Ciabatta is a flat, rustic Italian bread that is substantially wider and flatter than a regular loaf. Its Italian translation is “slipper,” which is indicative of its baked shape. It is made in almost every region of Italy, with each region having its own style.
Depending upon the locale, the texture can range from a firm, slightly tough crust and a soft, chewy interior to a very crisp crust with a light, holey interior. Ciabatta dough can be seasoned with salt, olives, herbs, or extra-virgin olive oil, each of which will change its texture somewhat. If made with whole-wheat flour, it is known as ciabatta integrale; with milk, ciabatta al latte. In the United States, ciabatta is most often made with a sourdough starter and a very wet dough that produces a sour-tasting loaf with a very open crumb. No matter the style, ciabatta makes an excellent sandwich loaf and is often used to make panino, the classic grilled Italian sandwich.