made with biga

This ciabatta recipe is one Chris Holister teaches on the Shipton Mill bread courses. It uses a biga, which is a type of Italian of pre-ferment that can be left to ferment from anywhere between a few hours to up to three days. A biga is typically comprised of flour, water and commercial yeast. Using a biga adds extra flavour, and it has been designed to work well with high-hydration Italian breads such as ciabatta.

A note on temperature:

Ideally you want your final dough temperature to be 28°C as this will give you the best yeast activity. To achieve this, use the following sum: (final dough temperature x2) – flour temperature = water temperature.

E.g. (28×2) – 18 = 38. In this instance, you would use water heated to 38°C to achieve the best final dough temperature, if your flour measures 18°C.

Makes three ciabattas weighing 230g each (approximately)

Our Shipton Mill ciabatta flour has been designed for this loaf, or you can also use any strong white bread flour.


  • 267g biga (see below)
  • 305g water
  • 360g ciabatta flour (or strong white bread flour), plus extra for dusting
  • 20g semolina, plus extra for dusting
  • 2g dried yeast
  • 10g sea salt
  • 20g olive oil
  • 133g ciabatta flour (or strong white bread flour)
  • 133g water
  • 1g dried yeast



12 – 16 hours before you want to make your dough you need to mix your biga. Mix the water with the flour and yeast, and beat until any large lumps have gone and everything is well incorporated. Cover, and leave to rest at room temperature.


Weigh all the ingredients for the ciabatta apart from the olive oil into a mixing bowl, gently combine (including the biga) and bring together.

Turn the dough out onto the counter top (it will be very sticky) and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is silky. Place it back in the bowl, then add the olive oil and work it into the mixture.

Cover the dough and bulk prove it in a warm and draft free place for 45 minutes.

Bring the dough back to your counter, and leaving it in the bowl, fold the dough. To do this, imagine the ball of dough has four sides. One side at a time, take a handful of the dough and fold it down on to the opposite side, folding the right side to the left, left to right, top to bottom, and bottom to top. You should be left with a tighter ball in the middle of the bowl. You only want to make four folds, to avoid knocking the air out of the dough.

Repeat this process twice more, with a 45 minute prove in between each. Handle the dough gently each time.

Prepare a clean tea towel (ideally made of tough French linen, for a couche) on a baking tray and liberally dust it with semolina and flour.

Tip the dough onto a counter top dusted with flour and divide it into three equal sized lumps, with clean slices – don’t tear the dough. Lightly stretch each lump into a rough rectangle, and place them on the tea towel. Pinch the tea towel up in between the loaves to form a barrier with gullies on either side for the loaves (a couche). Prove the loaves in a warm, draft-free place for a further 30-45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 250°C. (There is no need to add steam to the oven for this recipe, this can sometimes collapse the loaf.) Gently lift the loaves onto a baking stone or baking tray dusted with semolina. If you are using a peel to move the loaves, dust it with semolina too, to make it easier to transfer them. If desired, dust the tops of the loaves lightly with flour. Bake for 15-20 minutes, and remove to a wire rack to cool. For a softer crust, cover the tops with a cloth to catch the steam as they cool.