Ciabatta bread is an Italian bread known for its floury crust and airy, chewy crumb. This soft-baked ciabatta bread uses a simple coil folding technique, which involves gently lifting and tucking the dough under itself to develop gluten.
The result is a super soft and squishy homemade ciabatta bread with a beautiful open crumb and a soft, tender texture. With a rustic appearance, ciabatta bread is surprisingly easy to make and requires only a handful of ingredients.
Clocking in at just three hours start to finish (most of it hands-off resting time), this ciabatta recipe is a perfect option for a lazy weekend or evening baking project!
For a personal sized homemade ciabatta, check out my small batch mini ciabatta which uses just one cup of flour, and if you're a garlic lover be sure to check out my crusty roasted garlic ciabatta bread. I've also got a great recipe for twisted ciabatta breadsticks which use a lower hydration version of this recipe as a base!
This soft and fluffy ciabatta bread is perfect for tearing into chunks and dunking in my best olive oil bread dip, making cheesy ciabatta garlic bread, used for buns when making juicy turkey burgers, assembling deli style tuna salad or smashed egg salad sandwiches, or toasting up one of my classic ciabatta cheesesteak sandwiches!
- About This Ciabatta Recipe
- What is Ciabatta?
- Ingredient Notes
- Instructions: Mixing Ciabatta Dough
- Resting and Coil Folding (Bulk Fermentation)
- Shaping and Cutting Ciabatta Dough
- BONUS: Flipping for Floury Stripes
- Baking Soft Ciabatta
- Suggested Equipment
- A Note on Temperature and Dough Rising
- Substituting Active Dry Yeast for Instant Yeast
- Storage & Freezing
- Practical Tips and Recipe Notes
- Recipe FAQ - Overnight rise, troubleshooting folding, sourdough, etc?
- TL;DR — Recipe Summary
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
About This Ciabatta Recipe
This soft-baked ciabatta bread got its start as my small batch ciabatta which uses just 1 cup (120g) of flour.
To scale it up to full size and better support the additional weight of a larger dough, I snuck in an extra set of folds and extended the bulk fermentation by 30 minutes. But don't worry, it's still a quick ciabatta bread recipe.
One of the complaints I hear most often about store bought ciabatta bread is that the crust is too thick and hard. It can be hard on the gums and tough to bite into, especially with lots of sandwich fillings in it.
So for this homemade ciabatta bread recipe I really focused on developing a ciabatta with a soft and fluffy texture inside and outside. The crust is chewy and floury, undeniably ciabatta-y, but still soft and squishy enough to bite into without fear.
To develop gluten and give this ciabatta bread its soft, fluffy crumb with we're using a high hydration, very wet dough. To build strength into the dough without tightening it up too much, this ciabatta bread recipe uses a gentle technique called a coil fold.
Because ciabatta is a very free-form bread, you don't need a special pan to bake it. Just plop it onto a parchment lined sheet pan, cut it into pieces, and this soft and fluffy ciabatta is ready to bake.
What is Ciabatta?
With its rustic shape, open crumb, and chewy, flour-dusted crust ciabatta has all the markings of an artisanal bread borne of ancient tradition stretching back centuries.
But ciabatta was actually invented in the 1980s by Arnaldo Cavallari, an Italian baker. Inspired by the long, flat, airy shape, he named his new bread ciabatta after the Italian word for slipper.
The goal was to create a bread export that could compete with the popularity of the French baguette. By all counts, it was a huge success.
"Marks & Spencer brought the loaves to the United Kingdom in 1985 during a Mediterranean-eating craze, and Orlando Baking Company claims to be the first U.S. bakery to produce the loaves, starting in 1987."Eater.com, "Your Favorite 'Old-World' Bread Was Invented in the '80s"
Ciabatta is a high hydration bread made using flour, salt, yeast, water, and sometimes olive oil. Typically it is made using a high protein bread flour and a pre-ferment like a poolish or a biga and requires long, slow rise times to build that airy texture.
That's not the case in the soft-baked ciabatta recipe you'll find here, which uses all purpose flour, a higher quantity of yeast, and shorter rest periods between folds to develop the dough in a shorter amount of time.
Here are the ingredients that you'll need to make this soft and fluffy ciabatta bread! See recipe card (at the end of the post) for ingredient quantities.
- Flour - Regular all purpose flour! I use King Arthur Baking Company's all purpose flour which has a slightly higher protein content (closer to a bread flour, which gives you a chewier, more elastic bread) than other brands of all-purpose flour, so if you're using a different brand of flour you may have better results with their bread flour.
- Yeast - This recipe uses instant yeast (sometimes called "rapid rise" or "bread machine" yeast). If using active dry yeast, increase the amount of yeast by 25%.
- Salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which is half as salty as other brands and has larger crystals that dissolve easily. If measuring by weight (as you should be!), you can use any brand of salt (table salt or fine sea salt will be just fine). But if you're measuring by volume (teaspoons) and using a different brand of salt, even a different brand of kosher salt, cut the amount of salt in half.
- Water - The water should be warm to the touch but not hot. If you have an instant read thermometer, you're aiming for somewhere around 85°F.
- Olive Oil - I like using a robustly flavored extra virgin olive oil here to bring that flavor to the dough. The olive oil also helps make the dough super soft and stretchy.
Instructions: Mixing Ciabatta Dough
Making this soft-baked ciabatta takes just about 3-ish hours, start to finish. It's a very hands off recipe with no fancy shaping; it's is meant to have a rustic, imperfect shape.
There's four 15 minute resting periods, one 1 hour resting period, and one 30 minute resting period, so the amount of active work time is minimal.
If you're new to bread making, homemade ciabatta bead is a great place to start. You can do this!
Whisk the flour, salt, and instant yeast together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the warm water and olive oil.
Use a dough whisk to mix them together until a sticky, messy dough forms.
A dough whisk is great for mixing sticky, wet doughs. And this is a VERY STICKY, VERY WET dough. If you don't have a dough whisk, a wooden spoon, a spatula, or even your hands will work just fine.
I like to use a square Cambro container for mixing and folding this soft-baked ciabatta dough — it helps train the dough to hold a square shape which makes it easier to cut later on. You can absolutely use a large mixing bowl instead.
Scrape any excess flour or dough off the sides of the bowl, and use lightly damp hands to gather the sticky dough into a messy ball at the bottom of the bowl.
Resting and Coil Folding (Bulk Fermentation)
After the dough has been mixed, it's time to let it rest for two hours (this is called "bulk fermentation"). During the first hour, you're going to periodically build strength and structure into the dough using a technique called folding.
Specifically, you're going to use a gentle technique called a "coil fold."
By letting the ciabatta dough rest between these sets of coil folds, air bubbles and gas (produced by the yeast) are trapped inside the dough's gluten network, which gives the ciabatta its open, soft, and airy crumb.
I know, it sounds complicated! But all you really need to know is it's a two hour rest, with folds every 15 minutes just for the first hour. That's four sets of folds total. The second hour is just the dough resting undisturbed.
TIP: To keep track of which set of folds you're on, put a small bowl with four candies, crackers, or snacks in it. Eat one each time you do a set of folds.
The first hour starts immediately after mixing the dough. The dough will rest for 15 minutes, and then you'll do the first set of coil folds. Each "set" of folds consists of four coil folds.
To do a single coil fold, use damp hands to slide your fingers under opposite sides of the dough so your fingertips meet (or come close to it). Lift the dough straight up from the middle.
This stretches the dough out so you can tuck the two ends underneath. On the first set of folds the ciabatta dough will feel very weak and might even tear. That's okay. Just keep going. Plop it down over itself. It will continue to strengthen as you keep folding.
Slide your fingers under opposite sides of the dough and lift straight up from the middle.
Rotate or pull your hands back slightly so that the flap of dough on the far side of the bowl releases.
It's okay if both ends of the dough release from the bowl too. The goal here is basically to get the two flaps tucked under the dough.
Pull the dough toward your body slightly, so the flap of dough closest to you curls under itself. Let the far flap of dough settle on top of it to form a coil shape. See the coil forming?
Gently release the dough back into the bucket. Both stretched out ends of the dough will be coiled (tucked) underneath.
Rotate the bowl 90° (a quarter turn) and repeat the coil fold again. Each time you pick up the dough, you want your fingers to be under the newly tucked under ends.
On the first coil fold in each set, the dough will be relaxed and easier to stretch. By the final fold in each set, it won't stretch it quite as much. The gluten network is getting stronger.
Each time you do a set of folds the dough will feel smoother and stronger.
After the final set of coil folds, cover the bucket and let the dough rest for 1 hour. At this point we want the dough to develop those gorgeous air bubbles ciabatta is known for. The dough will look airier, and will have doubled in size.
Here's what the ciabatta dough looks like when first mix it and then after the two hours of bulk fermentation with coil folds for the first hour.
This is the end of the bulk fermentation period.
If you'd prefer to bake your ciabatta in the morning or the next day, pop it in the fridge after the final set of coil folds and let it finish bulk fermentation there.
Shaping and Cutting Ciabatta Dough
Before you begin cutting your ciabatta dough, preheat the oven. This will it will be ready when the dough is.
Dust the top of the ciabatta dough in the bowl with flour. Then tip the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured surface so that the sticky, un-floured side is facing up. Dust the sticky top side lightly with flour too.
Use flat hands to gently smooth the ciabatta into a large rectangle about 10x15 inches in size and 1.5 inches thick.
Gently lift and stretch the edges and corners if you need to, but don't try to force the dough, you don't want to deflate it. Just gently smooth and stretch it into a loose rectangle.
If you're going to cut your ciabatta into smaller ciabatta buns, this is the time to do it. You can also just bake the loaf whole, that's fine too.
- Cut in half: Long loaves, good for slicing like sandwich bread.
- Cut in quarters: Large sandwiches.
- Cut in eighths: Medium sandwiches.
- Cut into sixteenths: Dinner rolls.
Use a sharp knife or bench scraper in a clean up-and-down motion to make your cuts, and leave the sticky cut edges facing open. Don't tuck them under or try to hide them. Ciabatta is a very loose bread — no fancy shaping required.
Then cover the ciabatta dough with a clean towel and let it rest for 30 minutes. This is one last chance for it to develop more air bubbles inside.
You can actually cut the ciabatta right on your parchment lined baking sheet if you prefer (or if you're baking larger loaves). Leave the cut edges touching slightly to create pull-apart ciabatta rolls.
BONUS: Flipping for Floury Stripes
This is a technique I picked up in a class at King Arthur Baking HQ in Vermont. And while it's technically optional, it gives the ciabatta such a pretty pattern on top.
As the dough rests, it expands, and the flour on the countertop underneath the dough gets trapped in the wrinkled creases, creating a unique striped pattern.
To reveal those beautiful tiger stripes and give your soft-baked ciabatta buns their own unique fingerprints, immediately before baking, flip each loaf over as you transfer it onto the sheet pan.
Slide a metal bench scraper under the ciabatta in one quick motion. This will help and unstick any parts of the dough that may have stuck to the counter and make it easier to lift.
The dough will stretch out slightly as you lift and flip it. Use the flat edge of the bench scraper or floured hands to nudge the dough into shape so the rolls aren't on top of each other.
Don't have a bench scraper? Use your hands to gently lift and flip the ciabatta. It'll be fine.
This flipping technique works best with ciabatta divided into quarters or eighths. If you're baking one large loaf, two long loaves, or sixteen dinner rolls, I recommend cutting those directly on the parchment lined sheet pan and skipping this flipping step.
Ciabatta is a very freeform loaf — you can try to gently stretch or shape how you want it, but ultimately it's going to be a bit unpredictable. That's the beauty of it!
Baking Soft Ciabatta
For a soft-baked ciabatta bread, bake for 17-19 minutes at 450°F. For a crustier ciabatta bread, bake for 20-22 minutes.
- If you're baking one large loaf or pull-apart style loaves you may need to add 1-2 minutes to the bake time.
- If you're baking smaller loaves like sixteen individual dinner rolls, reduce the bake time by 2 minutes.
You're looking for an internal temperature of 200°F for doneness.
When the ciabatta is done it will have a light golden brown crust peeking out around the edges under the flour.
Right out of the oven, the ciabatta loaves will feel hard to the touch. That's okay, they will soften as they cool.
Let the ciabatta cool before slicing. You can let it cool on the sheet pan or transfer it to a cooling rack, either is fine.
If you cut it while it's still hot, the steam and moisture trapped inside will turn the starches to mush. No one wants that!
You really don't need a lot of fancy equipment to make a mini ciabatta, but here's a few that might make the process easier for you!
- Kitchen Scale - The most accurate way to measure ingredients for baking! For best results with this recipe, you'll need to use a kitchen scale.
- Dough Whisk - A sturdy, mostly open wire coil that is designed to make mixing sticky wet doughs easy. The coil cuts through the dough easily, breaking up any sneaky lumps of flour hiding inside.
- Bench Scraper - A flat metal bench scraper with a thin edge is great for cutting your mini ciabatta dough into smaller portions AND for sliding under the dough to lift and flip it before it goes into the oven. Again, you don't need to use one, but it can be helpful!
- Flour Duster - Ciabatta is a very floury bread, but too much flour can be unpleasant! A flour duster helps you get a nice, even dusting of flour on your mini ciabatta without overdoing it.
- Instant Read Thermometer - To check the temperature of your water and check the dough for doneness.
A Note on Temperature and Dough Rising
Temperature is the main factor in determining how quickly or slowly your dough rises. This includes the temperature of ingredients in your dough, as well as the temperature of the room where your dough is rising.
In baking, "room temperature" is generally somewhere around 70°-75°F.
Depending on how cool or warm your water is, and how cool or warm your kitchen is, your dough may rise faster or slower.
- Warmer temperatures increase yeast activity. (But temperatures over 110°F can kill it!)
- Cooler temperatures slow yeast activity. (For a long, slow proof, put the dough in the fridge overnight after the final set of folds.)
If your dough is rising slowly and your kitchen is cold, find somewhere warmer to put your dough during the resting periods. If your kitchen is very warm, your dough might be a lot more active and ready to bake sooner than the times given in the recipe.
Just because the dough isn't "ready" right at the times given in the recipe doesn't mean it's not working — there might be other factors affecting how quickly or slowly it gets there! You may need to make adjustments.
Substituting Active Dry Yeast for Instant Yeast
Active Dry and Instant yeast are technically the same thing — meaning, they are both saccharomyces cerevisiae, a single-celled living organism used for leavening bread and doughs.
The only difference between the two types of yeast is that Active Dry yeast granules have a little coating around them which needs to dissolve to reveal the yeast inside.
Because of this extra little shell around the Active Dry yeast granules, you'll need to use slightly more Active Dry yeast to get the same effect as using Instant.
To calculate how much Active Dry yeast to use, increase the amount of Instant yeast by 25%. For this recipe I recommend rounding down, meaning you'd be using 7 grams (1 packet) of active dry yeast.
Instead of adding the active dry yeast to the dry ingredients, sprinkle it over the water and give it a quick stir before adding the oil and mixing the dough.
Storage & Freezing
Ciabatta is best eaten within 24 hours of baking. That's when its soft and fluffy texture will be at its peak.
Store ciabatta at room temperature 4-5 days in an airtight container or plastic bag at room temperature with a paper towel in it to absorb moisture.
It will begin to lose its super soft and squishy texture after about 2 days, but can be revived by toasting it lightly or popping it in a 350°F oven for a few minutes.
Once you cut your ciabatta open and expose the inside to air, it will go stale faster, even in a plastic bag. As always, do not refrigerate bread.
Ciabatta freezes beautifully. I usually just toss the loaves in a plastic bag and freeze them, but if you want to do it "right" and avoid freezer burn, wrap each individual loaf in plastic wrap before putting them in a bag in the freezer.
To reheat soft-baked ciabatta from frozen, unwrap the bread and place the whole loaf in a 350°F oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Practical Tips and Recipe Notes
- An overnight rise: If you want to bake this ciabatta the next day or give it a long rise time, you can pop the dough in the fridge immediately after finishing the coil folds.
- Be gentle with ciabatta dough. The folding process is as much about incorporating air as it is about building strength into the dough. You don't want to knock all the air out of it. Once it's in its final rest, you want to handle it as little as possible to preserve as much of the air inside the dough as possible. This doesn't mean you can't gently stretch it into a long rectangle shape or cut it into rolls — just use very gentle pressure! Think "fingertip light" pressure. Tug on it gently, don't squish or pinch.
- A note on oven temperature: Most ovens do not run true to temperature! Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is accurate! In my past three apartments my ovens were off from anywhere to 50 to 20 degrees and all of them would tell me they were at the right temperature 15 minutes before they actually were. Baking at the right temperature is crucial for getting soft-baked ciabatta.
- Dust off excess flour before baking: Some people like a super floury ciabatta, others prefer less flour on the outside. Whatever flour is on top of your ciabatta loaf when it goes into the oven is going to be there when it comes out If you prefer a less floury ciabatta, dust it off.
- Baking at high altitude: You will likely need to increase the water anywhere from 15-60 grams, depending on how high above sea level you are. You may also find that a higher protein bread flour works better for you!
Recipe FAQ - Overnight rise, troubleshooting folding, sourdough, etc?
First of all, take a deep breath. It will be okay. If you find it easier to just do stretch and folds, do 4-6 of those per "set" of folds instead. It doesn't matter that you do the folds perfectly. It matters that the gluten network in the dough is getting folded at all. If there's a different folding method or technique that works better for you — use it!
I usually stretch a plastic bowl cover over the top of the bowl or use the lid if I'm mixing in a container with a lid. You can also lay a clean dish towel over the mouth of the bowl. Avoid having anything in direct contact with the dough. Once you get to the final 30-minute bench rest, the clean dish towel can go directly on top of the floury dough.
If your dough seems too dry, use wet hands instead of damp hands to incorporate more water while you're mixing or folding the dough until it looks like it does in my photos. This should definitely not feel like a dry dough.
If the dough seems too wet, my first piece of advice is to just keep going with the recipe. This is a wet dough and many of my recipe testers told me they thought their dough was too wet when it was actually just right.
If your dough is SO wet that it is still tearing and not stretching during the second set of folds, then you can dust in a tiny amount of flour. But really try to avoid dusting in more flour during the mixing or folding stages.
Yes! After the final set of folds, instead of a 1 hour rest at room temperature, cover the bowl and place it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, flour the top of the dough, tip it onto a floured countertop, and proceed with the recipe as written from there.
You can, but you'll still need to use commercial yeast to help with the speed of the recipe. Use 100 grams 100% hydration sourdough discard or fed starter, reduce the amount of water to 375 grams, and reduce the amount of flour to 450 grams. Everything else remains the same!
TL;DR — Recipe Summary
- Stir dry ingredients, add wet ingredients, and mix to form a sticky dough.
- Cover and rest for 1 hour with coil folds every 15 minutes.
- Cover and rest for 1 hour undisturbed.
- Turn the dough out, dust the top with flour, stretch and cut into loaves or rolls.
- Cover with a towel and rest 30 minutes.
- OPTIONAL: Flip loaves over onto parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 17-19 minutes at 450°F until light golden brown around the sides and 200°F internal temp is reached.
Soft-Baked Ciabatta Bread
- Mix. In a large bowl (or a square dough container if you have one), whisk together flour, salt, and instant yeast. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients; pour the warm water and olive oil into it. Mix the dough until it comes together in a messy ball with no dry patches of flour hiding inside. Scrape down the walls of the bowl, gathering the dough into a loose ball in the bottom of the bowl.
- Bulk Fermentation. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 1 hour, performing a set of coil folds every 15 minutes. After the final set of folds, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 1 hour.One set of coil folds consists of four coil folds. To perform one coil fold, slide damp hands under opposite sides of the dough and lift straight up from the center, allowing the two ends to fold under the center of the dough. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Stretch. Dust your counter well with flour, then dust the top of the dough with flour too. Flip the bowl upside down over the floured countertop and let gravity pull the dough down. Gently lift the bowl off the dough, using your fingers or a bowl scraper to help any stuck pieces of dough release cleanly. NOTE: If you're baking one large ciabatta loaf or 16 pull apart dinner rolls, do this step directly onto the parchment lined baking sheet and skip flipping them later.
- Cut. Dust the sticky top side of the dough lightly with flour. Cut the dough into two, four, eight, or 16 rolls. Cut in in an up and down motion so the dough doesn't stick to your blade. Dust the newly cut sides with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. This is a very soft, sticky dough — be patient, and don't worry about them being perfect. Cover with a clean dish towel and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
- Flip (Optional!). Dust any excess flour off the top of the dough, then slide a bench scraper under the ciabatta loaves in one quick movement. Lift and gently flip them over onto the sheet pan so the underside is now facing up. For a less floury ciabatta, gently dust any excess flour off the top. If you don't have a bench scraper, use your hands to flip it, it'll be fine.
- Bake for 17-19 minutes until puffed up and light golden brown around the edges. If you want to be precise, you're looking for an internal temperature of at least 200°F. Even soft-baked ciabatta will seem very hard and crusty when it first comes out of the oven, but will become soft and fluffy as it cools. Let cool before slicing!
- For crustier ciabatta , bake for 20-22 minutes.
- If you prefer using the stretch-and-fold method instead of coil folding, do 4-6 stretch-and-folds per set of folds.
- Baking one large loaf or 16 pull apart rolls may require an additional 2-3 minutes of bake time.
- If baking 16 individual dinner rolls reduce bake time by 2-3 minutes.
- To bake on a baking steel preheat the oven for 1 hour at 450F. Launch the loaves onto the steel using a pizza peel with or without parchment paper and bake for 15-17 minutes.
- Resist adding flour to the dough during the folding stages. This is a wet, sticky dough by design — use damp or lightly oiled hands to keep it from sticking to you instead.