The start of the school year is here, and now that we’ve sorted out stationery and travel routes, it’s time to concentrate on the most important part of our kids’ studies. No, it’s definitely not learning, of course — it’s their packed lunch.
While some moms have time to prepare impressively intricate lunchboxes for their children, most of us settle for a sandwich. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be scrumptious! Making your own bread is a great way of boosting the quality and flavor of your sandwich, and although doing so can seem daunting, it’s actually far easier than it looks.
In order to truly maximize the potential of your lunches, we recommend harnessing the power of one of the most delicious nations in the world — Italy. “While different types exist in various regions of the country, ciabatta has become almost synonymous with sandwich bread across Italy,” explain Italian food connoisseurs at Pasta Evangelists. It’s well-seasoned, soft, fluffy, and filling, making it the perfect bread for a lunch break. So, without further ado, here are three ciabatta recipes that will make your kid’s lunchbox into the talk of the town.
1. Tomato Ciabatta with Olives and Onions
There’s nothing more Italian than tomatoes, and olives only add to the Mediterranean essence that we look for in a ciabatta. This recipe provides a luscious, tangy addition to any sandwich — we recommend a mozzarella-based filling.
- 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered
- ½ cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- Three ¼ oz packages active dried yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1¾ cups warm water
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour (and some extra for shaping)
- ¾ cup fine semolina
- Salt and pepper
- In a large skillet, heat three tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onions over medium-high heat until lightly caramelized — this should take around eight minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and red pepper and cook for a further two minutes, then stir in the olives and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool.
- In a bowl, whisk together the yeast, sugar and water. Let it stand for around 10 minutes until foamy.
- Whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of oil and a teaspoon of salt, then stir in the flour and semolina until a wet dough is formed.
- Stir in the cooled olive mixture, cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel, and let it stand in a warm place until doubled in size — this should take about 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F/220°C. Flour your work surface and scrape the dough onto it. Shape it into two rough loaves and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 25 minutes — the loaves should be slightly browned and risen.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and let the bread cool completely.
2. Cinnamon Raisin Ciabatta
While this one may not be classically Italian, the cinnamon raisin ciabatta is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. Spicy and yummy, try topping it with cream cheese, apple and honey — like you would a bagel — for extra points. Another favorite is a simple schmear which will complement the flavors of this ciabatta.
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp instant yeast
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together until well combined.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least eight hours.
- Using a spatula, fold the dough in on itself and let sit for a further 30 minutes.
- Flour your work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Form a loaf shape, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for two hours.
- Place a cast iron pot inside your oven and start heating to 450°F/220°C. When fully heated, remove the lid, sprinkle the pot with cornmeal, and place the risen loaf inside.
- Replace the lid and bake for 25 minutes, before removing the lid and baking for a further 10 minutes.
- Place the loaf on a cooling rack and let it fully cool.
3. Garlic Ciabatta
The only thing that’s better than bread is… garlic bread. If you’re short on time and don’t have the energy to bake from scratch, try spicing up a store-bought ciabatta with this garlicky addition that will make any filling pop — a garlic bread grilled cheese is a twist that any child will like.
- 1 loaf ciabatta
- 1 stick (115g) butter, room temperature
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
- Mix all the ingredients (bar the ciabatta) together, mashing with a fork until combined.
- Cut the ciabatta in slices without cutting all the way through to the bottom. Then make a horizontal slash the length of the loaf, also without cutting through the bottom.
- With a butter knife, stuff the bread generously with the butter mixture.
- Wrap in foil and bake for five minutes, before unwrapping and baking for a further five minutes.