created when I was in school and I've continued to tweak. It is great eaten on its own or as a sandwich bread for many kinds of sandwiches but particularly pastrami and grilled cheese sandwiches with or without proscuitto. Some cooking notes: While I love the meditative activity of kneading dough by hand, this is a fairly wet dough and is best kneaded with the dough hook attachment on a standing mixer. One of the ways to build flavor in bread is through a longer rising time. To enhance the bread flavor, I made a pre-ferment (sometime referred to as poolish) the day before I planned to bake the bread, which was then added to the other bread ingredients on baking day. Poolish also helps make a crusty bread with irregular crumb (bigger holes), which I was looking for in creating this recipe, and also provides greater dough strength, better aroma and increased shelf life. Poolish is essentially equal parts bread flour and water with a little yeast. It takes about 5 minutes to make and is well worth the effort if you plan ahead. The recipe instructions include directions on how to do this as well as other tips on how to get a crispy crust. One of my big surprises when I was in school was that I discovered I LOVED making bread. So I've included a number of tips that I've learned along the way that have helped me. You may already know about these and more, and I apologize if it ends up being TMI! Important Note: I use instant yeast when baking bread, making it much easier to work with. If you are working with active dry yeast, multiply the instant yeast amount in the recipe by 1.5 to get the right amount of active dry yeast to use! —TheWimpyVegetarian

Test Kitchen Notes

ChezSuzanne has clearly done her research with this recipe. As she notes, using a poolish makes for an extra crisp crust and a lovely, air pocket-filled crumb. The bread is a gorgeous caramel color from the combination of stout, malt syrup and honey, and the resulting loaf is chewy with a pleasant tang from the beer. The sea salt on top lends a savory crunch, and there is plenty of rosemary to go around (if you prefer a subtler flavor, you can decrease the amount by half -- we liked it nice and woodsy!). A couple of notes: we skipped the scale when separating the dough in half and eyeballed it (your choice), and our bread took only 25 minutes to bake, so check it well before the 30-minute mark. - A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Poolish (Pre-ferment)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (1/4 tsp X 1.5 if using Active Dry Yeast)
  • 210 grams water at 70 degrees F
  • 210 grams bread flour (I recommend King Arthur bread flour)
  • Rosemary Ciabatta with Stout Beer
  • 15 ounces bread flour (I recommend King Arthur bread flour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (multiply this amount by 1.5 if using Active Dry Yeast)
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 10 ounces poolish (from recipe provided above)
  • 8 ounces Stout beer (other beers can be used as well)
  • 2 teaspoons malt syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • fleur de sel for sprinkling on top of each boule
  1. Poolish (Pre-ferment)
  2. Mix the yeast and water together in a small bowl. Add the flour and mix well with a spoon. Cover and let rest at room temperature at least 12 hours, ideally overnight.
  3. Before using, check to make sure the yeast has grown as evidenced by many air bubbles on the surface of the dough and enhanced dough mass.
  1. Rosemary Ciabatta with Stout Beer
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer and mix with a whisk. Add the poolish, beer, malt syrup, olive oil and honey. If using Active Dry Yeast, add it at this time with the other wet ingredients. Using the hook attachment, mix for 5-7 minutes at the lowest speed. The dough should be wet and sticky to the touch. If it is too wet, add a little bread flour; if too dry, add a little more beer. It should be a fairly smooth dough at this stage.
  3. Sprinkle the minced rosemary over the dough and increase the mixer speed to the next highest level and mix for 2 minutes. When you're finished, there are two ways to check and see if the dough is ready for it's first rising: (1) detach the dough hook and pull up on the dough with the hook to see if the dough is very elastic and moves with the hook or if the dough breaks/tears; (2) take a piece of dough the size of 2 large marbles and with your fingers carefully stretch it out pulling on 4 corners of the dough to see if it stretches or tears as you pull on the it. If the dough tears fairly easily in either test, more kneading is necessary. What you're doing in this stage is to develop the gluten, or elasticity of the dough.
  4. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover it and place it someplace warm for the first rising until it doubles in size. This can take 3 to 3 1/2 hours. During this stage of rising, uncover the dough each hour and pull up one side of the dough and fold it over on itself to essentially fold the dough in half. This is done to help build structure in the bread. Tips if you can't find a warm place for the dough to rise: heat a cup of water in the microwave oven to really hot, turn the microwave off and put the bowl of covered dough in the microwave with the cup of water. Or place the covered bowl near the stove if you're cooking, (being careful that it doesn't get too hot!).
  5. Weigh the dough and divide in half to form 2 boules or loaves. Loosely pre-shape each boule or loaf and place on a parchment lined baking sheet(s). Cover with a towel and plastic wrap and let rest for 10 - 20 minutes.
  6. Perform final shaping of the boules or loaves on a lightly floured board. Place back on the parchment lined baking sheet(s) for the 2nd rising. Re-cover with a towel and plastic and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Preheat the oven to 450F. I place a pizza stone in the oven on the rack I plan to use and an empty metal pan in the bottom of the oven. If using the pizza stone, allow time for the oven to be at 450F for about an hour so that the stone is completely preheated.
  7. Score the boules or loaves with an oiled razor blade, spray lightly with water, sprinkle with the fleur de sel and place the baking sheet on top of the pizza stone. The pizza stone will help keep the baking sheet at a constant temperature while the bread bakes. Just before closing the oven door, throw a bunch of ice cubes or cold water into the hot metal pan at the bottom of the oven to create a little steam.
  8. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes. In the first 10 minutes of baking, open the oven door just long enough to squirt some water on the sides of the oven with a squirt bottle. If you don't have one, just get your hands wet and fling the water at the sides of the oven to create steam. Do this 3 times, but not after the first 10 minutes of baking. During the last 5 minutes of baking, open the oven door. A crisper crust is encouraged by shots of steam in the beginning of baking, and by a dry oven at the end.
  9. The bread is ready when it's internal temperature reaches 200F. To check, I pull the boule from the oven and stick a probe into the bottom.
  10. Because this is a wet bread, especially compared to french bread, let it cool before serving.
  11. Bon appetit!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • N
  • Suzanne Hecker
    Suzanne Hecker
  • Emily Love
    Emily Love
  • ashleyamore
  • aussiefoodie

101 Reviews

Derekwaller December 29, 2018
Great recipe that made a really tasty bread! I especially appreciated the tips and tricks included in the recipe. They were very helpful for a bread beginner like me.
N June 25, 2018
Does anyone know if I can leave this to rise overnight initially? I make my bread in the evening, and I just saw now that initial rising will take 3.5 hours. I can check it every hour for about two hours, but I am not going to have the extra few hours to bake tonight.

Will this cause me problems?
Aleelee January 15, 2022
In general, you can substitute a room temperature rise with a long fridge rise. Most bakers will say it builds flavor. In this case, since the recipe has you shape the dough every hour during the rise, you still need some time at room temperature to do the folds. Could you stick in fridge overnight but then do the 3 hrs at RT in the morning so there is folding time?
Dee May 25, 2016
The recipe says, "If using Active Dry Yeast, add it at this time with the other wet ingredients." But the instant yeast isn't mentioned. If I'm using instant, when do I add it? Do I just throw it in with the other dry ingredients before adding the wet?
N June 25, 2018
I think it is considered one of the sry ingredients, so you add it when you add the flour, salt, etc.
Suzanne H. May 5, 2016
I want to follow this method but minus the beer/rosemary flavor. Can I just leave out the rosemary, and substitute the beer for another liquid? I found a version that used milk. Does anyone know if that would work?
Emily L. December 2, 2015
Does anyone have opinions on leaving the garlic/rosemary out of the actual dough and just putting it on top prior to baking? I'm really trying to recreate a Melange Boule I had this past weekend at La Farm Bakery in NC that was topped with rosemary, thyme, and garlic
Emily L. December 2, 2015
and I've just realized I made up the garlic in the recipe but was going to add it to my loaves ... :)
Sjm1988 February 26, 2014
This bread was amazing! I was a bit skeptical that it would bake properly (the dough was so wet!) but the end result was fantastic. Two loaves didn't last an hour in a house of 4...
TheWimpyVegetarian February 26, 2014
I'm so glad you liked it! It is indeed a very wet dough - all Ciabatta is, by definition since it creates the unique texture with all the holes. Thanks so much for letting me know!
Rosemary January 30, 2014
Where do you get Malt syrup?
shankopotomus January 30, 2014
Beer supply store or Amazon. Can be light or dark or very dark. Choose wisely.
TheWimpyVegetarian January 30, 2014
I got mine at Whole Foods. It's called Barley Malt Syrup on the bottle by Eden Organic.
Luiz January 24, 2014
Maravilha de receita! Vou fazer.
Michelle October 27, 2013
UPDATE! Bread turned out AMAZING. Yielded 2 beautiful 1lb loaves. Loved the salt crunch on the outside, loved the soft inside, loved the complex flavor. Still airy even with 15% whole wheat flour.
TheWimpyVegetarian October 28, 2013
Yay!!!!! I'm so glad it worked out for you!!!! I love the idea of subbing molasses for the malt syrup. Great idea. Thanks so much for letting me know :-)
Michelle October 27, 2013
Mine is on the second rise and almost ready to go in the oven. I subbed molassus for the malt syrup and I used about 3 oz of whole wheat bread flour to give it more texture. I ended up adding about an oz of beer and had a perfect dough. Sticky, but not super wet. Had no trouble shaping it, though it is rather subject to gravity. Not sure how loaf like it will be after this rise. I also eyeballed the split, but weighed everything else. We'll see what happens!
Al S. July 10, 2013
Look at your comments in the quotation marks below please. Then, I would like to know how one determines what is too wet and sticky and what is too dry. Can you definitively describe what you mean by those words?
"The dough should be wet and sticky to the touch. If it is too wet, add a little bread flour; if too dry, add a little more beer. "
shankopotomus November 24, 2012
Just a few comments to the author and a few to the comments. Please use only one unit of measure. Grams or oz. Either will work but both will not. You might also want to use bakers percent as this is scalable. Commenters, ciabatta is a ver wet dough and not meant to be shaped in a traditional sense. Flour your table well, flour the dough in its bulk ferment bin or bowl. Dump out onto table. Flour the top well. Cut shapes once the dough flattens out naturally and put on well floured peel and bake on stone. Should be slipper shape, hence the name.
Demington January 25, 2012
I do not have a mixer and wonder if this bread could be made following the no-knead Lahey method. Otherwise I will have to use my hands. Surely ciabatta style breads predate electric mixers...

Thanks for your help. I do love dark, earthy breads. Each week, i use the Lahey method for bread made with my homemade levain.
KatinaP September 8, 2011
My dough was super wet, too. Couldn't even shape it. Used just 10 oz of poolish and added additional flour during the mixing. Instead of using a loaf pan, I used the Lahey dutch oven method: heat the oven with a dutch oven inside and then place the dough inside the very hot pot and cook covered for the first 20 min. Uncover to finish the cooking. No need to spray with water or use ice since the wetness of the dough and the heat of the dutch oven create enough steam to create a great crust. I used molasses instead of malt syrup and that seemed to work.
TheWimpyVegetarian September 8, 2011
Thanks for your feedback, KatinaP, and I'm glad it ultimately worked although it sounds like it was too wet for shaping. I'm going make it again and see if I need to make adjustments in the recipe for this. Ciabatta, by definition, is a very wet dough which gives it the holes, but you should be able to work with it more than it sounds like you could. Really appreciate your comments!
KatinaP September 8, 2011
My dough was super wet, too. Couldn't even shape it. Used just 10 oz of poolish and added additional flour during the mixing. Instead of using a loaf pan, I used the Lahey dutch oven method: heat the oven with a dutch oven inside and then place the dough inside the very hot pot and cooked covered for the first 20 min. Uncover to finish the cooking. No need to spray with water or use ice in the pan since the wetness of the dough and the heat of the dutch oven create enough steam to create a great crust. I used molasses instead of malt syrup and that seemed to work.
annbridges May 15, 2011
so what if I already have a poolish started? how do I use that..just getting to "know bread..."
ashleyamore April 24, 2011
Made these last night for our Easter brunch today and couldn't help but cut into them this morning to slather with honey butter. Yum!

I'm not a frequent bread baker, and rarely use my standing mixer for kneading when I do bake bread. For the first time, the kneading performed by the hook jammed the bowl deep in the stand, and I had a hell of a time getting the damn thing out.

I will say that it was worth it! Delicous bread :)
(and I was so glad to see that golden syrup worked as a substitution for malt syrup - it's what I had on hand, so that's what I used!)
I'm so sorry the hook jammed!! But I'm really glad you liked the bread anyway. Sorry it took me so long to respond - I've been on vacation and was unplugged for awhile. But I really appreciate the feedback!
aussiefoodie December 19, 2010
Wow - this was wonderful bread! I couldn't find malt syrup, so used golden syrup instead - I think it probably didn't have as strong a flavor as the malt syrup would add, but it still tasted delicious. The stout gives a lovely brown color, and the texture was very nice - small bubbles and enough denseness and airness to give a lovely, chewy loaf. I forgot to fold the dough over on itself during the first rising, but this didn't seem to cause any problems, the bread turned out great. Would love to try this again, with some different beers and maybe even different herb flavors.
TheWimpyVegetarian December 19, 2010
I'm so glad you liked it so much! And thanks so much for the feedback - I really appreciate it. And I'm so glad golden syrup worked as a good substitute for the malt syrup. Is it a sweet syrup?
AntoniaJames November 20, 2010
Have you ever made this without a stand mixer? I don't have one, so must improvise . . . Am hoping to use this for melissav's stuffing with chorizo . . . . Thanks so much. ;o)
TheWimpyVegetarian November 20, 2010
I've never made it without a stand mixer. It's a pretty wet dough, so let me do some thinking too. We'll be gone Thanksgiving week, and am also trying to think about my schedule tomorrow and if I can get mine to you to use. It's pretty big....
AntoniaJames November 20, 2010
CS, you're so kind. I've given this some more thought and decided, in light of my work schedule (client work all weekend, and from early morning until night Monday through Wednesday) that I probably should just buy (I can't believe I said that) an artisan bread to use for this. I can borrow a mixer of a friend nearby if and when I get the chance to try this recipe. Thank you, though, for your generous offer. Have a safe trip! ;o)
AntoniaJames November 19, 2010
Have you ever made this in shapes other than boules? Am wondering about making traditional ciabattas ("little slippers" in Italian, the one-sandwich-size kind) for T-Day + 1, 2, etc. Am definitely making this, one way or the other. ;o)
TheWimpyVegetarian November 19, 2010
That sounds like a wonderful idea! I've only made it in boules, but I can't imagine why you couldn't make them in the small traditional size. I started developing the recipe when I was in culinary school and was making it there for 15 people to try as worked on my "versions". This would go great with your turkey and speck sandwiches. My favorite sandwiches with this bread are proscuitto and arugula sandwiches with mustard and swiss cheese. The only caution, and you likely know this, is that ciabatta is a very wet bread and is more difficult to work with when it's raining outside. This is best made on a sunny dry day. I would love to hear how this turns out if you make the smaller ones and to see a picture if you have a chance to take a snap. And how funny, I just picked up multi-grain cereal to make your multi-grain bread this weekend using Tom's tip with the breadcrumbs!!
TheWimpyVegetarian November 19, 2010
I meant to say ciabatta is a very wet dough, not wet bread.