There are longer routes to ciabatta. This is quite quick. I love this bread for its irregular shape, the flour that stays on the lovely crust and its spacious interior. It is great cut into panini and stuffed with various fillings, such as the Baked crumbed chicken.
For the starter, crumble the yeast into the water in a deep sturdy bowl. Add the flour and sugar and mix together with a wooden spoon to a nice sloppy dough (It will be too sticky to use your hands). Cover with plastic wrap, then a tea towel and leave in a warm draught-free spot for an hour or longer, until it has puffed and is bubbly.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix in initially with the wooden spoon. The dough will be very sticky, but resist the temptation to add more flour. When everything is combined use floured hands to pull and slap it around in the bowl until springy, 1-2 minutes. It will be too sticky to knead. Cover and leave again until full of air and puffy, a good 2 hours or more.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and scatter a good handful of flour over it. Scatter flour over a big wooden board and make a little pile to the side. Press your hands in this to cover them with flour, then divide the dough in half. Just use the flour that is on the board and what you bring over on your hands. Stretch and pat each half into a long flat loaf, about 30 cm (12 inches) long and 15 cm (6 inches) wide more or less, you want it to be lovely and irregular Carefully put the breads on the prepared tray, allowing for expansion, and scatter a little extra flour on top. Cover with a high cake net (or a similar structure that will allow for the bread’s expansion without touching it) and then a tea towel. Leave in a warm spot for 1-1½ hours, until nice and puffy.
© 2012 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.