Here’s a recipe for a Ciabatta we’ve been baking fairly regularly, along with some wine pairing suggestions. You can bust this recipe out in a day (it’s not a lot of work, you just need to be patient). If you want the full gourmet experience, it’s a two to three day job, again, not a huge amount of actual prep time is required, you’ll just be stretching out the process to allow for maximum flavour development which in turn will make a wine pairing all the sweeter. You can make formed loaves (with the help of a cake tin), freeform traditional looking ciabatta or rolls (just shape roll size balls and coat in olive oil before packing them into a cake tin and baking). This recipe also works as an awesome pizza base.
Ciabatta works a treat with Viognier, Cab, Chianti/Sangiovese and Merlot. You don’t even need toppings, particularly, if you’re tucking into it about half an hour after it comes out of the oven… even the butter is optional. That said, you can top with Brie and grill to get it nice and melty, Provolone Piccante, Asiago with a bit of age, Gorgonzola and even Buffalo Mozzarella…
So, here’s the ingredients, methods and stuff - this makes two bloody big loaves, four mediums, half a dozen big pizza bases or a heap of crusty, chewy, stretchy rolls…
Day One: The Starter
Late in the day make a starter. This isn’t like a sourdough starter with lots of waste – it is just an awesome way of building extra flavour and stretchiness into the final loaf.
Mix 400 grams of quality bread makers flour (like the Laucke Wallaby which you can still find in supermarkets, unless some bugger has cleaned them out) and 400mL of lukewarm water. Add a pinch of dried yeast and stir it all up. Cover the bowl and let it ferment at room temp for at least 8 hours. Up to 16 is fine. If you are doing the full 16 hours, add only half a pinch of yeast.
By making this starter you’ll get better extensibility in the final dough, the bread will have better flavour and it will also keep better (not that it’ll take you long to knock off a couple of loaves of this bread).
It is worth using digital scales – accurate measurements make a difference to the final recipe in this instance.