This is one of my favorite breads for deli Sandwiches. It has a soft but chewy crust. In English, Ciabatta means Slipper. It should be made into a rectangle, 4" squares are common to. Don't use bread pans, just free form it.
If you are baking this in a competition, your recipe MUST stat " one recipe of Biga " in order to make it the day before.
For the Biga Starter
1/4 ounce fresh yeast ( 1 packets )
1 cup lukewarm water ( 99° to 105°f )
3 cups unbleached plain flour
extra for dusting
For the dough
1/2 ounce fresh yeast (2 packets )
1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
4 tablespoons lukewarm milk
5 cups unbleached white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Should make 3 loaves
Cream the yeast for the biga stater with a little of the water in a small bowl. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Gradually mix in the yeast mixture and enough of the remaining water to form a firm dough.
Turn out the biga starter dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Return to bowl, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 12-16 hours or until dough has risen and is starting to collapse.
In a small bowl, mix yeast for the dough with a little water until creamy, then mix in the remainder. Add the yeast mixture to the biga and gradually mix in.
Mix in the milk, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Using your hand, graduallt beat inthe flour, lifting the dough as you mix. Mixing the dough will take 15 minutes or more and form a very wet dough, impossible knead on a work surface.
Beat in the salt and olive oil. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise, in a warm place, for 1 1/2 -2 hours or until doubles in size.
Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour. Using a spoon, carefully transfer one-third of the dough to the baking sheet, trying to avoid punching the dough in the process.
Using floured hands, shape into rough oblong loaf shape, about 1 inch thick. Flatten top slightly with fingers. Sprinkle with flour, move to a 16" dutch oven, and repeat 2 more times. Cover oven and place 3 or 4 charcoals on top to help rise, let rise for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown, with 12 charcoals on the bottom, and 24 to 26 on top. When the top is a little brown, remove most or all bottom heat, and finish with top heat only. Bread is done when if sounds hollow when thumped. Move to wire rack to cool.
This is a difficult bread to make, but WELL worth it in the end.