Instructions

  1. To make the biga: Mix all of the biga ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until well-blended. Cover the bowl, and leave it at cool room temperature (68°F-70°F) for 12 to 20 hours, until the biga is very bubbly.
  2. To make the dough: Mix the biga and the remaining dough ingredients, except the cheese, using an electric mixer set on slow speed, for 2 to 4 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for about 4 minutes; the dough should be soft and slightly sticky. Add additional water or flour if necessary. Mix in the cheese; don't worry if some pieces pop out.
  3. To make dough in a bread machine: Add all of the ingredients and mix this dough on the dough cycle; add the diced cheese several minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle.
  4. Allow the dough to rise, in a greased, covered bowl, for 1 to 2 hours, until it's very puffy.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and shape it into two long loaves, about 12" x 4" inches each. Place the loaves, floured side up, onto parchment paper (if you plan to bake on an oven stone) or baking sheets. Cover the loaves with a proof cover or well-greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rise for 45 minutes, or until they're very puffy. Sprinkle them with additional grated cheese.
  6. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 450°F.
  7. Bake the ciabatta for 22 to 26 minutes, until it's golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.
  8. Wrap well, and store for 2 days on the counter. Freeze for up to 3 months.