Making this bread is quite a workout. It is a wet dough, which makes for delicious bread, but also labour-intensive kneading because it is so sticky. You could also use a standing mixer, which would spare you the workout, but is is also much less fun. Also, when doing it by hand you are more in connection with the dough, so you know much better how the dough should look and feel to make a great bread.
I definitely think it is worth it to take the effort to go and make this bread. Your house will smell incredible, first deliciously yeasty when the bread is rising, and then you have the incredible smell of freshly baked bread when baking it. The bread itself is deliciously crusty and has a good bite to it. The inside has large and irregular air holes, just like ciabatta or focaccia has.
Make sure you check out the link to the original recipe, because there are recipes for chickpea and olive oil purée, pesto and black olive tuna tapenade over there. I did not make them, so I did not include the recipes over here, but they seemed pretty delicious. When you want to serve the bread with these dips, it is best to shape it into a fougasse, like they did in the original recipe. Fougasse has more surface area, so it has more crust, which is perfect for dipping.
Ciabatta (1 loaf)
Adapted from Saturday Kitchen Best Bites
1 sachet dry yeast
250 g strong bread flour + extra for flouring
1 tsp salt
175 ml water
Mix yeast, flour and salt. Add the water and use a dough scraper to incorporate everything to a wet dough, this takes about 2-3 minutes. Then dump it out on your workbench (no flour or oil!) and knead it by pulling it up from the workbench (this will stretch the dough, since it will stick to the bench) and then folding it over itself. Repeat this for about 6-8 minutes, or until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Grease a large bowl with some oil. Place the dough in it and cover with cling film. Set aside for at leas 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size (this can take quite a bit longer, I made this on a chilly day, so it took the dough almost 2 hours to rise properly, so be patient!).
Place a pizza stone in the middle of the oven and preheat to as hot as possible (use an upturned baking tray if you don’t have a pizza stone).
Sprinkle some flour on a peel (or a flat edged baking tray). Slide the dough from the bowl carefully on top, trying to deflate it as little as possible. Sprinkle some flour on top as well. Slide from the peel onto the preheated baking stone, spray some water into the oven and reduce the heat to 230C. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool on a rack and serve warm or on room temperature the same day you baked the bread.
Fougasse shaping instructions:
You can also use this dough to make a fougasse. For this, do the following when the dough lays on the peel. You should start with a square-ish shape, gently tug it into a square shape if it is not. Cut a large diagonal cut across the centre of the dough, making sure that you don’t go right to the edges of the dough, but do cut all the way through the dough to the work surface. Make three smaller diagonal cuts fanning out on each side of the central one. Put your fingers into the slits and gently open them out to form large holes. Proceed in the same way as with the ciabbatta by sliding the bread onto the preheated pizza stone in the oven, but bake it for 10-12 minutes instead.