I’ve mentioned it here before, but I’m really not a very confident bread baker. Baking is such a science, and I’m much more of a dash-of-this, dash-of-that kinda girl. That doesn’t work so well when you’re trying to recreate precise chemical reactions.
The irony of this is that we actually do a lot of bread baking in this house. We stopped buying bread years ago and make almost everything “in-house”. Craig is the master of sandwich bread (someday I’ll get him to post that recipe), and I tackle our other loaves. And while I still don’t feel 100% confident in my yeast-wielding skills, I do feel pretty comfortable with a few of my go-tos—namely pizza crust, focaccia, and this whole grain ciabatta.
I know, it sounds silly. I mean, really, ciabatta bread isn’t supposed to be whole grain. Ciabatta is meant to be crusty and fluffy and the whitest of white breads. And while I’m not afraid to dig into a great loaf of crusty white bread on occasion, I prefer to add whole grains wherever I can. And the great thing about this whole grain loaf is that it stays crusty and fluffy, just like its white flour cousin.
I love tearing off a hunk of this bread to eat with soup. It also makes an awesome sandwich bread if you slice it lengthwise. A grilled cheese made with this bread, extra sharp cheddar and lots of butter? Yum. And this bread really holds up well to sauces making it a great option for pizza bread or bruschetta.
This dough is a little bit fussy to work with (as are many ciabatta doughs). It’s very sticky and very wet, making it nearly impossible to mix and knead by hand. I used the dough cycle of my bread machine, but you could easily mix and knead it in a stand mixer fit with a dough hook, too. The recipe also requires a biga starter—which sounds fancy, but is really just mixing some water, flour and yeast together and letting it ferment for a day to add a bunch of great flavor and help add the airy, open texture that ciabatta is famous for. Between making the starter, the two rises and baking time, it takes over a day to make this bread (mostly inactive). But since this recipe makes two decent-sized loaves that freeze well, and they are incredibly delicious, I promise it’s worth your time.
And if you come back later in the week, I have a way for you to use up that second loaf (if you can keep from eating it between now and then). Enjoy!
Thank you for this recipe! Quick question: are the first three ingredients (1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup water, Pinch of yeast) the starter? It’s slightly unclear for me and I want to make sure I do it right. Thank you!!
are the first three ingredients the biga? why doesn’t your biga include a bit of sugar to activate the yeast? have you ever used lava rocks in the oven to create some steam?
I am a little confused. .Maybe I am reading something wrong. In your directions it says NOT to put the biga in the fridge but in a cool dark place but some of the comments says they put it in the fridge. I followed the directions as written and will see how it turns out. 🙂 I will update tomorrow.
Is the starter supposed to be dry and and ball dough. Mine for some reason is so darn dry.
Same problem. A starter is usually pretty wet. It would be nice to hear back from Cassie.
Hi Chris! The whole wheat flour can make the biga pretty stiff, but it shouldn’t be a dry dough ball. If you find that your starter/biga is too dry, it could be how you’re measuring the flour (we recommend the fluff, scoop, and level method) or the brand of flour you’re using. Are you having trouble getting it to ferment? Is the final dough also too dry?
I am having the same problem as Anita and i already added some extra flour 🙁
HI Cassie, thanks for sharing this recipe. I followed your instructions to make the biga starter and then used my bread machine to make the dough. But at the end of the dough-making cycle, the “dough” was still VERY wet…It was like a puddle of wet flour, not really dough-like. Is that normal? Or did I miss anything ? Thanks for your help.
Thanks for this recipe! It was incredibly easy to make with a stand mixer and came out perfectly. Do you know if it matters what kind of milk is used? As in, whole milk, 2% etc…
I usually have whole milk around here, but I don’t think it matters.
i love your recipe for whole wheat ciabatta and i tried it several times, but i can’t get these big holes like you did, and would be very glad if you could give me some advice how to get them 🙂 Just to mention that i am kneading them by hand.
do you ever save starter and go the sourdough route? I’m a huge fan of sourdough, but unfortunately have several whole-wheat-sourdough-fails under my belt. Just curious if you’ve tried/have any luck with that!