Raise your hand if you like airy and soft rolls that are still sturdy enough to handle any filling you muster in this hot summer. My hand is up, and making these small ciabatta rolls, or ciabattine, is the perfect way to maximize any summer harvest from the garden (fresh tomatoes! with mozzarella and olive oil!) or even a solid foundation for a barbecue brisket sandwich.
What’s refreshing about baking this ciabatta, as opposed to other larger hearth-style loaves of sourdough bread, is that it’s a relatively easygoing process. The dough is mixed by hand, folds are given during bulk fermentation, it’s left to proof overnight in the refrigerator, and then the next day it's dumped out, cut, and baked. No preshaping, shaping, or fussing about—it’s the official lazy summer sourdough bread.
This recipe calls specifically for higher-protein “bread flour,” which tends to handle higher hydration levels more effectively. If you only have all-purpose flour on hand, reduce the hydration of the dough (meaning the water) by 10 to 15 grams to compensate. At the end of mixing, your dough should feel wet and slack but not falling apart or overly soupy; if it does, add a little more flour and mix it in until the dough holds together and is cohesive.
Test Kitchen Notes
During this dough’s warm bulk fermentation, you’ll need to give it six sets of stretches and folds to ensure the dough is sufficiently developed. For example, if following my timeline, the stretches and folds would happen at the following times:
Fold 1: 10:30 a.m.
Fold 2: 10:45 a.m.
Fold 3: 11:15 a.m.
Fold 4: 11:30 a.m.
Fold 5: 12:00 p.m.
Fold 6: 12:30 p.m.
- Prep time 25 hours
- Cook time 45 minutes
- makes 6 ciabatta rolls
bread flour, plus more for dusting
ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
fine sea salt
ice, for steaming in the oven
Autolyse the dough (9:00 a.m.).
A longer 1-hour autolyse helps bring early strength to the dough and reduces the time needed for mixing. To a large mixing bowl, add the 515 grams bread flour and 356 grams of the water (hold back 28 grams until mixing, later). Mix with wet hands until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Cover the mixing bowl with a silicone bowl cover or reusable plastic and let it rest for 1 hour.
Mix the dough (10:00 a.m.).
Uncover the dough and add the 90 grams ripe sourdough starter, 10 grams salt, and the reserved 28 grams water. Mix with wet hands until all the ingredients are incorporated. This is a wet and slack dough, but we’ll continue to strengthen it during bulk fermentation with numerous sets of stretches and folds.
Transfer the dough to another large bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
Warm bulk ferment the dough (10:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.).
Cover the dough with a silicone bowl cover or reusable plastic and let it rise at warm room temperature (75°F/23°C) for a total of 3½ hours. During this time, you’ll give the dough six sets of “stretches and folds” (see next step for explanation) to give it additional strength. After you perform each set of stretches and folds, be sure to cover the bowl so the dough doesn’t dry out. The first set is performed 15 minutes after the start of bulk fermentation, and the next three sets in 15-minute intervals. Then, the remaining two sets at 30-minute intervals (see example of this timeline in the headnote). After the last set, let the dough rest for the remainder of bulk fermentation.
For each set of stretches and folds: With wet hands, grab the north side (the side farthest from you) of the dough and stretch it up and over to the south side. Then, in the same way, fold the south side up to the north. Then, perform two more folds, one from east to west, and one from west to east.
Let the dough rest, covered with the same airtight cover, in the bulk fermentation container for the remainder of bulk fermentation.
Cold bulk ferment the dough (1:45 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. the next day).
After 3½ hours, place the covered bulk fermentation container holding the dough into the refrigerator overnight.
Cut the dough (9:00a.m.).
This dough can be proofed on a parchment-lined full sheet pan (18x26 inches) or two half sheet pans (13x18 inches). I like to lay a piece of parchment paper in the pan and make a fold in the middle where I will nestle the dough pieces against to help them keep their shape (see images). The next day, remove the bulk fermentation container from the fridge and unwrap. Heavily flour the top of the dough and your work surface. Using a plastic or silicone bowl scraper, gently scrape the dough out to the floured work surface. Then, using a bench scraper, divide the dough directly in half. Divide each long half into three equal pieces. Use flour as necessary to ensure the dough doesn’t stick to your hands, bench scraper, or work surface. Delicately transfer each piece to your proofing area, leaving room between each piece.
Cover the dough with a large reusable bag (with a small cup inside to ensure the bag doesn’t stick to the dough) or a piece of oil-greased plastic to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
Proof the shaped dough (9:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., the next day).
Let the dough proof, covered and on the counter, for 2 hours.
Bake the rolls (11:15 a.m.).
It’s necessary to steam your oven when baking these rolls. I like to use a small baking pan filled with culinary lava rocks, but any pan placed at the bottom of your oven to heat along with the oven will work. Once you place your dough into the oven to bake, carefully throw 1 cup of ice into the heated pan and shut the oven door to steam the oven.
Heat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Place an oven rack holding a baking stone or baking steel in the middle of the oven (you’ll place the sheet pan on top of this heated tool). If you don’t have one of these baking surfaces, place the sheet pan(s) directly on the oven rack.
When the oven is heated, slide the sheet pan(s) on top of your baking surface (if using two sheet pans, place each on a different oven rack). Steam the oven as directed above, and bake for 15 minutes with steam. Then, remove the steaming pan, reduce the oven temperature to 450°F (230°C), and if baking on a full sheet pan, rotate the pan back to front. If baking on two half sheet pans, quickly remove each pan from the oven, rotate them back to front and swapping the respective oven rack positions. Bake the rolls for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and transfer the rolls to a cooling rack. Let the rolls cool for 30 minutes before slicing.