Ciabatta Integrale (Partially Whole Grain Italian Slipper Bread)


By Cat, July 2010 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Ciabatta is an “Italian white bread created in 1982 by a baker in Adria, Veneto, Italy in response to popularity of French baguettes” (1), using commercial yeast (S. cerevisiae) as the leavening. It is an Italian rustic bread, with soft spongy interior and crispy crust, and with a slight sourdough flavor that comes from an overnight ferment.

The first and only version I’ve made so far – Ciabatta Integrale in this post – uses commercial dried yeast to make a pre-ferment which is then cultured slowly overnight – similar to a sourdough sponge recipe, followed by an autolyze step which hydrates the flour for a better result. I wanted it to be at least part whole grain; what I came up with is roughly half whole grain, half white flour.

Ciabatta Integrale: Comparing Recipes, flour

Ciabatta is an Italian rustic bread, with soft spongy interior and crispy crust, and with a slight sourdough flavor that comes from an overnight ferment. And while most ciabatta is made from white flour, it is indeed possible to make it with some whole grain flour (hence the word ‘integrale‘ in its name – it means ‘in-tact’ or “with everything’).

I use two online recipes as the base for testing:

  • Ciabatta Integrale, from Whole Grain Baking, the King Arthur Flour (KAF) cookbook, reprinted on The Fresh Loaf blog (2), which uses part whole wheat, part white bread flour
  • Ciabatta, from Gourmet magazine, reprinted on Recipezaar (5). which uses all white bread flour

Both use white bread flour (see about White Bread Flour, below), which is more highly processed (including bleaching with bromine, a process that has negative health consequences), and has a higher protein content than unbleached all-purpose white flour. I prefer to use the latter, but at 5 oz/cup it is more dense than bread flour at 4.75 oz/cup. Thus it may require less unbleached white flour than the white bread flour in the original recipe, something I didn’t take into account for my original test recipe.

The KAF method involves a specific stretch-and-fold process to create the gas bubbles that become the holes after baking. See The Fresh Loaf: Stretch-and-Fold Lesson (3) for illustrated instructions. Trinigourmet blog (6) has excellent photos of preparing the dough according to the Gourmet method; note that it is also uses bread flour (white).

The KAF recipe calls for nonfat dry milk, and ‘instant yeast’, both of which I prefer not to use, and ¼ cup oil. The Gourmet recipe uses warm milk and ‘active dry yeast’, which I would rather use, and only 1 Tbsp oil. Otherwise, the ingredients are similar. However, when it comes to the working-up of the dough, the methods are quite divergent: the KAF method takes several hours for the rise and stretch/folding of the dough, whereas the Gourmet method rises in shorter time, with no manual working of the dough.

My gut tells me to follow the Gourmet recipe’s ingredients, but the KAF method for developing the dough. Thus I include the KAF instructions in the “Method,” and the Gourmet instructions (where they differ after the autolyze) under “Gourmet Method.”

6/3/17 update: Turns out my gut was right about which method to follow for instructions. The KAF instructions use a long, slow rise, which is more effective at breaking down the reactive part of the gluten complex, so that people with gluten sensitivity can safely eat the resulting product (per research in Italy regarding slow-rise and its effect on gluten (8,9,10)). Gourmet’s shorter rise time does to have that added benefit.

About white bread flour

Bread flour is used because it has a higher protein and gluten content than regular flour, which is desirable for yeast-risen breads because it will support a better rise. But bleaching the flour to make a whiter white flour may involve the use of bromine (similar to chlorine in its bleaching ability). Bromine has negative health consequences that affect the thyroid, by replacing iodine in the thyroid hormones with bromine, which effectively makes the hormones useless. For this and other reasons, I use unbleached white flour.

Feb 2015 update: KAF offers an unbleached white bread flour which I would like to try.

Avoiding modern wheat

As of this writing, I’m trying to avoid modern wheat, so I prefer to use just spelt, or a blend of spelt, oat and barley flours. I’m experimenting with this adaptation. Spelt requires less moisture and shorter rise time than wheat, but the addition of oat and barley should temper this somewhat.

Feb 2015 update: Turns out, I have a food sensitivity to oat and barley, so any future testing will only involve wheat, Kamut and/or spelt flours.

It would be smart to use wheat the first time, to get the feel of it and how the dough behaves. Then try mixing grains. The fermentation and long rise of the final dough will break down much of the carbs and protein in the wheat (like sprouting), so It should be OK for a wheat-free diet.

Ciabatta Integrale, Recipe 

As stated above, I use the ingredients from the Gourmet recipe (on Recipezaar (5)) and the method from the KAF recipe (on The Fresh Loaf (2)). I used What’s Cooking America’s Conversion Charts for Liquid & Dry Measures (7) to convert ounces to cups/tablespoons, although using grams is far more accurate and provides the best end-product.

You may be surprised at the small amount of yeast used; this is because of the overnight ferment and long, slow rise.

I’ve not yet updated the original 2-loaf ingredients from my testing, as I believe I should do at least two more tests, one with wheat and one with spelt flour, before being confident in the amounts.

Original Recipe Ingredients & Equipment (2 loaves):

  • Pre-ferment (sponge)
  • 2 Tbsp warm water (105° -115°F)
  • pinch active dry yeast (1/16 – 1/8 tsp)
  • ⅓ cup room-temperature water
  • 1 cup Organic whole wheat flour (4 oz or 113.4 g)
  • Autolyze
  • All of the pre-ferment
  • 1 – 1 ¼ cup warm filtered water (105° -115°F)
  • 1 ¼ cups (5 oz or 141.7 g) whole wheat flour
  • appoximately 1 ¾ – 2 cups unbleached white flour (original recipe uses: 2 cups (9.5 oz or 56.7 g) white bread flour)
  • Dough
  • 2 Tbsp warm filtered water (or milk, scalded then cooled) (105° -115°F)
  • ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 – 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • about ¼ cups unbleached white flour (for dusting board when doing stretch-&-folding
  • Equipment
  • 1-cup glass measuring cup or half-pint jar (to proof  yeast for pre-ferment)
  • medium bowl
  • small saucepan (for scalding milk)
  • large bowl, or bowl of stand mixer
  • another large bowl (for rise)
  • wooden spoon or stand mixer fitted with dough hook
  • banneton (see Bread-making Equipment)
  • baking sheet (to ease transfer of loaves to baking stone)
  • baking parchment
  • Baking Stone (for baking)
  • cast iron skillet or baking pan (to steam the oven)

Ingredients for Half recipe (one loaf), for Testing

  • Pre-ferment (sponge)
  • 1 Tbsp warm water (105°-115°F)
  • pinch active dry yeast (1/16 tsp)
  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp (or 3 Tbsp?) room-temperature water
  • ½ cup whole grain flour (e.g., ¼ cup whole spelt and ¼ cup whole Kamut)
  • Autolyze:
  • All of the pre-ferment
  • ½ cup cool filtered water, plus more if needed
  • ½ Tbsp (Gourmet) or 1 -2 Tbsp (KAF) olive oil (I used 1 Tbsp olive oil for first test)
  • ½ cups plus 2 Tbsp whole grain flour (e.g., ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp whole spelt, ¼ cup whole Kamut)
  • ¾  – 1 cup unbleached white flour (e.g., white spelt or unbleached while bread flour)
  • Dough:
  • 1 Tbsp warm filtered water (105 – 115 F)
  • ¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • ¾ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ⅓ cup room-temperature filtered water
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp additional unbleached white flour (e.g., white spelt), plus more for stretching & folding

Method (from KAF, for half-recipe):


  • Both Gourmet and KAF methods are very similar in method for the pre-ferment and autolyze steps, except Gourmet skips the resting period of the autolyze. See below for “Gourmet method.”
  • A suggestion from The Fresh Loaf (4): adding steam to the oven helps the dough to rise at the beginning, by keeping the surface damp so that it can stretch; and helps develop that wonderful crust.
  1. Pre-ferment (sponge): Add yeast to warm water in glass measuring cup or jar; stir to combine, then let stand 5 minutes until creamy, to proof.
  2. Transfer to mixing bowl and add room-temperature water and flour. Stir for 4 minutes, but don’t overmix to avoid developing the gluten too early (about 100 strokes).
  3. Cover and let rest on counter (a cool room temperature) 12 – 24 hours.
  4. Next Day, Autolyze: Pre-ferment should be active, spongy and bubbly.
  5. Add water to pre-ferment, then add all the whole grain flour, ¾ cup of the white flour, and olive oil to the ferment. Mix with wooden spoon. Adjust with more water, or white flour as needed, ½ – 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should be soft.
  6. Cover and let stand 45 – 60 minutes. (Gourmet skips this autolyze step)
  7. Dough (KAF method; see below for Gourmet method) : Stir yeast into warm water or milk in 1-cup measure or half-pint jar, and proof for about 5 minutes, until creamy.
  8. Sprinkle salt and proofed yeast over dough.
  9. Fill a medium bowl with cold, filtered water (for moistening your fingers)
  10. Dip hands in cold water, then shake off excess (to avoid over-hydrating dough). Immerse fingers into dough, turning hand one direction while turning bowl in opposite direction. Repeat this mixing method, re-wetting fingers when dough starts to stick, for about 10 minutes, adding more water or flour as necessary. OR mix with stand mixer/dough hook on slow speed. You can stop when dough pulls away from sides of bowl. It should be fairly sticky and active.
  11. Transfer dough to greased bowl, cover and let rest for several hours. Except every hour or so, remove dough to a well-floured board, and generously flour the dough. then give it a good stretch and fold (see Stretch-and-Fold Lesson (3)), brushing off as much flour as you can before folding. This means, “gently pat out the gas, stretch the dough to twice its length and then fold it in thirds like a letter. Give the dough a one-quarter turn, and then stretch-and-fold once more.” Then return to bowl (re-oiling if needed) until the next stretch and fold.
  12. After about 3 hours (and 2 – 3 stretch-and-fold sessions), remove dough from bowl. It will still be soft and fairly sticky.
  13. Divide dough into two (only if making 2-loaf recipe, or if you want to make 2 smaller loaves). Or you can divide into 3 or 4 to make even smaller loaves. Using stretch and fold method, to make a single loaf, form each into a long loaf, about 12″ X 4″. Place each on a sheet of 14″ X 6″ baking parchment on top of a baking sheet. If desired, dip fingers in flour and dimple the loaves. Cover with dampened cotton cloth. Alternately, place in linen couche or banneton, and cover with dampened cloth. Let rise 1 ½ to 2 hours, until almost doubled. May need more rise time if kitchen is cool.
  14. Preheat oven (with stone) to as hot as your oven will go, 500° – 550°F for at least an hour, to ensure the stone is really hot. Fill a cast iron skillet with about 1 cup boiling water and place skillet on floor of oven (below the baking stone). Careful: avoid vapor burns! Then reduce oven to 425° F before adding loaves.
  15. Bake: Transfer one loaf with its parchment to baking sheet; if you used a banneton, turn it over (with its parchment) onto baking sheet, remove banneton, transfer loaf on its parchment to heated baking stone.
  16. If you made two larger loaves, repeat transfer method for second loaf and bake them together. If you shaped small, 4″ – 6″ square loaves, repeat transfer method for each, but no more than 3 of them in oven at the same time. Bake about 20 – 25 minutes (less for smaller loaves), until pale-golden, then remove to rack.
  17. If baking more than one loaf separately, let the stone heat a few minutes between loaves.

Gourmet method for dough:

  1. Pre-ferment: Follow instructions, above, for Pre-ferment.
  2. Instead of autolyze, proof yeast in warm water/milk, then pour over pre-ferment along with water from autolyze step. Add flour and olive oil from autolyze step.
  3. Using stand mixer with dough hook, beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Sprinkle salt over dough and beat for 4 (or more) minutes. Adjust with more water or flour, ½ – 1 Tbsp at a time until desired texture is reached. Dough should be fairly sticky and full of bubbles.
  4. Rise: Transfer dough to greased bowl, cover and let rest until doubled, about 1 ½ hours (maybe less if using spelt because the gluten ripens faster). Dough will be VERY sticky and bubbly. [Apparently this hard beating and shorter rise is the equivalent of all that stretching and folding over several hours of the KA method].
  5. Divide dough into two (full recipe only). Using stretch and fold method, form each into a long loaf, about 12″ x 4″. Place each on a sheet of 14″ X 6″ baking parchment on top of a baking sheet, or place directly in a linen couche or banneton (see Bread Equipment (bowls, pans, bannetons, etc.)). Cover with dampened cotton cloth and let rise 1 ½ to 2 hours until almost doubled. You may need more rise time if kitchen is cool. 
  6. Preheat oven: About 45 minutes before finished rising, place baking stone on lowest rack of oven and preheat at 425° F. You may wish to add steam to the oven (see KAF method above); Careful: avoid vapor burns! 
  7. Bake: Transfer one loaf with its parchment from baking sheet to heated stone (you may need the help of a pancake turner as well). if you used a banneton, turn it over (with its parchment) onto baking sheet, remove banneton, transfer loaf on its parchment to heated baking stone. IF making two loaves, repeat with second loaf, placing it beside first loaf, with room to spread a bit.
  8. Bake about 20 – 25 minutes, until pale-golden, then remove to cooling rack. Repeat with second loaf if not baking both at same time (might want to allow the stone to heat a few minutes in between loaves).

Cat’s Testing (1 loaf, KAF Method)


  1.  Ferment: I decided to try the mixed grains from the get-go, using ¼ cup each spelt and barley for the preferment. Took a bit more than 3 Tbsp room-temp water (plus the 1 Tbsp to proof the yeast), to make it stir-able. I covered with a towel, but it started to dry out on the surface of the dough, so I put the bowl in a plastic bag after 5 hours on the counter. It hadn’t risen much.  I should have used a moist towel weighted with a plate.
  2. Next day, Autolyze: Still hadn’t risen much by morning. I think my yeast is old, so I opened a new container of yeast for the next addition, and also added a pinch of sugar to the milk/yeast proofing mix. [In retrospect, I don’t’ think it’s supposed to rise during pre-ferment, just be quite active and bubbly.] Mixed in ¼ cup oat and ⅜ cup whole spelt, and 1 cup white spelt with the milk/yeast mixture, 1 Tbsp oil, and additional water. Was a bit soft so added 1 Tbsp white spelt; much better. Covered bowl with plastic bag to rest about 1 hour for the autolzye. OOPS, not supposed to add yeast until after the autolyze.
  3. I used the KAF method (mixing plus stretch-&-fold by hand). The first stretch-&-fold had me laughing heartily. My dough is so soft and floppy when I picked it up to put it back into the bowl, it stretched out to almost 3 feet long! so I had to fold it again, first in thirds and then in half to keep it small enough to rest in my hand so I could transfer it.
  4. Did 2 more stretch/fold over total 3 hours, working in a dusting of flour each time. Then formed into loaf via stretch-fold and placed on parchment on baking sheet. Covered with damp cloth and let rest 1 ½ hours; it rose some. Meanwhile preheated oven and stone at 550°F.
  5. Bake: Created steam per suggestion (using old cake pan to hold boiling water; and wearing oven mitt on my hand/arm), transferred loaf on its parchment to stone – easier than I thought, by sliding off the baking sheet with help of the pancake turner. Turned heat down to 425°F and baked 23 minutes. Nice light golden color; it did raise in the oven a bit, but is still more wide than high; has rounded top. Cooled on rack.
  6. Next day (7/14): taste test. First off, it is bubbly and light, just like it’s supposed to be, but the crust could be crunchier. The taste is good, tho it’s missing something and has perhaps a tad too much salt. I had my fav sandwich with this bread today, and it was very good. Used ¼ of a loaf for the sandwich – too much bread, In future, I think I’ll make 3 or 4 free-form mini loaves (squares) from a half-recipe, then use ½ of each mini loaf for a sandwich.

What’s next?

Make test recipe using wheat, and remember not to add second bit of yeast until AFTER the autolyze. Form into 4 or 5 mini-leaves to bake free-form.

Then do a test recipe using spelt; it will require less water (or more flour) than wheat version.

I’d also like to test using sourdough starter instead of active dry yeast. See my recipe: Ciabatta Integrale, with Sourdough Pre-Ferment.


  1. Wikipedia, on ciabatta (
  2. The Fresh Loaf blog recipe from King Arthur Flour (
  3. The Fresh Loaf: Stretch-and-Fold Lesson (
  4. The Fresh Loaf: Steam the Oven (
  5. Recipezaar recipe from Gourmet magazine (
  6. Trinigourmet blog (
  7. What’s Cooking America’s Conversion Charts for Liquid & Dry Measures (
  8.  Grains of Truth by Stephan Yafa cites the following two references (9 and 10, below)
  9. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, volume 70, number 2 (Feb 2004), pages 1088-1096, by DiCagno, Raffaella, et. al.; title: Sourdough Bread Made from Wheat and Nontoxic Flours and Started with Selected Lactobacilli Is Tolerated in Celiac Sprue Patients ( and
  10. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, volume 73, number 14 (July 2007), pages 4499-4507, by Rizzello C.G., et al.; title: Highly Efficient Gluten Degradation by Lactobacilli and Fungal Proteases during Food Processing: New Perspectives for Celiac Disease ( Cat’s note: the “Food Processing” referenced in the title is sourdough rise.


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