What seems like ages ago now, I was in a bathing suit, sprawled out on the smooth, hot, rocks of a Sicilian beach. The only sound was the crowds joyfully splashing in the water and the occasional call of my name to throw out a snorkel or pair of goggles.
I happily soaked up the sun all day (even if my back was slowly rejecting laying out on a rock).
A few hours into the lounging, my dear friend Dolores arrived with a bag full of ciabatta sandwiches that she had snagged from the teeny bar that adorned the beach. They served only gin and tonics, beer, ice cream, chips, and sandwiches – but really, what more does a Sicilian-beach-goer need?
Dolores spread the sandwiches out on a large rock for our small group and we all began to heartily tear off pieces of this sandwich… then that sandwich… then the next.
The Italians sandwich game is on point – it is the highlight of what they do best. The simplest ingredients and combinations of flavors, carried to victory by the quality of each component.
We all happily devoured the savory combinations of cured meats, spicy onions, and rich olive oil on the homemade ciabatta as it mixed with the sea salt on our skin.
If you're looking for a soft sandwich bread reminiscent of Wonder Bread, this is certainly not it. Frankly, I can't stand the way that bread like that magically suctions to the roof of my mouth. Homemade ciabatta, on the the other hand, stands on its own. Done well, it's chewy, structured, but giving enough to be enjoyable. It is the perfect vehicle for all things, be it butter and jam or meat and cheese.
Also. It's easy. So there's that.
These rolls are an absolute staple in our kitchen – they require very minimal effort and are far superior to normal sandwich bread. Slice the roll open and fill it with cured meats, tuna, grilled vegetables, hummus, or cheese. If you’re new to homemade bread, this is the perfect place to start.
These rolls were originally shared as a recipe in The Elliott Homestead Cooking Community.
480 grams warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
600 grams high-quality all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
- Combine the water and yeast together in a large bowl. Stir to combine and let the yeast activate until it’s just slightly frothy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the flour and sea salt into the bowl and use a fork to combine very well. Take the time to mix it, ensuring that there are no dry flour pockets. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet tea towel and set it aside in a warm area in your kitchen to rise for 1 hour.
- After one hour, and using wet hands, pull an edge of the dough out and press it into the middle. This is called “folding”. Continue around the edge of the dough, stretching it out and then folding it back into the middle of the dough. After you’ve folded the dough, cover it again and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Repeat the stretching and folding twice more, letting it rest for 30 minutes after each folding.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. It will be very wet – that is okay. Just use floured hands to work with it. Pulling on the edges of the dough, roughly shape the dough into a rectangle.
- Without pressing on the dough (so as not to deflate the air bubbles trapped inside of the dough), gently roll it into a log shape. Cut the log into 12 equal pieces.
- Transfer the pieces of dough to 2 parchment lined baking trays – allowing for at least 3” around each piece. You should have 6 pieces of ciabatta per baking tray.
- Cover the ciabatta once more and allow it to rise for a final 45 minutes. While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Use a squirt bottle filled with water to generously spritz all of the ciabatta pieces with water. Add the trays into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the trays and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The ciabatta should be just slightly golden and fragrant – adjust baking time as needed based on your dough and your oven.
- Let the ciabatta cool for 30 minutes before enjoying – this will ensure it’s completely cooked all the way through.
As shown in the video:
To assemble the sandwiches as shown in the video, try these delicious flavor combinations…
- Butter, preserved lemon, good tuna, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, red onion.
- Prosciutto, cheese, arugula, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Roasted red peppers, fresh or oil-packed preserved tomatoes, mozzerella, arugula, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, red onion.