Before we get to the recipe, there is something you need to know about this famous Italian number.  Tthe dough is a bugger to work with because it’s sticky. Hold on hold on, before you all flee to your bunkers, arms waving as you shriek with panic, this isn’t anything to worry about, it’s just another rung on your leaven ladder.  The final results are impressive, the texture really open but with a gorgeous chewy crust. Great with all things italian, or on its own with a  bowl of olives, some decent olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.  So follow the below, and you’ll have your own slot on “Saturday Kitchen” in no time. Come on, you know you love James Martin.

Recipe makes 3 loaves

for the “starter”

100g leaven
200g water
100g strong white bread flour
100g Italian “00” flour (if you can’t find this easily there is a cheat – it’s sold in supermarkets and is known as “sauce flour” – look for the “00” on the packet)

Main recipe

all your starter
250g strong white
250g Italian “00”
350g water
50g olive oil
10g salt
baking stone or upturned tray for the oven

The day before you want to bake, make your starter. Take your 100g of leaven and mix with the water, then add the flours and mix well. seal tightly and place somewhere warm like an airing cupboard. The following morning it’ll be really beery and smelling wonderful, with a really open texture. Like this:


Place your starter in a big bowl and add the water and the olive oil and mix thoroughly. Then add the flours – do not add the salt at this stage.

after you’ve given it a good mix, cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 mins then:

lightly oil your work surface, and your bowl
knead for ten seconds
rest for 10 mins
knead for 10 secs
rest for 10 mins
add the salt by spreading the dough out like you would a cloth, sprinkle it all over and knead/fold for 10 secs
rest for 30 mins
knead for 10 secs
rest for an hour

FLOUR your work surface well, then take your dough out and gently fold it a couple of times with the intention of making it into a ball. It won’t want to come out of the bowl, so show it who’s boss.

cover with a tea towl and leave it on your worksurface for 45 minutes then with your fingers, press it out into a aquare shape, about 8 inches all around. Take a sharp knife with a long blade and cut your square into 3. take one strip, and fold it into three by taking hold of one end, then folding it into the middle and pressing down, then take the opposite end and fold that over the top and press down. Make sure you seal it in with your fingers – this folding gives your loaf some strength. Make sure your loaves are well floured by rubbing the tops and sides with flour then place them on a semolina covered peel (piece of stiff cardboard). cover with a tea towel and leave for around 2 hours until they’ve doubled in size – make sure you put the oven on full blast after the first hour of resting (ensure your stone or upturned tray is in there too)

Just before you slide them in the oven, take each loaf in turn by both ends and stretch it out thereby making it longer. Don’t be shy about it, be confident, but gentle at the same time. It’s this which gives the distinctive shape. Quickly mist your oven with water, and slide your loaves on to your stone/tray. How to slide from your card to the oven is below:

Give them 10 mins at full whack (about 240c-ish, higher if you can) then open the door, spray again quickly (4 squirts should do it) turn your oven down to 210 and give them another 20 mins. These timings and temps work for my fan oven, but yours may differ, so keep an eye on them, you’re looking for a really good crust colour – think of that bloke from Bargain Hunt, kind of orangey tan.

You’ll find the dough sticky and unusual to work with when you knead but at that point do not be tempted to add more flour, or you’ll balls it up. I mean it, don’t add flour when kneading.

This is what you’re after.  Ta-dah! Check out the light airy texture. By the way, all the images on this site are shot either with an Iphone or a Canon G10 compact, for you camera geeks out there.

img_0492lowres img_0510lowres1 ciab


9 responses to “Ciabatta

  1. Wah! This dough is ridiculous, it sticks to everything! I’m sure it would make a rather good glue. Three loaves (if that’s what you can call them) are now waiting their 2 hours before entering the furnace. How are you supposed to fold them when as soon as you touch the dough, your hands immediately stick to it?! They’re not holding their shape very well. I think I am making 3 pools of ciabatta rather than loaves!

    • as long as you’ve oiled your surface and are quick with the kneads, then when you do the shape before proving you use loads of flour on the outside it’ll be fine. Be firm with it but gentle, don’t be a girly wuss about it

    • the trick is to flour your work surface really well, then tip the dough on to it. don’t flour the top of the dough, let that stay sticky. Then fold it as normal and once done, flour the top really well. Let it prove and when it’s time for its final stretch, the fact that its well floured means that when you come to stretch it before it goes into the oven, it should be really easy.

      • See, you could have said that in the instructions then I wouldn’t have had dough stuck to everything. In the end I ended up refolding the dough with half a tonne of flour and only putting the loaves on the peel when they were ready otherwise they made the semolina soggy and it stuck. Really impressed the the results though. One of the loaves disappeared into the lounge with my husband with the words “Mmm, this is just like you buy in the shops…except better” I never saw that loaf again……

  2. Could this recipe be adapted to make baguettes instead? I ordered some 00 flour from SM, but they’ve sent me French 55 instead.

    • No – the ciabatta dough is very loose and starts off being quite wet. The liquid content is high and it wouldnt work with baguettes. I have a list of recipes which I’ve written and tested, some to do and some I’m working on when I have some time. I’ll do a baguette one in due course – if you want to prep up for that, you’ll need whats known as a “couche” which is basically a large piece of course linen about 1.5M by 80cm or a metre wide. MUST be course linen, not cotton. I cheat and use a linen tablecloth when madam isn’t in so she can’t give me a bollocking

      • So how do you explain why the tablecloth is in the wash? The lovely people at SM have sent my 00 by first class and it arrived this morning. I’ll let you know how I get on tomorrow.

        • Ah well, I just take it outside, give it a good beating then fold it up neatly and she’s none the wiser

          Well, until she reads this anyway

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