300g strong white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
250ml lukewarm water with 1 rounded teaspoon fresh yeast
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Plus, if desired:
1 dessertspoon each, sun-dried tomato paste and pesto; 25-50g sun-dried tomatoes (in olive oil) chopped; and 25-50g olives, halved. Use all, or any, or none of these. If using, add them with the olive oil and liquid.
1. Place the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. When the yeast liquid is ready, add to the mix and pour the olive oil into the liquid. This dough is mixed and beaten entirely in the mixing bowl and should be halfway between a dough and a batter. Have some extra water to hand to add if necessary, to achieve this. Mix by holding the bowl with one hand and stirring the ingredients together with the fingers of the other. Beat the dough for two or three minutes –as vigorously as you can!
2. Cover with a dry tea towel and check after about ten minutes. It should not have spread out too much in the bowl – if it has, beat in another 25g of flour. Leave the dough, covered, for about another hour. If you intend leaving it longer than that - and you can leave it all day if you wish - place the bowl inside an oiled plastic bag.
3. When you are ready to proceed, don't knock the dough back, but scrape it carefully out onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Don't worry about the final shape; it should be fairly rough looking. However, you can smooth it out a little with wet fingers, if you wish.
4. Leave it to recover – it should have risen appreciably from when you first began proving. Bake at 220C, 425F or gas mark 7 for between 20-25 minutes.
5. Look for some colour underneath to see that it is done.
The wetter this is, the more it spreads out on the baking sheet, and the less wet it is, the more it will stand up. You may need to try this several times to get the right consistency – but anyway this turns out, it’s a tasty loaf!
Ciabatta is a technique as much as anything. I think it’s one of the easiest breads to make. Try a ciabatta fruit loaf with chopped dried apricots, chopped walnuts and a little nutmeg.