Ciabatta, Filone, Focaccia, Muffuletta, Vastedda, Ah Pane! & a Quick Ciabatta Recipe

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Brick Oven

Ciabatta, Filone, Focaccia, Muffuletta, Vastedda, Ah pane…“A bread by any other name would smell as sweet.  I can sense Sir William Shakespeare rolling over in his grave as I write this…  Today, I want to briefly delve into a little history of another Italian staple; Bread or as we Italians affectionately call it “pane.”

Although pizza, spaghetti and other pastas are normally associated with our culture, bread or pane plays a very important role in the diets of most of us Italians as well. There is rarely a meal served in Italy, or at any Italian meal, where bread is not included. Italy and pane are synonymous.

While no one really knows when the first bread was baked it has been around for thousands of years, with proof of being produced using the stone tools and ovens of men long ago. In ancient Rome bakers were deemed very prestigious. Bakery was not only important, but also a ritual. Ovens were even built in temples. Romans were the first bakers to produce the flour to bake what is known today as “white bread”. Romans were also responsible for tweaking the wheat’s milling techniques. Around 100 BC, it is believed that Rome contained more than 200 commercial shops that baked and sold bread. They also established a school of baking around 100 AD.

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Ciabatta with Kalamata Olives

Quick Ciabatta (Plain or with Olives)

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2¼ tsp active dry yeast

2¼ cups lukewarm water

1 ½ -2 teaspoons salt

½ tsp sugar (helps quicken the rise)

1 cup chopped & pitted kalamata olives (if using)

Directions:

  1. Mix the sugar, water and yeast in a bowl or measuring cup. Set aside for ten minutes for the yeast to proof…bubble.
  2. Add flour and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Mix in yeast water mixture. Mix on low for 5 minutes.
  3. Let stand for about 15 minutes. Then turn mixer to a medium high setting.
  4. Switch the paddle to a dough hook and knead for another 7-8 minutes until dough starts pulling cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. It will be smooth, but still very sticky and loose. Add olives (if using) and mix for 1 minute more.
  5. Grease a bowl and place in the dough. Cover with a plastic wrap then a kitchen towel and place in a warm area.
  6. In about 1½ to 2 hours, the dough will double.
  7. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, dust generously with flour.
  8. Pour the dough into the center of the cookie sheet. Dust the top with flour.
  9. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into two pieces. Shape the dough, tucking the irregular pieces underneath, until you have two flat logs. Place about 6-7” apart. This is rustic bread, and the wet dough will form an irregular shape. This is known as Italian slipper bread for a reason. The baked bread will have hundreds of gorgeous air holes. YUM!
  10. Dust more flour over the logs, then cover them with a loose kitchen towel and place in a warm spot for about an hour or until the logs are risen and all puffy looking.
  11. About half an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 500*F with a pizza stone or baking stone in place. Place an empty pan in the bottom rack while preheating, and then add a cup of water just before you place the bread in the oven.
  12. Place the ciabatta loaves directly on the baking stone by sliding the parchment off your cookie sheet onto the stone.
  13. Bake for 25 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped.
  14. Cool thoroughly before slicing.

Roman Roots

The roots of bread in Italy go far back in time. The average Italian will consume half a pound of bread a day. All Italian bread is not the same, however. This is a common misconception – that Italian bread is only one type of bread (see above) If you travel to various cities in Italy, you’ll discover that each area has its own distinct recipe for making bread.

The vast popularity of brick ovens throughout the years have contributed a great deal to the abundance of bread in Italy. Round ovens built from brick or local stone have been around in Italy for a very long time. Unlike other nations, where individuals rarely owned full rights to use an oven, ovens in Italy were typically owned by families and were smaller in size.

So, you see my friends, bread to us Italians, is not merely another type of food; it is a way of life, a state of being and an important part of our heritage. To provide a universal idea of how we Italians view “pane” I would like to quote English Poet, Robert Browning “If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”

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Focaccia with Heirloom Tomatoes, Rosemary, Kalamata & Seeds

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43 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you so much, Jovina!

  1. Anna says:

    Beautiful post, dear Lana!! And such a beautiful and delicious pane!! 🙂

    1. Molto Grazia, mia bella Anna!

      1. Anna says:

        😀

  2. spearfruit says:

    Very interesting, I learned something new today. 🙂

    1. Oh you did spearfruit?? That makes me so happy!! Thank you!!

  3. Yummy ! Love yummy breads 🙂 and such interesting facts !

    1. Thanks, Lynne! Oh me too…mmmm 🙂 My last meal request would be oil-cured olives, aged cheeses, salami & a lovely crusty loaf 🙂 But I hope I never have to use it lol! Thanks, Hon

  4. cynthiamvoss says:

    I love the information you provided. How do you pronounce pane? Beautiful photos too!

    1. Thank you, Cynthia! In Italian bread is pronounced PAH/neh. I’m making a ciabatta with olives & sun dried tomatoes tomorrow…a household favorite 🙂

      1. cynthiamvoss says:

        It sounds wonderful! Maybe I’ll make some bread tomorrow. We’re supposed to get a little snow, and it will probably be our last.

      2. Thank you, Cynthia! Bread baking during a snowfall is always so enjoyable!

  5. Such a great post, Lana! I loved reading the history of pane. Your recipes look delicious… and the photos are gorgeous! I’m definitely going to try and make the ciabatta with olives.

    1. Thank you, Jean! All are really very easy & the ciabatta is perfectly chewy & crusty!

  6. everything looks so delicious

    1. Thank you so much, Trupti! Bread has the ability to weaken the soul lol!

      1. I totally know what you say 🙂 and fully agree !

  7. Hi Lana…what a wonderful recipe!

    1. Hello, Hi, e Ciao, Bella!! Thank you so much!!

  8. Osyth says:

    But are you psychic though? I have a friend coming to stay overnight tomorrow (our first proper guest since I moved here). He is French and will expect bread. My recipe books are all in France and although I make soda bread and flat breads here regularly I feel the need for …. one of your beauteous creations. I think the ciabatta will do the trick by heavens that forcaccia looks divine. Can one have a surfeit of bread? 😉

    1. We can run, but never hide lol! How did you know?? I may have missed my calling as the psychic baker?? haha! One can never have too much, bread…ever! This freezes well too, Osyth…Food for thought 🙂 I sense you will be baking soon lol! ♥

      1. Osyth says:

        I will be baking in the morning mystic Lana the clairvoyant chef! And eating before sun down or moon rise or any other appropriately metaphysical moments 🙂

      2. hahaha! I’ll be with you in Spirit, my dear friend 🙂 Please remember to sprinkle a few grains of sea salt in the North South East & West corners of your home for good measure 😉 What does it do? Makes one’s corners salty of course! And whisks in protection & good luck ♥

      3. Osyth says:

        I love this and will get to it come morn …. I’m terminally supersticious so it now HAS to be done 🙂

  9. wonderful yummm

    1. Thanks so much, Lynn ♥ Time for spring time baking in the desert! lol!

  10. Anita Kushwaha says:

    I loved learning about the history in addition to your lovely recipes. I’m a little intimidated by bread baking, but your loaves are making me feel courageous! 🙂

    1. Yay! Somehow a little history makes things taste better 🙂 You can do it, Anita! Don’t allow those little yeast bubbles to intimidate you! They can feel it! Rise above them! Pun intended lol!

      1. Anita Kushwaha says:

        Ha ha, I love your enthusiasm! I will channel it into my next loaf, for sure. For some reason I have trouble with proofing yeast. It could be that I got a bad batch once. But as you said, it’s time to rise above! Thanks so much, Lana! 🙂

      2. Oh yes it very well could have been bad yeast, Anita! I’ve been so much more successful with my bread ever since I started adding sugar or honey to the proofing water. Have a wonderful day, Anita!

      3. Anita Kushwaha says:

        Oh that’s a great tip, I’ll try that next time, thanks Lana! I hope you have a lovely spring day too! 🙂

  11. I love the smell of fresh-baked bread. I sure wish I had a better knack for baking it. Beautiful bread, Lana.

    1. Thanks so much, Kathryn! Practice makes perfect as we know! Along with fresh yeast and a sprinkle of sugar 😉

  12. Made in Rome says:

    Fantastic post. Really admire how you wove together history, recipe, and nice images here. Who would have thought that with grain agriculture started 10 millenia ago in the middle east thefirst whitw bread was made in Rome!

    1. Thank you so much! The history of Rome is (mostly) so rich and lovely 🙂

  13. I have always wanted to know how to make this! Looks great!

    1. Thank you!! Ciabatta is actually quite easy & OH so tasty!

      1. I have never tried to make it and it is my husband’s favorite.

  14. So perfect. This looks so delicious!

    1. Thank you so much! Bread is the breadth of life 🙂 In my opinion!

      1. I have to say you are completely correct 🙂

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