Some snacks are totally worthy of being made a meal all on their own. As far as I’m concerned, a great loaf of freshly baked bread with garlic herb oil and a bit of tomato sauce is a perfect example of this. Wine non-optional, obviously. (Side note: Have you made that tomato sauce yet? Because it’s amazing.)

Despite being a fairly experienced bread baker, ciabatta and I haven’t always gotten along. Some loaves have turned out okay, but I had one past recipe from a very trusted source setting off fire alarms and coming out of the oven with a striking resemblance to a block of coal. I really wanted to try my hand at a whole grain version but was understandably anxious. Thankfully these loaves could not have turned out better.  The dough for ciabatta is very sticky and wet so this is one of the few instances in bread baking where you really need a mixer to do the work that can’t be done by hand. If you have never tried ciabatta, this is a nice reliable recipe with fantastic results. It made for a lovely lunch number 2/downfall of dinner, and was also a perfect vehicle for sandwiches later in the week.

  • Yield 2 12-inch loaves


For the pre-ferment: 

  • 1 cup (4 oz.) whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup (4 oz.) cool water
  • Pinch of instant (rapid rise) yeast

For the dough: 

  • All of the pre-ferment
  • 1¼ cups (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
  • 2¼ cups (9½ oz.) unbleached bread flour
  • 1¼ cups (10 oz.) cool water
  • ¼ cup (1¾ oz.) olive oil
  • ¼ cup (1 oz.) nonfat dry milk
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast


  • 01

    To make the pre-ferment, combine the whole wheat flour, water and yeast in a small mixing bowl. Stir together until evenly mixed. Cover and let rest overnight at room temperature.

  • 02

    To make the dough, combine the pre-ferment, whole wheat flour, bread flour, water, olive oil, nonfat dry milk, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix just to combine, stop, and let rest for 45 minutes.

  • 03

    With the dough hook attached, knead with the mixer on low speed for 10 minutes.  Use a spatula or dough scraper to transfer the dough to a lightly greased large mixing bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 3 hours total, gently deflating it at each hour mark (a total of three times.)

  • 04

    Let the dough rest in the bowl 10 minutes while you line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. With well greased hands, break the dough into two even pieces. Leave one piece in the bowl. Gently stretch the other piece of dough into a log about 10 inches long and lay on one of the prepared baking sheets. Stretch and pat until it is about 12 by 3 to 4 inches. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

  • 05

    Cover both baking sheets with heavily greased plastic wrap laid loosely over the loaves. Allow to rise until very puffy, about 2 hours. Near the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 425˚ F. If using a baking stone (preferred), place it on the lowest oven rack.

  • 06

    Remove the plastic wrap. If baking on a stone, transfer the dough (parchment and all) to the heated stone. (Otherwise, place the baking pans on the lower and middle oven racks.) Bake, rotating the loaves halfway through the baking time, until they are nicely browned and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of each loaf registers 205˚ F or higher, about 20-25 minutes total. Turn off the oven, remove the loaves from the pans and place directly on the oven racks. Leave the oven door cracked 2 inches and allow to cool in the oven. (The bread is best served warm but can be refreshed by wrapping in foil and rewarming in the oven at 350˚ F for about 10 minutes.)