Baking Spelt ciabatta at home from scratch is easier than you think. A little time and patience to recreate the essence of this Italian bread but made with white spelt flour, olive oil, water, salt and yeast. As Ciabatta is a rustic looking bread it is easier for beginner bakers to recreate at home. The secret is a sticky and very hydrated dough, then the strange shape more imperfect, the better. No special bread machine or bread-making skills required only gentle folding.

What is Ciabatta?
A slipper or a flat oblong bread having a moist interior and a crispy crust Both. The word ciabatta takes its name from the Italian word for a slipper. In Italian the literal translation for the word ciabatta means slipper.

Where does Ciabatta come from?
Italy, however, the exact region or area is disputed. According to the article by The Guardian The Secret Life of ciabatta, they explain that a version of ciabatta was around as the early 1400s in Tuscany, Rome and Sicily. Other blogs state it hails from the Lake Como region.

Was it invented in the 1980's or medieval times?
I am sure that there are many versions of this rustic bread made all over Italy for many years. And a variation of this rustic bread ciabatta in a similar form has most likely been made by Nonna's secret recipe and handed down from generation to generation. However, a very clever man named Arnaldo Cavallari registered the named Ciabatta calling his extra hydrated recipe Ciabatta Polesano (the town where he was from). It was hailed as the bread that saved Italy in the '80s and started to promote it as perfect sandwich bread in competition to the popular French baguette. According to this article, Cavallari now licenses the production of its ciabatta in 11 countries.

Is Ciabatta the same as a sourdough?
No, the main difference is that ciabatta is made with olive oil and sourdough requires a starter made from yeast culture.

Why is Ciabatta so good?
It is a perfect bread to slice for toast, sandwiches, great with cheese, olives or accompanying a healthy bowl of soup.

Takes prep. = 20 minutes plus 55 minutes rest time
Bakes = 20 minutes
Makes = 1 x 500g loaf

Ingredients

  • White Spelt Flour – 500g (about 4 cups)
  • Quick Fast Action Dried Yeast (or fresh yeast 10g/ 1tbsp) – 7g packet
  • Salt – 10g
  • Olive oil – 1 tbsp
  • Lukewarm water* – 325ml (about 1 + 1/3 cups)

Method

  1. PREPARE a square baking tin by lightly greasing. This will be used for resting the dough.
  2. MIX flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. I use my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook, but this can be also mixed by hand. Careful to not put the dry yeast next to the salt, as it can counteract the activation.
  3. POUR in warm water (I always use my measuring jug as it is easier to pour) and olive oil.
  4. COMBINE on your stand mixer for at least 5 minutes, I tend to mix for 10 minutes to ensure that it is silky and smooth. The dough should come away from the sides of your mixing bowl. If doing by hand knead at least 100 times for about 10 minutes.
  5. ADD a little olive oil to your hands and shape into a ball, then place the dough in your square tin and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap to rest in a draft-free warm spot for 20 minutes.
  6. FOLD: carefully lift the dough into your square baking tin folding the left side over into the centre, then right side, then turn over and place the dough back into the tin to rest again. Rest again for 20 minutes, then repeat this process 3 times. Then final time rest for only 10 minutes. Before baking the dough remove it from your baking tin and rest on a lightly floured bench for 2 minutes. You can flip it over and flour both sides if you like.
  7. PREHEAT oven 230˚C fan/ Gas 9, after number 3 folding and preheat your large flat baking tray.
  8. STRETCH out your dough to form a rectangle shape and gently place it on the preheated tray.
  9. DROP the oven temperature down to 2o0˚C fan, Gas 7 and bake the bread for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. Tip add 1/2 cup of water to a baking tray and place at the bottom of your oven to create a little steam and moisture to ensure you get a lovely thin crust.
  10. ONCE golden brown and cooked remove and rest for at least 30 minutes to cool. If you can wait that long.

Sue Maree P Baking Tips

  • WARM WATER – to achieve a good temperature I add 100ml of boiling water from the kettle then the rest cold water from the tap. Test it by putting my finger in to check if it is not too hot. I find that this tends to be a better way of getting the right warm water temperature.