(Makes 2 loaves)
A whole head of garlic is used in this recipe which may sound a little excessive but when roasted, the garlic becomes sweet and sticky and imparts a subtle flavour throughout the loaves.
Ciabatta is typically a lot looser than regular bread dough making it trickier to work with but resist the temptation to add more flour when kneading as the wetter dough is what gives the characteristic airy structure to the finished loaf.
An overnight starter is also made here. The slow fermentation process produces a sour, alcoholic aroma almost like rotting apples. While this does not sound appealing at all, this bitter note adds so much flavour to the bread.
- 120 ml tepid water
- ½ tsp Active Dry Yeast
- 90g strong white bread flour
- 1 head garlic
- 325 ml tepid water
- 1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
- Starter (from above)
- 480g strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
To make the starter:
- Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the bread flour and whisk to make a wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 15 hours. The next day the starter should be soupy with a bubbly surface.
To make the bread:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wrap the garlic in foil and bake for about 30 minutes until fragrant. Let cool, then slip garlic cloves out of their skins and roughly chop.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add all of the starter and use a dough whisk or spatula to break it up into the water. It doesn’t have to completely dissolve into the water.
- Add the bread flour, salt, sugar, and chopped garlic. Knead the dough with the mixer on medium speed for about 12-15 minutes. At first the dough will be very wet, but eventually it will thicken and clear the sides of the bowl, and turn glossy and smooth. (I have included instructions here for a stand mixer as the dough is very wet and not easily workable by hand but if, like me, you do not own a fancy mixer then you can beat the mix together with a large metal spoon for the same amount of time in a large mixing bowl. This does require some serious elbow grease but achieves the same results… plus a workout!)
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until tripled, about 90 minutes.
- With generously floured hands, scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a well floured surface. Divide the dough in two. Working very gently, and re-flouring your hands as necessary, shape dough into oblong loaves and place each on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Let rise uncovered, until doubled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240°C.
- Bake until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped, 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
If you like really crusty bread, as I do, Just before baking fill a deep tray with boiling water and place it at the bottom of your oven. Then put your bread in the oven on the middle shelf. This will create a steamy environment that develops an intensely tasty and chewy, crunchy crust while maintaining a springy, light interior. Mmmmmmmm