Ciabatta bread, for all its ubiquity has retained its quality even though it is produced a massive scale. It is one of the great breads of the world. I should think every retailer and supermarket must have it at least in their bakery. In Italy, it is still the mainstay of the bakery and rivals only foccacia or focacette. It is an oval, slightly squat and fat loaf which looks like a squashed slipper to some hence its name. Olive oil is used in great quantities which gives the loaf a thin, friable crust. the crumb has holes, but lightness with a slightly chewy texture.
Ciabatta is a great accompaniment to tomato salads and soups because it mops the juices really well. The bread is made using the sponge dough method. The flour, yeast and water are fermented together for 24 hours before being incorporated into the dough. It is not easy to make at home but there are recipes using bread makers which work perfectly well. Obtaining the soft consistency is the tricky part to it. It has a minimum of 75 per cent water and oil which is highly unusual. No other bread contains this type of mix. A very long kneading process contributes to the unique flavour of the bread. It should be sweet and slightly sour with an open crumb texture but crisp crust.
A variety of flavouring are added such as olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese and walnuts.
Many loaves are parbaked meaning they must be finished off in the oven at home. The final baking lends flavour and texture. Serve it toasted as it makes a great platter for chicken liver parfait and some onion marmalade.