This recipe was first printed in the 2009 July Gazette, and successfully made by at least two others who reported back to me, but those at the wonderful Christmas function at the Hall on 19 December 2009, who admired and consumed two loaves of my home baked Ciabatta leaving no crumbs and could not recall the original recipe, asked for it again. So here it is, and it is very easy to make, you just cannot rush it though. So if you want it for a Saturday night, you will have to start it going on Friday afternoon.
To begin, you need a large bowl that will hold, by volume, from 4 to 5 litres. Into it measure about 1 tsp of dried yeast, 175 g of white flour and 200 mls of warm water. Using a wooden spoon, mix these ingredients together until they form a damp sort of sloppy dough, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place for from 12 to 24 hours.
By the time you get back to it, the bowl should now contain a bubbly and slightly aromatic slurry. Into the bowl now pour 200 mls of warm water, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of milk, 330 g of white flour, 1 tsp of salt (or leave it out if you are on a salt-free diet) 1/2 tsp of sugar and 2 tsp dried yeast. Using the wooden spoon, mix everything up until it is reasonably stiff and all the flour is incorporated. It should be fairly moist and wobbly like a jelly. It is not something that you tip onto the bench and knead with your hands. If it seems altogether too stiff, add some more water. If it seems altogether too runny, add a little more flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap again and leave it in a warm place for from 1 to 2 hours.
By this time the dough should have risen up to mostly fill the bowl. If you have used a bowl which is too small, the dough will escape and it is quite difficult to clean up! Make sure you have big bowl for this exercise.
Heat the oven to 220° and lightly flour a large baking tray. Starting from a diagonal corner, pour the dough carefully out of the bowl onto the baking tray from one corner to the other. Dust it lightly with flour, then immediately place it in the middle of the heated oven and bake it for 25 to 30 minutes.
Bread should be completely cool before it is cut, but with this bread, if you are keen to try it, waiting until it is warm will suffice, and if you cut it carefully you will find that it has enormous holes in it because it was never kneaded to let the carbon dioxide out easily.
If you want to cook for a crowd, you can double this recipe easily. You can even halve the dough and tip half onto one baking tray and the other on another baking tray and make two smaller loaves. Bon appétit!
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