300ml warm water
2 teaspoons active yeast granules
300g high-grade flour, plus extra for dusting
pinch of salt
Makes 1 loaf
Place the warm water in a large bowl, add the yeast and sugar and set aside for 5 minutes. When the yeast starts to bubble, add the flour and salt and work into a dough for about 5 minutes using your fingers. This dough will be too sticky to roll on the bench or table so knead it in the bowl (although it feels more like mixing). Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and turn out the risen dough onto the tray bottom-side up. The dough will be sticky so you will need to scrape it from the sides of the bowl; it is also likely to be runny – prop up the outside edges of the baking paper with a couple of small ovenproof ramekins to avoid ending up with an extremely large flat loaf (the ramekins can be filled with water to create a steam oven effect - image 1)). Dust the top of the loaf with the extra flour. Bake in a preheated 180 ̊C (350 ̊F) oven for 25–30 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven, wrap in a tea towel, then place in a plastic bag and seal. Leave the bread in the bag for 30 minutes so that the steam will cook it further and make it soft and deliciously chewy. If you prefer a ciabatta with a crunchy crust, eat it while it’s still warm – yum!
Tips and variations
Although some recipes add 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil to the dough, I prefer an oil-free version so I can drizzle olive oil on it when it is freshly cut and ready to eat. I also like to dip ciabatta slices in a little oil flavoured with crushed cumin seeds and salt or basil leaves.