The night before you would like to make your ciabatta bread you need to make the biga, this is like a starter for your bread dough and helps give it that lovely holey texture. Pop the yeast in a bowl and add the water, leave to stand for 10 minutes the mixture should begin to foam slightly. Pour in the flour and mix together to form a wet dough; this can be done either by hand of in a freestanding mixer on a slow speed with the dough hook attachment. Pop you dough into an oiled bowl, cover and leave overnight at room temperature. – your dough will bubble up so place in a large bowl.
Once your biga is ready it’s time to make your ciabatta. Pop the yeast and warm milk in a bowl and leave to stand for 10 minutes until it begins to froth.
In your freestanding mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, pop in the biga, water, flour, olive oil, yeast mixture and salt. Begin to combine on a low speed, once all combined turn up the speed and knead for 10 minutes until you have a smooth elastic dough, don’t worry it should still be very wet. Pop your dough into an oiled bowl and cover. Leave for about 90 minutes until doubled in size.
Once your dough has doubled in size it’ time to fold the dough! Lift the dough from one edge of the bowl and fold into the centre, turn your bowl 90 degrees and fold again, continue until you have worked your way around the bowl twice. Cover for 30 minutes and then repeat the folding process again. – you can use a dough scraper to help you fold the dough.
Tip your dough onto a floured surface and cut in half using your dough scraper or sharp knife. Working on one piece of dough at a time gently shape into a rectangle by folding the sides of the dough under to meet in the middle and pop on a piece of floured greaseproof paper. The dough will be very soft and sticky to work with so flour your hands well. Cover your prepped dough and allow to rest for 3 minutes, don’t worry if the dough begins to spread out a little.
Pre-heat your oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas Mark 6. Whilst your oven is heating up pop in 2 baking trays to heat up and a large tray of water, the steam from the water help create a lovely crunchy crust around your bread.
Once your dough has rested slide each loaf with the baking paper onto the heated baking trays. Bake your bread for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and your loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy!