What is Ciabatta Bread?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ciabatta bread is an Italian bread which is also popular in other parts of the world, thanks to its versatility and distinct flavor. Around Italy, numerous regions lay claim to the invention of the bread, and slightly different versions of it are baked in different areas. Many bakeries both inside and outside of Italy carry a version of the bread, since it is highly popular. It is also possible to make ciabatta bread at home, although it can be difficult to wade through warring recipes, and only experienced bakers should attempt it, with the aid of a good bread book.

Ciabatta roll.
Ciabatta roll.

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.

Sandwich made with ciabatta bread.
Sandwich made with ciabatta bread.

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.

Ciabatta bread is often served with olive oil.
Ciabatta bread is often served with olive oil.

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.

The fermentation of the biga, or starter, gives ciabatta bread an open crumb.
The fermentation of the biga, or starter, gives ciabatta bread an open crumb.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


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!


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.


Very tasty bread. Love it.


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


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


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


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.


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


Does anyone know how to soften ciabatta bread?


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


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


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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!

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