Our recipe for this classic Italian bread promises to live up to its name, while also delivering tangy, yeasty flavor, an airy interior, and a texture that makes an ideal bed for anything you would want to spread, place, or melt on top.
1. MAKE BIGA: Biga is a pre-ferment used in Italian baking. To make it, combine yeast with small amounts of flour and water and let it rest overnight to build flavor.
2. MAKE DOUGH, KNEAD: Add the biga to the remaining dough ingredients, then knead the dough in stand mixer.
3. LET RISE: Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, which will take about 1 hour.
4. TURN 8 TIMES: Turn the partially risen dough by folding it in on itself to gently encourage more gluten development. Let it rise for 30 minutes.
5. REPEAT STEP 4: More turning and rising ensure a loaf with just enough lift.
6. DIVIDE DOUGH: Transfer the dough to a floured surface and halve it with a bench scraper.
7. PRESS: Press each half into a rough 12- by 6-inch rectangle.
8. SHAPE: Fold each half of the dough like a business letter (it should make a 7- by 4-inch loaf). Then let it rest for 30 minutes.
9. PRESS, SPRAY, BAKE: Press out the dough into 10- by 6-inch rectangles, spray them with water, and then bake them in the oven.
MAKE IT NOW: Our recipe for Ciabatta is free through February 7, 2013.