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What is Ciabatta Bread? Unveiling the Rustic Italian Loaf's Secrets

Editorial Team
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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What is Ciabatta Bread?

Ciabatta bread, a staple of Italian cuisine, has transcended its regional roots to become a global favorite. Characterized by its porous texture and chewy crust, ciabatta's versatility makes it ideal for sandwiches, bruschetta, and dipping in olive oil. While its origin is contested among Italian regions, the bread's popularity is undisputed. 

For those keen on baking their own, the process can be intricate. The Craft Bakers Association suggests that ciabatta's high hydration dough is what challenges many home bakers, recommending practice and patience for those attempting it. Dive in to gain an understanding of just what ciabatta bread is and how it can not only enrich one's culinary knowledge but also enhance the dining experience with a touch of authentic Italian tradition.


There are a number of different ways to make ciabatta bread. The most simple uses a basic yeast and white flour recipe, although it tends to be lacking in complexity. Most bakers use a biga or sourdough starter to make a bread with an open crumb and slightly soured flavor. For cooks who are not familiar with making rustic or artisan breads, attempting ciabatta can be very frustrating, and it may take multiple tries. It is generally considered to be a poor choice of bread for beginners. When made well, this bread has a moist crumb and a crackly, crisp crust.

In Italian, ciabatta means “slipper,” leading some people to call the bread “slipper bread.” The name is a reference to the shape, which does sort of resemble a slipper. Ciabatta bread tends to be short, wide, and long, which makes it ideally suited to sandwiches. It is also offered with olive oils and other dips, since the crumb absorbs dips and liquids very well, and it may be toasted when served for this purpose. Dried ciabatta bread can also be turned into excellent croutons.

Some bakers add herbs, oil, or olives to their ciabatta bread before baking it, turning out a bread which slightly resembles focaccia, although it has a less dense crumb. Others may make it with milk, producing ciabatta al latte, and a whole wheat version is also available. Panini, the classic grilled Italian sandwiches on hearty breads, are often made with ciabatta.

Like many artisan breads, ciabatta bread tastes best when it is fresh. People should try and purchase it freshly baked on the day they intend to use it, although wrapping it in plastic can help it to last longer. However, plastic wrapping will tend to make the bread slightly soggy, which can be an undesirable or unacceptable trade-off. To refresh ciabatta bread which is slightly stale or soggy, it can be sprinkled with water and toasted in an oven immediately before serving. Otherwise, stale ciabbata bread can be allowed to go truly stale and turned into croutons.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon991881 — On Jul 25, 2015

Our local Winn-Dixie had the best genuine ciabatta rolls, crackly, crispy crust, firm but airy crumb, heavenly taste and smell when toasted, reasonably priced. Then, some corporate accountant must have found a way to save a few pennies by screwing up ingredients and baking process. Now their ciabattas (and the Tuscan boules) have the texture and the taste of all the usual American sponge bread: stale, tasteless and probably no nutritional value. But I am sure the shareholders like it!

By anon325162 — On Mar 14, 2013

Ciabatta is one of the easiest breads to make as it is essentially a "no knead bread" with a very wet dough. Doubt me, just look up no knead bread, make it and you'll have a wonderful huge crumb-crunchy crust ciabatta loaf with very little effort.

By anon252902 — On Mar 07, 2012

Very tasty bread. Love it.

By anon91593 — On Jun 22, 2010

Pronunciation: "cha-bah-Tah". Emphasis on the two T's. Sono Italiano!

By anon72038 — On Mar 21, 2010

Don't buy Ciabatta rolls from Marks & Spencer. They put chilli pepper in it and it burns the mouth!

By anon60764 — On Jan 15, 2010

I have heard several pronunciations of ciabatta. What is the correct one for english speaking people?

By anon60064 — On Jan 11, 2010

The nice crumb as stated before is from a number of things the dough must be quite wet. almost too wet to handle. You need good fresh yeast of the instant (rapid rise) variety. Use all purpose flour as opposed to bread flour, and you must let the dough proof (rise) in stages. the first proof should be about an hour, then fold it over itself a few times then let sit 30 min then fold again. repeat, shape it then let it proof again and so on, there should be lots of bubbles.

don't deflate it if you can help it. bake at a high temperature, 450 F. use a baking stone if you have one and preheat the oven with it in it so you're not wasting valuable oven spring time (when baked goods rise once exposed to heat) heating up the stone. and finally commercial ovens have steam injectors that will shoot moisture into the oven during the baking and that is what gives it the crisp crust.

To do this at home, get a spray bottle with water and once or twice lightly spray the buns during the first five minutes of baking.

By anon59465 — On Jan 08, 2010

Who makes ciabatta bread? Just professionals or people in the community? I know that anyone can make it, but usually who makes it?

By anon51679 — On Nov 08, 2009

Does anyone know how to soften ciabatta bread?

By anon43101 — On Aug 25, 2009

what are the nutrition facts on ciabatta bread, like calories, fat content, carbs, etc.?

By anon28205 — On Mar 12, 2009

the large holes in the crumb come from a couple of different things......high hydration levels.... a long rise time....and do *not* degas the dough....cut it with a knife ....handle it very gently....fold it on itself when ready to shape it....3 times both directions...most importantly handle as little as possible....every air pocket in the dough expands in the heat of the oven as gas expands when it is heated....lastly let the dough rest while the oven is preheating....hope this helps .....Donald

By anon24926 — On Jan 20, 2009

i am attending culinary school to become a baker.

The techniques use to make this bread are a skill learned by professionals. it is quite possible to make it without any previous knowledge, but it is kind of a trick of the trade to know how to make it with nice big open crumb and a crust that is not too hard.

By corncob — On Aug 04, 2008

I have tried to make ciabatta several times. It is a great tasting bread, but I cannot seem to get to big holes in the crumb. Any suggestions? I have used recipes from King Arthur (regular flour) and The Baker's Apprentice (bread flour). I always use a biga or poolish.

By anon12414 — On May 06, 2008

I live in Eustis, Florida, too! You can buy fresh ciabatta bread at the Sunshine Mountain Bakery in Mount Dora. They make it fresh every morning!

By bigmetal — On Feb 19, 2008

i love the ciabatta bread at panera's. i've also found it in the bakery section at wal-mart (surprise!) and at costco.

By anon8655 — On Feb 18, 2008

I live in Eustis, Fl. I have not seen this bread in my area.....Can it be purchased online??? Big time high ticket on the Food Network

By olittlewood — On Jan 16, 2008

is it really such a difficult bread to make? it seems like it would be fairly simple! it is one of the yummiest breads...i like it with cheese on top!

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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