BBA#7 – CIABATTA: judging a bread by its holes


With this post, I finally join as a blogger the crowd of bakers  who are taking  “The Challenge“. You can see the other breads, made before this blog was launched, by clicking here.

Ciabatta is one of my favorite kinds of bread.  A friend of mine (you know who you are…) says she does not understand this fascination with holes in the bread, as obviously where there is a hole, there is NO bread. What can I say? I love the texture, the look, the “feel” of a bread invaded by holes…

I have made ciabatta in the past, but never this particular recipe. Peter Reinhart gives us a choice, ciabatta made with “poolish” or “biga”.  No need to panic, those are simple terms used by bakers, that define a pre-mixture of yeast with water and flour.  In very general terms, a “poolish” contains more water, ends up looking like porridge. “Biga” is thicker, resembles play dough.  Either of  these are incorporated in the final dough, sometimes more yeast might be added to it. For this bread, I decided to use a “poolish”.

The “poolish” is added to flour and more yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.


After mixing, the dough is spread in a rectangular shape and folded twice during a few hours of rising. You can see how a dough is folded by clicking here.


After the first fold, things start to get really smooth, but the second fold is what really changes the look of the dough. Notice the nice “bubbly” nature…


More rising, the dough is cut in pieces, and allowed to rise some more in improvised “couches”


Ready to go into the oven!


I had very high hopes for this bread, because everything seemed to be going so well! Unfortunately, my bread ended up with a tight crumb, and I have no idea why. Should I have used a “biga” instead?  Was my dough too stiff to start with?  The bread still tasted very good, it just lacked those beautiful holes I longed for. Oh, well… there is always next time.


For those expecting a recipe, I should say that all participants of  the BBA Challenge agreed not to post the recipes in their blogs, only general comments. My advice for those interested in bread baking is to get the book we are all baking from. Bread Baker’s Apprentice  is a classic, you won’t be disappointed.

15 thoughts on “BBA#7 – CIABATTA: judging a bread by its holes

  1. Of all the CIABATTA’S I’ve seen and I’m following pretty much everyone I’ve only seen two that have open holes and mine included. I think that is great to learn the process and most important taste. 🙂
    You’re doing great. I’ll be following your blog.
    Nice baking along with you,


  2. I’m with you! Not that I’m against our mutual friend, I just think she is misguided 🙂

    Have you made the No Need to Knead Ciabatta? I know you like the focaccia (as I do too!) and I think the ciabatta is also good, especially considering the ease of the recipe.


  3. Woo hoo! Congratulations on joining the blogging community. Now I can drool over your your recipes as well as your photos on Flickr.

    Your ciabatta is beautifully shaped. I’m going to go the biga route when I make it, since I’ve been hearing that the poolish isn’t making huge holes. Regardless, I hope mine turns out as well as yours!


  4. I can think of two things that would cause the tight crumb. First is the leavening. Was the yeast past its prime? Did you ferment it long enough? Did the yeast get exposed to a high concentration of salt? Second thing is that you may have been too enthusiastic when “punching down” the dough. It does not have a lot of gluten structure so it has to be handled very gently to avoid deflating it.


    • Hello, Gary….

      It is puzzling, isn’t it? Well, the yeast was bought recently from King Arthur, and kept frozen. I followed the recipe as written and did not cut the fermentation time. Of course, times are not as important as what the dough looks like, but it seemed to behave just like Peter’s description.

      As for my enthusiasm… well, I tried to tone it down…. it’s not always easy! 😉
      Maybe I punched it down with too much gusto. It is such a delicate dough….

      Thanks for your input!


  5. Pingback: Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge: Ciabatta — Pinch My Salt

  6. I just saw your blog on Pinch My Salt! Great job on the bread. This was my favorite recipe so far- definitely worth blogging about. Even the dough was delicious!


  7. We bread freaks are strange group, wanting holes in our bread!! Lovely ciabatta for a first attempt. Welcome to blogging. You will soon see it is almost as addictive as baking bread. Your first post is wonderful.


  8. Pingback: CIABATTA, A CLASSIC ITALIAN BREAD | Bewitching Kitchen

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