Creating your own gifts not only gets you in the spirit; it also carries an implicit gift of love to the receiver. Bread is such a basic symbol of gathering and sharing that the term “breaking bread together” has come to mean connecting in a heartfelt way with other people. Old Edwards Pastry Chef Alyssa Green shares her recipe for sourdough bread, along with a beautiful and delicious recipe for sugar cookies pressed with herbs—perfect for cocktail or tea time. Whether it’s a hostess gift, dinner party favors or just a heartfelt exchange with someone special, the gift of a handcrafted recipe is a gift from the heart.
CIABATTA BREADPrep Time: 5 minutes on day one to make the Biga Starter and 30 minutes on the day of baking.
Rise and bake time: 4 hours
Makes: 8 loaves
Special Equipment: Baking Stones, Cast Iron Skillet
For Biga (Starter)
1 lb. Bread Flour
9.6 oz. Warm Water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 gr. Fresh Yeast
For Final Dough Bread
4 lb. Bread Flour
48.8 oz. Warm Water
6.4 oz Salt
26.25 gr. Fresh Yeast
25.62 oz. of Biga
Dash of Cornmeal
- Mix yeast into the warm water then add the flour and mix until smooth.
- Cover with cling wrap and ferment overnight in the refrigerator.
If you have a stand mixer, now is the time to put it to use. Just makes things easier with such a wet dough. No matter the mixer, dough hooks work best.
1. Add all ingredients except biga to a large mixing bowl. Mix on low for the first 3 minutes. As the dough is coming together add biga in chunks. The mixture should be sticky but have strength.
2. Mix on your second-lowest speed for an additional 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
3. Allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 3 hours total. Fold twice after the first hour of rising and fold twice again after 2 hours. When folding just do so in the container to keep things neat and do not add any flour at this time. The dough should be full of air bubbles, supple, elastic, and sticky.
4. Divide & Shape- Flour surface heavily to prevent sticking. Portion out into the eight loaves by halving, then halving each twice again. It's easier with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.
5. Preheat conventional oven to 400° F. (205° C) Place a cast-iron skillet in the oven on the bottom rack. This will hold the ice cubes in a few minutes.
6. Generously flour 8 pieces of parchment paper placed on baking sheets.
You can shape each individual loaf into more of a rectangle if you prefer, but Ciabatta is Italian for "slipper", so an authentic loaf comes out as an elongated oval.
7. Starting from the top, fold the dough onto itself 3 times, 3rd time sealing the loaf. Place each loaf, seam side up, on the parchment. The shaped loaves may be flat and look unpromising. Don’t give up. The bread rises nicely in the oven.
8. Slide the dough onto the middle rack of the oven and add steam by throwing a few ice cubes into the heated cast-iron skillet. Quickly close the door and check after 4-6 minutes. Open and close the oven after the spring is completed to allow the moisture to clear and cook to temperature. It should take about 20 minutes.
9. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool at least 1 hr before wrapping. The loaves have a 5-day shelf life.
Remember to infuse your heart and gratitude into the recipe while preparing! This part of the recipe gives a gift back to you as well.
Can't get fresh yeast? Here is a lovely write-up on all things yeast and how to make substitutions when necessary.
See the recipe for Chef Alyssa's Lemon Cream Cheese Shortbread Cookies.
There is more to enjoy on the Old Edwards Lifestyle blog.
(Some in-process baking images courtesy of Apartment Therapy.)