One of my favourite dinners to share with friends is a good spread of fresh salads and antipasti, and a good loaf of homemade ciabatta is great addition to the table to satisfy that carb-craving. This is a great loaf for dinner because you can make it ahead of time because you can reheat it in the oven to crisp it up right before serving.
A note on equipment: this is a very wet dough to get that light, aerated crumb, so you will need a mixer with a dough hook to make this one. I wouldn’t like to attempt to knead it by hand – though, if you do give it a go, please let me know how it goes!
500g strong white bread flour
10g easy bake yeast
40ml olive oil
400ml room temperature water
A little semolina for dusting (optional)
Makes four loaves.
Grease a large bowl with olive oil and set aside.
Put the flour into the bowl of a standalone mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and table salt to opposite sides of the bowl (direct exposure to salt retards yeast).
Pour 40ml of olive oil into the bowl along with two-thirds of the water and mix on a low speed until. As the dough comes together, add the rest of the water a bit at a time until a rough dough has formed.
Continue to mix for 8 minutes until your dough is smooth and stretchy.
Tip into the pre-greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise at room temperature until your dough has at least doubled in size – about 2 hours.
In the meantime, line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 200°C fan.
Once it’s ready, dust the work top with flour and a little semolina, then gently tip the dough onto the surface. It will still be very wet, but try to handle it as little as possible to keep the air in.
Dust the top of the dough with more flour and semolina, then cut into four. Stretch each piece out to form a rough loaf shape, tucking the ends under neatly and place two on each baking tray.
Ciabatta, unlike many breads, doesn’t need a long second prove; simply set the loaves aside for 10 minutes to rest, then bake for 25 minutes, until the loaves are evenly golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Leave to cool on a rack and eat fresh or reheat for 5 minutes on 180-200°C fan before serving.