About this recipe:Take five minutes today to make the starter, and tomorrow you can bake two loaves of this marvellous, slightly sour, rustic Italian bread. You don't have to use a baking stone to cook the bread, but I like to.
For the starter
1/8 teaspoon dried active baking yeast
2 tablespoons warm water (45 C)
5 tablespoons warm water
150g (5 oz) bread flour
For the bread
1/2 teaspoon dried active baking yeast
2 tablespoons warm milk (45 C)
150ml (5 fl oz) warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
275g (10 oz) bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
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Method Prep:4hr › Cook:20min › Ready in:4hr20min
To make the starter: In a medium bowl, stir together the yeast and 2 tablespoons warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. Add the remaining water and bread flour. Stir 4 minutes, then cover bowl with cling film. Let starter stand at cool room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.
To make the bread: In a small bowl, stir together yeast and warm milk and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, blend together milk mixture, starter, warm water, olive oil and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened; add salt and mix until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with cling film.
Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough will be sticky and full of air bubbles.) Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and cut in half. Transfer each half to a sheet of baking parchment and form into an irregular oval about 25cm (10 in) long. Dimple loaves with floured fingers and dust tops with flour. Cover loaves with a clean, damp tea towel. Let loaves rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
At least 45 minutes before baking ciabatta, put a baking stone on the lowest oven shelf and preheat oven to 220 C / Gas mark 7.
Transfer 1 loaf on its parchment to a baking tray, and tilt baking tray to slide loaf with parchment onto back half of stone. Transfer remaining loaf to front half of stone in a similar manner. Bake ciabatta loaves 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool loaves on a wire rack.
I made this last night, having done the starter the day before. I added a bit more warm water to the starter as I found it very dry and stiff. The finished ciabatta was lovely and was enjoyed by all! I agree with the comments that the flavour would be even better with the starter kept a bit longer to develop that sourdough flavour. - 17 Feb 2011