If you’re anything like us, your capacity for comfort foods tends to see a significant surge during the holiday season, and when it comes to festive snacking, having a delicious vessel to scoop and soak up the various dips, spreads, and sauces that hit the table is a must.
This simple, yet rewarding ciabatta recipe from Baking Day with Anna Olson by Canada’s baking sweetheart, Anna Olson, is satisfyingly soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and provides the perfect pairing for whatever tasty topping you choose to serve alongside it. The "sloppy" ciabatta bread–as she warmly refers to it in the book–is as delicious to eat as it is fun to make.“Make this bread with kids, but get ready to be a kid yourself and get the wet, sticky dough all over your hands . . . it just happens,” says Olson.
Biga (12 to 18 hours ahead)
For the biga, stir the water, bread flour, whole wheat flour and yeast together in a bowl with a wooden spoon until evenly blended (the biga will be quite dense). Cover and set this starter aside on the counter for 12 to 18 hours—it will be soft and bubbly by this time, and the longer it sits, the better the flavour of the bread.
For the dough, stir the biga and water in a large bowl so that the biga breaks down a little and becomes softer (but it won’t fully dissolve). Add the flour and yeast and mix by hand with a wooden spoon. The batter will be very wet, not like a traditional bread dough that can be kneaded by hand on the counter—this one will have to stay in the bowl. Once combined, let the dough sit, uncovered, for 15 minutes, then add the salt and stir vigorously until the dough feels stretchy.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for 2 hours, until doubled in size. After the first hour, knock the dough down by patting it with a wooden spoon 4 to 5 times and then re-cover it.
Line two baking trays with parchment paper and dust them with flour. On a well-floured work surface, turn the dough out (it will be very stretchy and still sticky). Using your hands and/or a bench scraper, and lots of flour, divide the dough in half and shape each of the pieces into a rough 8 × 12-inch (20 × 30 cm) rectangle about 1½ inches (3.5 cm) tall. Transfer each piece to a baking tray and let the dough rest for 30 minutes, uncovered.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Dust the tops of the loaves with flour and bake the bread for about 30 minutes, until an even golden brown. Turn off the oven and leave the bread in for 10 minutes (this sets the crust). Transfer the loaves from the baking trays to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing. The bread is best enjoyed the day it is baked but is great for toasting or grilling the next day.
Note from Chef Anna Olson
To make this recipe as a contemporary no-knead bread, prepare the wet, sloppy dough as above and let it rise for 2 hours. Then pop an enamel cast-iron pot and lid in the 450°F (230°C) oven to preheat while you shape the dough (just a single loaf) into a round using lots of flour. Cover for 20 minutes. Gently tip the well-floured loaf into the hot pot, cover and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover to bake an additional 15 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a rack to cool.
- Makes 2 loaves
- Prep Time:
- 15 minutes, plus rising
- Cook Time:
- 40 minutes