Category High Hydration

Ciabatta Bread Recipe

This bread is such a treat. It’s soft, incredibly open, and light in the hand — almost like a bushel of puffy marshmallows bound together by a crust poised to shatter at the slightest pressure. This is a bread that asks to be torn with hands, dunked into best olive oil in the pantry. That is, if you can stop yourself from cutting it in half and sandwiching together all manner of delicious ingredients (I couldn’t, as you’ll see later). I hope this sourdough ciabatta bread recipe becomes a regular in your kitchen as it has been in mine.

Classically, ciabatta is intended to be used for sandwiches, or panino, of all kinds. The smaller ciabatta panini are wildly popular in Italy and even here in the US, and for good reason. The wide footprint of these slippers — ciabatta means slipper in Italian — have a sturdy crust that provides the right platform for ensnaring anything and everything one could conceivably use for a sandwich. As you’ll see later in this post, I found myself making sandwiches with just about everything lying around in my fridge — not to mention all the fresh vegetables from the market.

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Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread

As a kid I recall more often than not eating baguettes brought home from my Dad’s restaurant, usually procured through a late night call asking for “some bread for tomorrow”. On the weekends my Mom and Grandmother would slice these baguettes at a super slanted angle and make French toast, probably one of the perfect breads for such a thing, but aside from these baguettes we also had a sack of pre-sliced whole wheat bread — which coincidentally also makes great French toast in a different sort of way. It was always whole wheat (even before that was the in thing to buy) and it was mostly just a vehicle for peanut butter & jelly, cinnamon & sugar, straight butter, or whatever other clever things kids can dream up. I always preferred the baguette (and especially these baguettes) with its wonderfully crunchy crust, but there’s a special place for a PB & J sandwich that has so much peanut butter when dropped it would always land on the peanut butter side (imagine a cat always landing on its feet).

“Why don’t we ever have good ol’ sandwich bread?”, I heard my wife recently whisper to herself in the kitchen. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard such a statement and scattered comments like these got me thinking back about that sliced bread1 I had as a kid. Nostalgia turned to motivation as I felt urged to develop a pan loaf with many of the same characteristics but 100% sourdough, and with somewhere around 98% fewer ingredients — you know, just flour, water, salt and yeast. Continue reading


  1. And baguettes too, and I just posted a recipe for baguettes!

My Best Sourdough Recipe

I’ve baked this loaf, or a variant of it, so many times I’ve lost count. This bread was born when I first got my hands dirty with flour & water. Its parent, if you could call it that, was Chad Robertson’s Tartine loaf with his liquid levain and mix of whole & white wheat that is brought to life not with intensive kneading, but rather a series of folds during bulk fermentation. It’s grown since then and has developed a personality of its own as I’ve expanded my baking repertoire and investigated the many facets of baking naturally leavened sourdough. It’s taken on, and lost, traits from many of the great bakers out there, borrowing from their inspiration and giving me direction to raise this bread into something of my own. A bread that doesn’t entirely taste like anything else I’ve had, and yet, still employs many of the same processes and ingredients. That’s one of the greatest things about bread: it can taste and look dramatically different just by changing the two hands that create it. Calling this post “my best sourdough recipe” is a lofty claim, but honestly, I do believe this is the best bread I’ve made thus far.

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Baking Sourdough Bread with a Stiff Starter

Baking in the winter always presents problems here at my house: it’s cold! Probably not quite the cold you get in other parts of the world but it sure is cold to me, and my starter. Kitchen temperatures are consistently hovering between 68º and 70ºF which really inhibits yeast and bacteria activity. I’ll typically offset this by changing the percentage of mature starter carryover or by heating up the water used in my feedings, but you really want to try to keep your starter around 75º to 80ºF — this is not easy to do when winter is bombarding your area. You just have to make do with the warmest spot you can find in your kitchen, for me this is next to my whisky collection… almost poetic.

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Country Sourdough with Less Levain & Longer Autolyse

I could probably pull out hundreds of gems from Hamelman’s masterpiece Bread, and each time I go back to reference something my eye catches one that strikes a chord. Attentiveness, now that is a really important thing with baking. You don’t realize just how important it is to step back for a second and observe what you, and the dough, is doing from time to time. Does it look alive and puffy? Does it look like it has enough strength? Are you mixing to sufficient development and to enough rise during bulk?

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