Many of these breads were very tasty but they did not quite taste like the proper Italian ciabatta you get from the local baker in a small Tuscan village, combining the airiness, the taste and the crust of a real ciabatta.<
So I decided to test the recipes and methods I could find on Italian sites and after observing and testing a number of Italian bakers' tricks and method details I have written the following method in English. It is important to handle the dough correctly.
This video combined with my recipe below should explain how to make an excellent authentic-tasting Italian ciabatta.
100g flour 00
200g Shipton's Italian ciabatta flour
6g fresh yeast
Mix components with a spoon for 3-4 minutes, then prove for at least 3 hours.
200g flour 00
400g Shipton's Italian ciabatta flour
350 ml water
9g fresh yeast
10g malt (or other sugar)
semolina to cover
Dissolve the yeast and malt in the luke-warm water. Mix the two types of flour in a bowl. Put the starter in a mixing bowl on a mixer and gradually add the fluer and water while mixing. When the ingredients have been mixed, fit a dough hook to the mixer, add the salt and mix for 10-12 minutes at a medium speed. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow to prove for abour 1 hour, until the size of the mix has doubled.
Tip the dough out on a work surface well dusted with semolina, stretch and fold the dough in thirds, turn 90 degrees and repeat. Then dust the dough with semolina and cut it to the required number of ciabatta loaves, e.g. around 10 sandwich sized ones. Cover these with cling film and allow them to raise for 1 - 1.5 hours.
Tip them onto a baking sheet two or three at a time and stretch them carefully so the surface is smooth without cracks. When putting them into the over spray a good dusting of water, using an atomizer, into the oven as well. Bake for 8 minutes at 240-250 degrees C (gas mark 9), then reduce the heat to 180-200 degrees (gas mark 5) for another 9 minutes. Finally open the oven door slightly to let the steam escape, e.g. by wedging a wooden spoon between the door and the oven, and bake for a further 3-4 minutes. This creates the typical delicious ciabatta crust.
I have tried the recipe using only ciabatta flour but that didn't give me quite crust I'm after. I suppose you could use strong flour instead of 00 and a bit additional yeast to adjust the size of the pores in the bread.