To prepare ferment (minimum of 12 hours or overnight in advance): Place all the ingredients for the ferment onto a clean work surface. Mix to combine by hand for 5 minutes or until the dough comes together (alternatively combine using a mixer). Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap (cling film) and a tea towel on top. Leave to rest in a warm, draught-free place for 12 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to the maximum temperature.
This type of bread is ideal to work by hand to get as much air into the ciabatta as possible.
To work by hand: Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Crumble the yeast over the flour, then using your fingertips, rub together the flour and yeast. Transfer the ferment into the bowl. Add the water, olive oil and salt, using your hands to mix until well combined and comes away from the bowl. Transfer the ciabatta dough to a clean work surface and work the dough until smooth and elastic. It should come away cleanly from the work surface and takes approximately 10 minutes.
If using a mixer: Combine all ingredients for the dough into a mixer. Mix on the second speed until the dough is smooth and elastic (approximately 5 minutes).
Lightly oil the work surface. Transfer the dough from the bowl to the lightly oiled work surface. Fold each edge into the centre to form a ball. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the ciabatta dough and cover with a tea towel. Allow to rest for 1 ½ hours, or until the ciabatta dough has risen.
Generously flour a clean work surface. Turn the dough onto the work surface and press the dough lightly to create dimples. Divide the dough into 2 and flatten into a rectangle.
Fold one long side of the dough into the middle, then use the heel of your hand to press the dough down and create a seal. Then fold the other side over the middle, again using the heel of your hand to create a seal. Lastly fold the dough in half lengthways and pinch to seal the edges. Repeat this step with the remaining piece of ciabatta dough.
Place each piece of dough onto a well-floured tea towel, cover and allow to rest for a further 30-45 minutes.
Flour a shallow baking tray or stone. Pick up one of the pieces of ciabatta dough, turn it and stretch it lengthways, then place on the floured tray or stone. Place water into a spray bottle. Spray the inside of the oven a few times using the water bottle then quickly place the tray or stone with the ciabatta dough into the oven. Reduce the heat to 220°C conventional oven/ 200°C fan-forced (428° Fahrenheit/Gas 7) and bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Ciabatta bread can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days – buon appetito.
225g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting|5g yeast|170ml water|25ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling bread|7g salt