Literally meanings slipper, this famous bread comes from Verona in the North-East of Italy.
Its history is very recent as it was invented in 1982 by Arnaldo Cavallari, a baker who was looking for a bread to outcome the popularity of baguettes used in sandwiches. He first called it ciabatta polesana, after the Polesine region where he lived in.
Arnaldo and many other bakers were concerned about the increase of sandwiches made from baguettes imported from France, which would endangered their businesses. After many weeks of testing different recipes with different flours and different hydration levels, he finally came out with the perfect bread to make panini (sandwiches in italian).
After few months promoting his new traditional bread, the popularity increased very fast in Italy, with every region giving a different approach to it. The original ciabatta would have a high hydration level, an opened-crumb and is commonly found in the North of Italy. While in the middle of the country, in Tuscany, Umbria or Marche, you might find a ciabatta with a denser crumb with a crisp crust. In Rome, it is seasoned with marjoram (oregano) and olive oil.
Other variations would be ciabatta integrale which uses some wholemeal flour, and ciabatta al latte that adds milk in the dough.
After an increasing success in Italy, Arnaldo didn’t have to wait long to see its creation traveling around the world. In 1985, the brand of supermarkets Marks and Spencer introduced the ciabatta in the United Kingdom. 2 years later, a group of 3 Italian bakers went to Cleveland, Ohio in the United States of America, to develop the ciabatta for mass production. Freshly baked at the beginning, then frozen. It was quickly copied throughout the U.S.
Arnaldo Cavallari licensed the name ciabatta polesana and ciabatta italiana in 11 countries by 1999.
I invented the new ciabatta,
Says Arnoldo Cavallari, loud and proud. I used a very soft, wet dough, with a lot of water – very watery. It’s the best bread, of course. All my breads are made with natural things, so it tastes good. I am touching the sky I am so happy that it is so good, that it has done so well everywhere. But when I had invented it, I looked at it and I thought, “What can I call it?” Then I thought that it is similar to a slipper, so I thought “ciabatta”. For copyright, I registered the name ciabatta along with Polesano, the name of the area where I work.
But according to some people, the ciabatta was already baked since centuries, Arnoldo respond : People can say whatever they like. Someone could say they remember eating it in the 1940s, but they have got to come forward with the proof. There is no question of that recipe having existed before.
My ciabatta is the taste of an old-fashioned bread. It reminds people of the older breads, the ones that were made with natural ingredients, no chemicals. On Wednesday afternoons, I teach a class in ciabatta, for people who want to know about it. They try it fresh, and say, “Mamma Mia, this is good!“
Here’s the recipe :
- 250 g white bread flour
- 180 g water at room temp.
- 5 g salt
- 2 g fresh yeast or 1g dried yeast
- 75 g liquid starter
Do the autolyse by mixing the flour and the water together with a spatula or by hands until incorporated. No need to knead.
Let it rest for 1 hour.
Add the salt, the yeast and the liquid starter and mix in the mixer for 3min in 1st speed, then 6min in 2nd speed and 1min in 3rd speed.
Let it rest for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Make a stretch and fold by pulling the dough from the sides to the center.
Cover and put in the fridge for 12 hours.
Put the dough on a floured workbench. Take the top side and fold it onto the center. Take the bottom side and fold it on top of the dough. You should have a rectangular shape. Cut in the middle of the dough in order to have 2 rectangular pieces.
Put the dough onto a floured couche or a kitchen towel.
Let it prove for 30 minutes.
Bake at 250°C on the sole position (heat coming from the bottom) for around 20 minutes.
Take it out and let it cool down on a tray.
Don’t forget to check out the timelapse video of the baking on my Instagram below :