Ciabatta Rolls

July 11, 2021
14 Ratings
Photo by Maurizio Leo
  • Prep time 25 hours
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • makes 6 ciabatta rolls
Author Notes

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.
Maurizio Leo

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.
Maurizio Leo

What You'll Need
  • 515 grams bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 384 grams water
  • 90 grams ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 10 grams fine sea salt
  • 1 cup ice, for steaming in the oven
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • annabakesinmcr
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
  • Jeffrey Bittel
    Jeffrey Bittel
  • Tx_mag
Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. Since baking his first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough. His New York Times Bestselling sourdough cookbook, The Perfect Loaf, is now available.

32 Reviews

Smaug October 10, 2023
This was a fun little project- took some time, but not really that much active time. I suspect a lot of home bakers have trouble keeping the strength of their starter up- I read somewhere that Mr. Leo refreshes his twice a day; I'm more once a week. At any rate, took quite a bit longer to rise, but it got there in the end- perhaps I should have done some sort of preferment, though. I made 1/2 recipe (bread recipes tend to come in industrial quantities). I also made them half the size, and put them in English muffin rings; the dough (batter) was thin enough to level itself; the result came out looking like a somewhat puffy hamburger bun, which suits my usage- not much resemblance to a slipper, but the straight sides make it easier to split. I baked them in a countertop oven, which is always a bit different; it's not really practical to add a steam source, but the tiny interior gets pretty steamy if something wet is being baked. It took 22 min. at 425 on convection ( I preheated to 450)- the crust is nice and crisp; the interior, maybe not quite as loose as some, but fine- actually just like the picture with this recipe, and the taste is excellent.
By the way- I never throw away sourdough discards; usually I add some flour and salt, maybe some water to get the quantity right- and make a couple of sandwich rolls (the little oven is great for small scale baking like this). I tried something different, just threw it on the griddle. Came out with a weird little piece of breaad that I'll grind for crumbs.
Bbob November 9, 2022
This is the first ciabatta rolls that tastes the way it should. Love this recipe. Thanks for sharing. Can I leave the dough in refrigerator for 48 hours. Will it taste more sourdough flavor
Maurizio L. November 10, 2022
So glad to hear that! Yes, definitely will be more sour. You can try pushing it that long, but that is a long time! I'd say 24hrs no problem.
annabakesinmcr July 11, 2022
I have tried various sourdough ciabatta recipes and this is by far the best and easiest to shape without excessive use of flour...thank you Maurizio!
Maurizio L. July 11, 2022
So happy to hear that, Anna!
Rosalind P. December 21, 2021
For many reasons I don't do sourdough baking but will try this with yeast. Any advice?
Smaug October 9, 2023
Erin McDowell has a good recipe for ciabatta rolls on this site.
Suebearbakes November 1, 2021
Hi Maurizio! Thank you for ALWAYS detailing recipes so well! Every single one I have made has been great, which has been a lot. I baked these ciabatta's this morning and they couldn't have been more perfect. The crumb was open, fully fermented, and had a lovely chew. My new favorite :)
Maurizio L. November 1, 2021
Amazing, Sue! So happy to hear this (and my other) recipes have worked out well for you 🙂 Enjoy! I've been thinking about making these again this week myself, perfect for the last of my garden tomatoes this year!
Cassandra August 11, 2021
Hello, My family loved these rolls. I am grateful for you all sharing your recipes too. A question about oven settings though, the 245C, is that conventional, fan forced ... as my rolls were a touch overdone on the outside. Many thanks
Maurizio L. August 11, 2021
So happy to hear that, Cassandra! The temp is for non-convection (no fan assist). If they were a little too colored, definitely cut that baking time a little short. It could be an altitude issue, I'm at a high altitude, if you're closer to sea level it would have needed less time!
Cassandra August 12, 2021
Thanks so much, no not altitude so much, I'm in Sydney Aust. It was using the wrong setting i.e. fan assisted.
CP August 2, 2021
I made these over the weekend and they turned out pretty well! I used your suggestion in another comment to use a rectangular fermentation container (in my case, a 8in Pyrex baking dish), and it worked well getting all the rolls rectangular. I also loved the idea of using ice cubes rather than boiling water-- so much easier to handle. I had to use two half sheet pans, though, and while the batch that spent the first half of the bake on the baking steel in the middle had a huge rise (forming little pyramids), the ones that started at top of the oven barely rose at all and didn't have the same open crumb structure as the middle ones. Not sure why, but I'm thinking next time I might just attempt to squeeze all six on one half sheet.
Maurizio L. August 2, 2021
So glad to hear that! I, too, see disparity between the middle and top racks in my oven, so I always try to use a single sheet if possible (without over-crowding, of course!). Thanks for the feedback and I hope so delicious sandwiches are in progress 🙂
Redwhale1 July 26, 2021
I made these this weekend and they turned out absolutely perfect and delicious! They are really good for a breakfast sandwich.

Maurizio, could this recipe work with whole wheat flour? Or half whole wheat and half bread flour?
Maurizio L. July 26, 2021
So glad to hear that! Yes, I’ve had these as an egg sandwich with grain mustard—really tasty. I’d say try starting with 25% whole wheat, which I’ve done and they’re wonderful. Work the percentage up slowly from there!
Jeffrey B. July 25, 2021
In the instructions, you mentioned pictures when cutting up the six pieces. I did not see those? Also how did you form the dough to make the perfect little squares?
Maurizio L. July 26, 2021
Hey, Jeffrey! All the extra photos are up there at the top, tap the little white arrow to the left and right to scroll through. To cut the dough, just dump the dough from your bulk fermentation container onto the counter and divide it using a bench knife into six equal pieces. The little square/rectangular pieces are the cuts in the middle on each side. If you want them all to be rectangles, use a rectangular bulk fermentation container (like a baking dish) so you can dump the dough and cut each piece rectangular.
Jeffrey B. July 26, 2021
Thanks! I see the arrows now. They came out really well. Nice crust and just the right chew in the middle. Really good flavor. This went into the keeper file!
Maurizio L. July 26, 2021
Ah, so glad to hear that, Jeffrey! Enjoy :)
Yojo July 23, 2021
Baked these off today. They came out great! I was super excited to have delicious sandwiches for lunch! Thanks Maurzio!
Maurizio L. July 23, 2021
Ahh, so glad to hear they turned out well for you! Enjoy :)
Smaug July 7, 2021
Why do you use ice to make steam? I've seen this before, but never any explanation as to why. I've always used hot water.
Maurizio L. July 7, 2021
Either one works just as well; I prefer ice because it's easier for me to toss onto stones or in the preheated pan without spilling.
E J. July 4, 2021
Thanks so much! These were wonderful. I stretched out the dough a tiny bit when shaping and ended up with 8 perfect rolls. The lower hydration and extra strength building steps made this ciabatta much easier to work with than I anticipated. Thanks again for another stellar sourdough recipe.
Maurizio L. July 4, 2021
Happy to hear that EJ! Enjoy and have a great weekend 🙂
Kateq July 4, 2021
Great rolls! And beautifully detailed instructions. Much easier than it might seem at first reading. I ended up with 8 good-sized rolls.
Maurizio L. July 4, 2021
Excellent, Kate! So glad it worked out for you. Yeah, they are pretty large rolls @ 6, 8 makes them a little more manageable. Although, my two sons were ok with the result 🙂 Enjoy.
shoe July 3, 2021
hi! yet to try this recipe. What does high protein mean? what percentage am i looking for? thanks
Maurizio L. July 4, 2021
Hey there. For this, I used King Arthur Baking Bread Flour, which is 12.7% protein. I'd say anywhere between 12-13% will work well.
Tx_mag July 3, 2021
Worked out just as described, thanks!
Maurizio L. July 4, 2021
So glad to hear that! Enjoy 🙂