Yields 2 family-size loaves

4 cups bread flour
Basic Sponge (starter) (recipe below)
1¼ cups warm (non-chlorinated) water (100-110 degrees)
2 teaspoons nonfat dry milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 package dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 tablespoons bread flour

1. Lightly spoon 4 cups flour into dry measuring cups, and level with knife
2. Combine with Basic Sponge, warm water, nonfat dry milk, salt and yeast in a food processor or mixer bowl
3. Process until the dough forms a ball, and then process an additional minute
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (dough will be sticky and soft)
5. Divide dough in half and work with one portion of dough (cover the remaining portion to keep from drying out)
6. Roll each portion in turn into a 12×6-inch rectanglepix-2008-ciabatta-3
7. Place dough on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal 
8. Taper the ends to resemble a “slipper” shape and sprinkle the loaves with a tablespoon of flour on each
9. Cover and let rise until double in size (about 30 minutes)(Press two fingers into dough, if indention remains, the dough has risen enough)
10. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
11. Uncover the dough, place in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown (loaves should sound hollow when tapped on top) 
12. Remove the Ciabatta from the pan and cool on rack

Take ten minutes today to make the starter, also called sponge or Biga, and tomorrow you can bake two loaves of this marvelous, slightly sour, rustic Italian bread that has a hearty crust.

To Make A Bread Sponge:

1/8 tsp active dry
2 Tbsp warm water (NOT hot!)
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup bread flour

1. In a small bowl stir together the yeast and w Tbsp warm water and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy.
2. In a bowl stir together 1/3 cup warm water and 1cup of the bread flour.
3. Add the yeast mixture
4. Stir 4 minutes, then cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.

Larry makes pear saladsThis bread freezes well, so you can eat one and keep the other for later.  This is one of our favorite dipping breads, and we developed a seasoned olive oil that enhances this flavor.  We place herb-flavored virgin olive oil in a plate, drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with roasted garlic; (maybe even a sprinkle of grated parmesan).  Delicious!!

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