Ciabatta Rolls: more crust — more filling!

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There’s nothing like a good, hearty sandwich, is there?

Now, I’m not talking tea sandwiches. Those thin-sliced, crust-free triangles have their place; after all, you really can’t go wrong with egg salad on white bread.

But when you want a sandwich you can really dig into – a sandwich with body and bite, one that you struggle to get your mouth around, one that you need two hands to handle – delicate sliced bread just doesn’t cut it.

You need a roll; preferably a large one. A roll that’s big on crust, skimpy on crumb; one that can easily hold multiple layers of cheese, meat, and vegetables. AND won’t fall apart as the olive oil or mayo and mustard soak in.

Enter ciabatta rolls.

More golden crust than crumb? Check.

Sturdy enough to withstand (indeed, gladly embrace) provolone and Genoa salami and thick slices of tomato, lettuce and chopped onion and diced peppers? Check.

Its hole-y, chewy interior perfect for absorbing olive oil and vinegar dressing without turning to unpleasant mush?

Absolutely.

I recently made lunch for my in-laws, serving these rolls with a spread of cold cuts, cheese, and all the fixin’s. I have to admit to a certain hesitancy; this group is known for its allegiance to squishy white rolls – which ciabatta definitely aren’t.

In fact, if I don’t bring Golden Pull-Apart Butter Buns to every family gathering, I’m toast.

Surprisingly, these Ciabatta Rolls were embraced with equal fervor.

And what did they like best about the rolls?

Their chewy crust and open interior? Their flavor?

Nope. “I like how thin they are. You can really stuff a lot of filling inside without making them too hard to hold.”

Well, chalk up another attribute for what’s fast becoming my favorite sandwich roll!

Let’s start with an overnight starter.

Why the extra step? Because the longer you let yeast work, the better the flavor of your bread. Also, the organic acids yeast releases as it feeds help keep bread fresh longer.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast

Don’t stress about measuring exactly 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast; a pinch is fine.

Mix until well combined. Cover the starter and let it rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours. It will become bubbly.

Next day, add the following to the risen starter:

2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Baker’s Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
2/3 cup lukewarm water
3 tablespoons olive oil

Beat at medium speed, using the flat beater, for 7 minutes. The dough will be very smooth, soft, shiny, and elastic.

Alternatively, you can knead the dough ingredients in your bread machine using the dough cycle.

Lift out the dough and lightly grease the mixing bowl (or other rising container, if you need your bowl for something else); cover the bowl, and let the dough rise for 2 hours, gently deflating it midway through.

If you’re using a bread machine, allow it to rise for an additional hour after the dough cycle has ended.

Lightly grease your work surface, and two half-sheet baking pans (18″ x 13″) or similar large baking sheets. Grease your hands, as well.

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the lightly greased work surface. Divide it into 12 pieces, about 80g (2 1/4 ounces) each. Round each into a ball. Gently stretch the balls into flattened disks, about 3 1/2″ wide, and place them on the prepared baking sheets, six to a sheet.

Lightly cover the rolls with heavily oiled plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow them to rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until they’re showing some signs of puffiness. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Spritz the risen rolls with lukewarm water, and gently but firmly dimple each one with your fingers, making fairly deep pockets.

Immediately place the rolls into the oven. Bake them until they’re golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.

Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

See the distinctive, ciabatta-like “open” texture of these rolls?

Slice crosswise, and add your favorite fillings.

I like to drizzle the cut surface of the rolls with flavored olive oil, then pack with lettuce, diced tomatoes, roasted peppers, Italian cold cuts, and provolone cheese. You just can’t go wrong with this classic [sub] [hoagie] [grinder] [Italian] – pick your own regional terminology!

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Ciabatta Rolls.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. carolmccaslin

    P.J. I cannot wait to try this!. I have a question for you, I notice in a lot of the bread recipes you use All-Purpose instead of Bread Flour. Can you tell me why?

    Hi. Frank here. Bread flour is a stronger flour, it makes loaves firmer and chewier. It is great for chewy loaves, less so for tender rolls or sandwich loaves. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  2. lynrbailey

    Looks scrumtuous. But I see that when the rolls begin to rise, they are filled with several dents on the top, which seem to remain after it’s all over. Is this the nature of the dough, or is it fingers making dents?

    Those would be from fingers. This step is described about half way through the blog post. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  3. Barbara Ackerman

    These look delicious! But 12 rolls is more than I can use at one time. So I have a few questions. Do the baked rolls freeze well or will they dry out? Or can I cut the recipe in half?

    Also I’m a high altitude baker (5000 feet). What adjustments should I make?

    Thanks for your help.These rolls freeze great. For high altitude bread baking, decrease the amount of yeast by 25%. Your dough will rise a lot faster so make sure your bowl is large enough, and as always make any adjustment to the flour and water to get the right consistency. betsy@kaf

    Reply
  4. Rockycat

    The rolls look wonderful. Would it make a big difference if the dry milk were omitted to create a dairy-free roll? I don’t recall any ciabatta I’ve ever made having any dairy in it anyway. I’m guessing that the milk softens the bread to some extent?What about adding soy lecithin instead so you still get a similar result.

    Reply
  5. argentyne

    Could I substitute my sourdough starter for the overnight starter? And if so, do you have an idea for the measurements there? My starter is highly active and I routinely make sandwich loaves with it, but would really love to make ciabatta rolls.I would start with 1 cup to 11/2 cups sourdough starter. You may have to adjust the liquid or flour after all the flour has been added to get the right consistency.

    Reply
  6. tnc61white

    I love ciabatta bread and rolls, so am eager to try this one and make my own! I have a question that is relevant to this recipe, and also to bread-baking in general. My husband has recently gone on a very salt-restricted diet (doctor’s orders) and I’m wondering if I can cut the salt amount in half, both for this recipe, and for bread recipes in general? Any guidelines you can offer? Any help on this new challenge is greatly appreciated! Thank you.

    Yes, you can cut the salt in any bread recipe. The result will be a change in taste; and much faster rising, as salt regulates how fast yeast grows. When you cut the salt in half, you might try cutting the yeast in half, too – that should help slow things down. And why do you want rising to happen more slowly? Because that’s when flavor develops, so it’s important not just for the bread’s light texture, but for its flavor. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  7. tnc61white

    I love ciabatta bread and rolls, so I am eager to try your new recipe. However… my husband has recently been placed on a very sodium-restricted diet by his doctor, and I am wondering if I may cut the amount of salt used in this, and other bread recipes? If so, by how much? Is there a general guideline to use when reducing the salt? Any other suggestions? Thank you!

    Generally you can decrease the amount of salt in a recipe by half without noticing any changes. Any more than that, and you may notice that the flavor will change (salt is a flavor enhancer), along with the speed the rise (salt works to keep the yeast in check so that it doesn’t work too quickly). ~Mel @ KAF

    Reply
  8. Pristine

    Hello, I refer to the step “Spritz the risen rolls with lukewarm water, and gently but firmly dimple each one with your fingers, making fairly deep pockets.” May I know why do we need to make the “deep pockets”?

    By making deep pockets, you ensure that you’ll get the dimples in the final roll. If you made the indentations too light, they may lose their shape/appearance during proofing and not be visible after baking. ~Mel @ KAF

    Reply
    1. dryneth

      Okay, follow-up to the question about making deep enough pockets in the dough: Why do we WANT dimples in the finished roll? Does it somehow improve the taste or structure? It seems odd the recipe would call for dimpling just for the sake of making dimples, but I don’t see mention of any other reason.

    2. Amy Trage

      The dimpling of focaccia and ciabatta will give it a specific signature appearance, but the “docking” effect also gives it a more even oven spring as it bakes. ~Amy

  9. Brenda

    I would think if you maintained a sourdough starter and used that as a base for your breads it should take care of the downside of fast-rising bread because of reduced salt, wouldn’t it?

    Salt plays two roles in bread: to add flavor and to keep the yeast in check. If you’re using just the sourdough to leaven the dough instead of yeast, then yes, the dough would rise much slower (as is typical of sourdough-only leavened breads). However, with the addition of yeast in the this recipe for leavening, I’m not sure the substitution of sourdough starter would make much difference unless you were to completely leave the yeast out, which would be an experiment. ~Mel @ KAF

    Reply
  10. Anne

    Individual ciabatta rolls, what a good idea! Our “daily bread” is usually the crusty, chewy, hole-y, rustic kind, often a sourdough and almost always with some whole wheat flour. But for my next baking I am going to make a batch of these rolls instead. (Ciabatta sandwiches for breakfast? Why not!)

    I want to chime in on the reduced salt comments. When I was ‘with child’, many years ago, I had terrible water-retention problem. By doctor’s order I started using less salt. All these years since, for better I hope, I keep the habit of using less salt in all my cooking. I routinely cut the amount of salt in all the bread recipes, usually by at least half. (Some recipes use more salt than others, in proportion with other ingredients.) Our taste buds are so used to the less salty taste that we don’t feel deprived of good favors. One time, however, I completely forgot to put in any salt in a loaf of yeast bread. (Honestly I am not known to be that scatter-brained!) The bread came out fine texture-wise, probably because I always go for the ‘less yeast, longer rise’ way. But predictably the loaf didn’t have much taste and needed a lot of help from butter and jam.

    Reply
  11. aoifeofcheminnoir

    I’m going to pass this recipe on to my son. However none of us has a flat beater or a bread machine. What do you suggest for an alternate method?

    The only other method, would be to beat the dough with a flat wooden spoon. Having 2 bakers taking turns would be a good idea. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  12. missjones

    Okay, just got these out of the oven: results=quite yummy indeed. They have the same ability/quality that tortas do in making sandwiches–you can pile high with fillings and not worry about being unable to chew through the bread :-)
    The crumb turned out really rustic-y. I added a slosh of milk since I don’t have any dry milk on hand; otherwise, recipe is spot-on!

    Glad you enjoyed the rolls – they’re a hit at my house, too. :) PJH

    Reply
  13. theproperty

    You’ve done it again PJ. Great recipe, will use it again all summer. Made these yesterday using my active sourdough starter. They are strong but very tender. A couple of them disappeared under some butter long before the rest met their fate as hamburger buns. I agree that you could make them about half this size and have wonderful dinner rolls…or a sandwich made with one tender meatball and lots of sauce. Who needs those silly sliders? This is real food!

    Making these with sourdough is a great idea – thanks for the inspiration! PJH

    Reply
  14. marcin

    I just took these out of the oven, and they are wonderful! Thank you, again and as always,

    Good show, Marcin – glad they came out well for you! PJH

    Reply
  15. Alysha @Shesontherun.com

    These look amazing – I adore ciabatta. How would you adapt this using regular yeast?

    Alysha, regular yeast is so similar to instant yeast these days, you can go ahead and use it the same way. You might want to dissolve the active dry yeast in warm water fist, but other than that – use the same amount, you should be fine. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  16. wingboy

    Made a batch yesterday. The dough was wetter and stickier than I was expecting. I ended up making them like the ‘thin’ buns that are available commercially. Nice. They are sturdy enough to stand up to my lunch bag and yet they aren’t cardboard-like.

    I made the sponge with WWW, which may have thrown off the hydration a bit (although I would have expected a dryer dough due to the WWW). Even though this recipe requires some advance planning, I’m going to add it to my weekly baking.

    I’m betting the hydration issue might have had more to do with climate and weather – you might be more humid out there, this time of year, than we are here. Regardless, glad they worked out for you – enjoy your sandwiches! PJH

    Reply
  17. vermontgirl

    PJ, I’m not sure how to send you a message, so I apologize for posting this unrelated thing in the comments here, but I would absolutely freak out of you tried this bread recipe:

    http://perfectpandas.com/2008/01/08/panda-bread/

    It’s soooo cute- and could be an interesting challenge?

    Totally cute! Not my kind of challenge at all, though – I wouldn’t do this bread justice, as my heart wouldn’t be in it. But I’ll pass it along to MJ – she likes a good, fun culinary tour de force! Thanks for sharing – PJH

    Reply
  18. TrishaT

    Mmm, these look so good. I’ve been trying to create a sourdough using the instructions from “Local Bread” (a birthday gift from my 6 year-old, smart lad), perhaps I’ll use it here as the other commenters have done. There is a ciabatta roll recipe in the book but it seems to require very intense mixing.

    Reply
  19. TrishaT

    These rolls look delicious, and I am definitely going to try them. I am experimenting with making my own sourdough starter per the instructions from “Local Breads” (a birthday gift from my 6 year-old, smart lad) , and I might try using it here. I don’t think I’ll try the ciabatta rolls recipe from that book, since it seems to involve heavy-duty mixing. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Thanks for adding your comments to our blog – We did receive your 2 posts just 20 minutes apart, so we combined them (with your permission) to save the flavor of your original! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    Reply
  20. rew007

    Made these Sunday and they were a hit.
    I didn’t feel like getting the mixer out so I enlisted my home from college daughter to help with the stirring.
    We used them for hamburger rolls and sandwiches today.

    Glad to hear these were a success – ah, the energy of youth, eh? PJH

    Reply
  21. cholman

    My dough came out really wet and sticky- even after adding more flour it just wouldn’t hold any shape and kept spreading on the counter. The weather was hot and humid outside.
    What should i have done before dividing the dough? Continue to add more flour?

    Ciabatta is a very slack (wet) dough. Yes, it will “spread” as it rests on the counter awaiting division. A little more flour may be needed in a particularly humid environment, 2-3 tablespoons but no more. Give that a try next time. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  22. audreybrook

    These are fantastic! I think ‘very slack (wet) dough’ might be the understatement of the century, but I haven’t had good luck getting holes in my ciabatta and these were perfect!

    Reply
  23. "Sue H."

    Hello from Hertfordshire,
    these rolls look absolutely delicious and I’m off to prepare the starter to make a large batch for our street party tomorrow in aid of the Queens diamond jubilee. We in the UK are enjoying 4 days of celebrating the Queens reign 60 years ago.

    Question please: Can I buy KAF in the UK. And is “all purpose flour” the same as “plain flour” in the UK?

    Thanks

    Kind regards
    Sue

    Sue, unfortunately King Arthur Flour is available on store shelves only here in the States. You can order it from us here at our online store, but that’s a little late for tomorrow’s rolls… Yes, our AP and your plain flour are basically the same, though I believe plain flour is lower in protein; thus any recipes would need their liquid adjusted downward slightly to switch to plain flour. Good luck with the rolls – and the diamond jubilee celebration! PJH

    Reply
  24. Katie

    Can you let the starter sit for more than 15 hours? If so do you need to refrigerate it after 15 hours? Can’t wait to try these!!

    Yes, Katie, you can let it sit longer than 15 hours. I’d refrigerate it once you get to 18 hours or so… Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  25. Naldridge

    Began making this yesterday with the starter but didn’t have time to finish before heading to work this morning, so I put the starter in the fridge, as you suggested. When I go to finish the recipe, do I need to let the starter sit at room temperature before adding the other ingredients?

    Also, how much of the AP flour could I replace with whole wheat or whole wheat white? To do this, do I need to change any other ingredients (more water, etc)? And, finally, is a “flat beater” the same as the paddle attachment on a stand mixer?

    Thank you!

    You may allow the biga to warm up to room temp, or you may use warmer water in the final dough. Either way, the dough will likely move along a bit slower than written. Generally you may replace up to 50% of a white flour with whole wheat. In a high moisture dough like this, I suggest no more than a 25% replacement. More than this, the bran will take up too much liquid and the ciabatta will turn our “bready”. Yes, flat beater and paddle are the same. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  26. clagne

    Making these now.. they’re on their second rise and everything’s going wonderfully! I do have a question.. Since there are only two of us, I froze half of the dough after the first rise, and used the other half to make 6 rolls. Do you anticipate the frozen dough will thaw well?

    Thaw the dough overnight in the fridge. It will hold in the freezer for 3 weeks. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  27. clagne

    Thanks for the prompt reply!

    I took my batch out of the oven, and am SO impressed with the flavor of these rolls! I do have a few troubleshooting-type questions that I’m chalking up to user error:

    1. After I removed from the oven, the rolls were wonderfully crisp on the outside. I cooled them on a wire rack with plenty of space between, but within an hour, though, that crisp shell had softened. Is there anything I can do to preserve that crisp texture?

    2. My rolls don’t have the classic “holey” ciabatta crumb; I ended up with a smoother, more uniform texture. Still okay, but is there any way to know if I did anything to cause this? I don’t think I overhandled the dough after the first rise, which I would assume would collapse those air bubbles…?

    Thanks again!

    1) The staling of the crust is a natural action. You may refresh the rolls in a hot oven before service for a crispy crust.
    2) A “firm” crumb may be indicative of too dry a dough, or over handling during shaping.

    I suggest a bit gentler handling with the next batch to see that improves the crumb. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  28. santa55

    In many low fat and fat free foods the fat is replaced with sugar, flour, or other full food energy ingredients, and the reduction in food energy value is small, if any. Furthermore, an excess of digestible sugar is stored as fat. Thanks.
    Regards,
    creativebioscience.com

    Reply
  29. Steve

    I made the Ciabatta for New Years dinner. I did the rustic cut and baked them on my pizza stone. Delish,nice crunch. Its worth the wait!!

    Reply
  30. tasha12123

    What would happen if I slashed the dough with a lame, baked on a pizza stone, and steamed the oven at the beginning of baking? In other words, can I use some of the same techniques that I use when making baguettes?

    Thanks.

    Absolutely, Tasha – should work just fine. Go for it! PJH

    Reply
  31. Jeff King

    I notice that the starter measurements are given in both weight and volume, but the rest of the recipe is only in volume. Can you provide the weight of flour used in the dough preparation step?
    Thanks.

    Just click on the recipe link and it will give you the option of volume, ounces or grams for weight measurements!-Jon

    Reply
  32. jeannine maloney

    If you don’t have a mixer with a paddle or a bread machine can you do the step where you mix the dough by hand or with regular mixer beaters? Thanks!

    Jeannine, try your regular mixer beaters. You might want to make half the recipe, as this will be a challenge for a hand mixer. It’ll also be a challenge for you, as the dough is extremely sticky (which is why you really don’t want to attempt to mix it by hand, either). Good luck! PJH

    Reply
  33. Mel

    I made these ciabatta rolls today – the only difference is that I added 3 1/2 cups of A/P flour and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour plus 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds to the risen starter – they were amazing ! Thank you ! Mel

    Reply
  34. Alisha

    These look awesome. I’m going to make some for grilled cheeseburgers tonight! Can I sub out a small part of the water for lowfat milk, because I don’t carry dry milk powder in the house.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes, you may Alisha. Replace 1/2 cup of the water with the lowfat milk. Enjoy those cheeseburgers! Elisabeth@KAF

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