Found this recipe online and I have made it a few times. The dough is a bit harder to work with since it is so wet, but if done right it tastes so good. It is a big hit with my family. It is a 2 part recipe, where you have to make the biga a day before you make the bread.
This is made before hand, and is a starter for the main ciabatta recipe.
1/4 cup (2 ounces or 60 grams) warm water
3/4 cup plus 4 teaspoons (7 ounces or 200 grams) water, preferably bottled spring water, at room temperature
2 1/3 cups (11.6 ounces or 330 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for the bowl
Directions1. Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir the remaining water into the creamy yeast mixture, and then stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time. If mixing by hand, stir with a wooden spoon for 3 to 4 minutes. If mixing with a stand mixer, beat with the paddle at the lowest speed for 2 minutes. If mixing with a food processor, mix just until a sticky dough forms.
3. Transfer the biga to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at cool room temperature for 6 to 24 hours, until the starter is triple its original volume but is still wet and sticky. (The bakers I admire most advise 10 to 11 hours for the first rise, but others are very happy with the 24 hours it takes for dough to truly become yesterday’s dough, and if you like sour bread, allow your biga to rest for 24 to 48 hours or even 72 hours.)
4. Cover and refrigerate or freeze the biga until ready to use. (If refrigerating the biga, use within 5 days. If freezing the biga, let it rest at room temperature for about 3 hours until it is bubbly and active again.) When needed, scoop out the desired amount of biga for your recipe and proceed. I strongly recommend weighing the biga rather than measuring it by volume since it expands at room temperature. If measuring by volume, measure chilled biga; if measuring by weight, the biga may be chilled or at room temperature.
5 tablespoons (2.7 ounces or 76 grams) warm milk
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (10 ounces or 285 grams) water, at room temperature (if using a food processor, use cold water)
1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces or 15 grams) olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 very full cups (17.5 ounces or 500 grams) biga, rested for 12 hours
3 3/4 cups (17.5 ounces or 500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces or 15 grams) salt
2. Place the ciabatta dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours. The dough should be full of air bubbles, supple, elastic, and sticky.
3. Turn the ciabatta dough onto a generously floured surface and cut it into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion into a cylinder, then stretch each cylinder into a rectangle about 10 by 4 inches, pulling with your fingers to get each portion of dough long and wide enough.
4. Generously flour 4 pieces of parchment paper placed on peels or upside-down baking sheets. Place each loaf, seam side up, on a piece of parchment. Dimple the loaves vigorously with your fingertips or knuckles so that they won’t rise too much. The dough will look heavily pockmarked, but it is very resilient, so don’t be concerned. Cover the loaves loosely with damp towels and let rise until puffy but not doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The loaves will look flat and definitely unpromising, but rest assured that they will rise more in the oven.
5. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and slide 2 baking stones on the center rack to heat. [Editor’s Note: If, like us, you haven’t yet bought yourself a baking stone, flip some large cast-iron skillets upside down and bake the bread on their bottoms. It ought to do the trick. It has for us.]
6. Just before baking the bread, sprinkle the stones with cornmeal. Carefully invert each loaf onto a stone. If the dough sticks a bit to the parchment, just gently work it free from the paper. If you need to, you can leave the paper and remove it 10 minutes later. Bake for a total of 20 to 25 minutes, spraying the oven three times with water in the first 10 minutes. Transfer the loaves of ciabatta to wire racks to cool.