- Prep time 15 hours
- Cook time 25 minutes
- makes 8 ciabatta rolls
I’ve eaten more of the beautiful crusty loaves that emerge from the ovens at Wheatfields Bakery in my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas than any other bread. I’m especially fond of their miniature take on ciabatta, oversized rolls perfect for sandwiches, which this recipe is inspired by. They have a crisp crust and a light, fluffy interior, the result of a highly hydrated dough, which gains structure during multiple long rests.
These can be used to build an epic sandwich—like a BLT, or my mom’s salmon sandwiches. In many ways, this is an awesome bread project for beginners. It’s a great introduction into the concept of preferments: a small portion of flour, water, and a little yeast that’s mixed the day before you bake the bread, and adds both flavor and structure. But while ciabatta is an easy bread to shape, it is a very soft dough. The handling is simple and fairly minimal, but it can still take a little getting used to. Don’t be afraid to throw around plenty of flour with this one; ciabatta literally means “slipper” in Italian—it’s meant to be fairly flat and crusty.
The rolls are best within 24 hours after baking. Store leftover rolls in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days (as they stale, they make great toast or crostini).
To freeze the rolls, wrap each one tightly in aluminum foil and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. To refresh, place the foil-wrapped rolls in a cold oven and turn it on to 375°F/190°C; once the preheat buzzer notifies you that the oven is at temperature, leave the rolls in the oven for 4 to 5 minutes more. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Test Kitchen Notes
Excerpted from Savory Baking: Recipes for Breakfast, Dinner, and Everything in Between, 2022 by Erin Jeanne McDowell. Photography © 2022 Mark Weinberg. Reproduced by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. —Food52
- For the biga (preferment):
1 3/4 cups
(210 grams) bread flour
instant dry yeast
(226 grams) room-temperature water (about 75°F/25°C)
- For the ciabatta:
3 1/2 cups
(420 grams) bread flour, plus more for dusting
(6 grams) instant dry yeast
(10 grams) kosher salt
1 1/2 cups
(340 grams) warm water (about 110°F/45°C)
1 to 2 quarts
Semolina flour or cornmeal, for dusting
- For the biga (preferment):
- The night before you want to make the bread, mix the biga: in a medium bowl, mix the bread flour, yeast, and water with a silicone spatula until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a cool place for 12 hours (overnight); if your ambient room temperature is higher than 75°F/45°C, let the dough rise at room temperature for 6 hours, then refrigerate for the remaining 6 hours.
- For the ciabatta:
- When you’re ready to make the bread, mix the flour, yeast, and salt together in a large bowl. Add the water and biga and mix with a silicone spatula until the mixture forms a ball. Then continue to mix with the spatula until the dough develops some gluten structure and appears smoother, 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 greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap (or use a rising bucket, covered with a lid), and let proof until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Using greased hands, fold the dough over onto itself (in the bowl or bucket) 3 to 5 times. Cover and proof for another 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the dough is visibly puffy.
- Set a sifter over a bowl, fill it with a few scoops of bread flour, and sift flour onto your work surface. Turn the dough out onto the floured surface, and sift flour generously over the dough —be fairly generous, and cover the surface almost entirely (the dough is quite wet). Gently stretch the dough out on the floured work surface, forming a rectangle shape about 9x12 inches/23 x 30 cm. Cut the dough into 8 equal squares (about 3 x 4½ inches/8 x 10 cm each).
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly dust the parchment with semolina flour or cornmeal, and transfer the dough squares to the sheets. As you place each roll on the baking sheet (4 rolls per sheet, staggered), squish it slightly so it forms a slightly smaller square shape (it’s okay if it's somewhat uneven). Use your hands to dust just a little more bread flour over each roll. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and proof the rolls in a warm place until visibly puffy, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 450°F/232°C with the racks in the upper and lower thirds. Just before you’re ready to bake, fill a 9 x 13-inch/23 x 33 cm baking pan with ice cubes. Place this pan on the lower oven rack, and place one pan of rolls on the top rack.
- Bake the rolls for 18 to 22 minutes, until the internal temperature is at least 205°F/96°C and they are evenly golden brown. You can leave the 9x13-inch/23 x 33 cm pan on the lower rack for the second round of baking (it will still provide steam while you bake the second tray)–or you can refill it with a few scoops of ice before continuing. Cool the baked rolls at least 15 minutes before serving.