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Ciabatta Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)
Ciabatta Bread
Ciabatta means slipper in Italian and ciabatta bread is said to resemble slippers.  Oval or rectanglular in shape, with a slightly domed top, the combination of ciabatta's crisp, tender crust and airy interior makes a light but crunchy bread that is perfect for sandwiches or panini.  When making the ciabatta bread the dough will be very sticky but do not add more flour.  The starter or sponge must be prepared at least 12 hours before the actual mixing of the bread dough.  Also note that the bread is baked on a
pizza stone which adds to the crispness of the ciabatta's crust.

Starter Dough:
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons water (105 - 115 degrees F)
1/3 cup warm water (room temperature)
1 cup bread flour

Bread Dough:

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons milk (105 -115 degrees F)
2/3 cup warm water (room temperature)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt


To make the starter:
Stir together the 2 tablespoons of heated water and the yeast.
Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until it begins to bubble. Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Add warm water and flour.  Stir for 2 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
Let sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.

To make the bread:

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and milk. Let sit 5-10 minutes until it begins to bubble. Transfer mixture to an electric-mixer bowl with a dough hook.
Add starter dough, warm water, oil, flour, and salt. Blend at low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and beat for 6-7 minutes. Transfer dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature about
1-1/2 hours or until double in volume.

Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper, approximately 12 x 6-inches. Put the paper on a baking sheet and flour well. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and cut in half. Place one piece of dough on each piece of parchment paper. Form each piece into a rectangular loaf approximately 10 inches long. With well-floured fingers, make dimples in the top of the dough. Dust tops with a little flour.
Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let sit at room temperature 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until double in volume.

About 45 minutes before baking the bread, place a pizza stone on the lowest rack in your oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Allow the pizza stone to preheat for at least 45 minutes. Transfer one loaf with the parchment paper to the pizza stone in the oven.*  Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Remove to cooling rack and repeat with second loaf.

* If you have a large rectangle pizza stone that will accommodate both loaves   without crowding, you can bake both loaves at the same time.
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