A crusty, airy, whole wheat sourdough ciabatta bread that tastes as delicious as it looks and is quite easy to make.
Latest in my adventures in baking with my sourdough starter is this crusty, healthy Whole-Wheat Ciabatta. It is, quite simply, as good as bread can get.
Ciabatta, as you know, is my favorite Italian bread. Its crackling crust, soft texture with those large, airy holes, and delicious, slow-developed flavor are to die for. But so far I've only made ciabatta with white all-purpose flour because that's what everyone does, don't they? And as much as I had dreamed of making a healthier, wholegrain version, it was hard to imagine that whole wheat, with its low-gluten burden, would make a good ciabatta -- or even a passable one.
But baking with sourdough has opened up a world of possibilities in my kitchen. Sourdough is just a longer-developed biga -- the starter that begins every ciabatta loaf. But because sourdough has been sitting around for so long and has all of those alcoholic gases in it, it helps give breads a better rise. This feature is especially helpful in baking whole-wheat breads which can use all the rising help they can get to avoid turning into dense bricks (every health nut's baked one of those, haven't we?).
Sourdough is perfect for health nuts because did you know that it actually lowers the glycemic index of breads? That's right. So sourdough breads are perfect not just for the food lovers among us, but also for diabetics or for those watching their blood sugar or even for those watching their weight. That's just about everyone in the world, I'd guess.
If you are among those folks who balk at using sourdough because you are worried about a very tangy bread, rest easy. Sourdough made at home doesn't seem to produce that overtly tangy flavor, and because neither Desi nor I really like a sour flavor in our breads anyway, you can take my word for it. Also, you can control the amount of sourdough you add to your bread. I add just a cup or two at most to most two-loaf recipes which never results in a strong flavor. All that the sourdough does is add a wonderful complexity that you'll love.
The method for making this ciabatta is very similar to the ciabatta recipe I've posted earlier, except that this one's wholegrain and I give it a longer rise.
Whole-Wheat Sourdough Ciabatta
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups sourdough starter
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3 ½ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (if you don't have this, substitute half the whole-wheat flour with all-purpose)
- 2 teaspoon sea salt
- Mix the yeast and 2 ½ cups of water in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside for 10 minutes to get the yeast working. It should become frothy.
- Add the sourdough, flour, vital wheat gluten, and salt. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, mix until everything is combined. You should have a batter that's just slightly thicker than a pancake batter. If it's too dry, add the remaining cup of water a little at a time and keep mixing.
- When the dough starts to rise on the paddle and makes a flapping sound, remove the paddle attachment and replace it with a dough hook.
- Knead on medium speed for about five to seven minutes or until the dough comes cleanly off the sides of the bowl.
- Pour the dough into a bowl or large bin coated with oil. It will be very loose, but that's how it's supposed to be. The container should be large enough to hold the dough once it has risen to about three times its size. Spray some oil on top of the dough to keep it from drying, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, put a rubber band around it to hold it in place, and leave overnight or for eight hours on the kitchen counter.
- By morning the dough would have risen quite a bit. Sprinkle a large cookie sheet or two smaller ones with lots of flour. Turn the dough out into the sheet and cut into half with a bench scraper or a knife.
- Flour your hands and shape the loaf into a rectangular shape using your fingers and the bench scraper. Tuck the ends underneath so you get as even a shape as possible, although your bread will still look very rustic. You don't want to deflate the dough too much by overhandling it.
- Dust some more flour on top of the loaves, then cover them loosely with kitchen towels. Put in a warm place to rise, about 90 minutes.
- Half an hour before you bake the bread, put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees. If you don't have a pizza stone, don't worry-- we can do without. Place an empty pan in the bottom rack of the oven.
- After 90 minutes of rising, the loaves should be puffy and should have doubled in size. Now place them in the oven and immediately add a cup of hot water to the empty pan you placed earlier in the bottom rack.
- Close the oven and let the bread bake undisturbed for about 28 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow then tapped.
- Remove to a rack and allow the loaves to cool completely before eating.
Do you think that I could speed this up a bit by adding a bit more yeast - I need bread by tonight (it's 2pm) and would love something like this -
Hi, You could add more yeast, but the true flavor of a ciabatta develops when you allow it to rise more slowly. If you're looking for a quicker bread, try something like this crusty Italian bread. It is not made with sourdough but you can get it done by tonight. Or try a focaccia.
I live in the Himalayas and wheat (aata) does not contain much gluten. How much gluten would you recommend using in your non whole wheat ciabatta. I see this whole wheat recipe uses 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) would you recommend using that amount on the other ciabatta? which also has hardly any gluten in it.
I've made a few of your other recipes.....Sunday is pancake day, and we all really like it.
Use 2 tbsp. Four might make the crust too chewy.
I would like to know at what temperature setting should you bake the sour dough sandwich bread.
I never get mine to be brown on top. Do you put it on the center rack or bottom rack, what is the average time .
Why do use active dry yeast along with sourdough starter here?
I thought vegans don't eat yeast?
Yeast is a fungus that comes from the same family as mushrooms. I've never heard of vegans who don't eat yeast.
I've been craving sourdough bread lately, (I LOVE bread) and your recipes + pictures look amazing! Please never stop blogging, your food is scrumptious. Did you write a cookbook? If not, I think it's time for you to start planning... Obviously you have more than enough material for at least one! 🙂
Wildflower-- that's so sweet. Thank you! I haven't written a cookbook yet-- the blog's been it so far, but maybe someday. 🙂
Ciabatta:....methinks want to make it 🙂 that looks great!
first time here ...glad to follow you ...very yummy and tempting ciabatta
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Perfect looking Ciabatta Vaishali !!! The texture is awesome. I follow you on twitter and glad I did as I got to visit you here at Holy Cow.Book marked this recipe as I've been waiting to bake a Ciabatta for a long time. Quick question though where would I find sourdough.
Dolly, You can buy sourdough online from King Arthur Flour and there may be other vendors too. But the easiest way to get sourdough is to make it yourself-- it's really a very simple recipe and you can find it in this post:
Wow.. the texture is perfect and crusty! Beautiful clicks
I've been looking for some new bread recipes for a long time, really wanting to get back into baking at home. Thank you so much for this!
looks absolutely delicious.
I use to make sourdough a long time ago but have forgotten how. Do you have a recipe and directions on how to make the sourdough?
Anon, you can find the instructions for making sourdough here:
JUST what I was looking for! Thank you! They're gorgeous!
love that airy textureee! so perfect!