Ciabatta: Toff West & Mat Goodrich

Home Grain Bakery’s owner Toff West and head baker Mat Goodrich get back-to-basics with the crowd-pleasing ciabatta with poolish.

Home Grain Bakery, nestled in the small bayside fishing village of Aldinga, South Australia, has only been open for a year. Nonetheless, its ciabata with poolish has become a community favourite.

“We make our ciabatta with poolish every day of the week. It’s a simple process if you are well organised and only needs minimal preparation time dispersed with large periods of rest time,” Toff says.

“We make our poolish at the end of a production shift around 10am, which gives us at least 14-hours of pre-fermentation before the doughs get mixed the following morning around 2am. This ensures fresh bread is on the shelf when the customers arrive at 6:30am.”

Home Grain Bakery’s philosophy is simple; combine the best baking methods with the best local ingredients and lots of love.

“Bread is a basic combination of very few ingredients, so it’s imperative to get it right and to develop your own unique style.


What is Poolish? Poolish is a pre-fermented ‘batter’ made of equal parts flour and water plus a tiny amount of yeast, which is prepared well in advance of the final dough. We use Laucke flour in everything we do, and it works well in this recipe.

In the poolish, enzyme reactions occur and proteins in the flour begin to break down. There are many benefits to this process; including enhanced bread flavour, increased dough strength and improved keeping quality of the loaf.



100 per cent flour
100 per cent water
0.2 per cent yeast


100 per cent flour
63 per cent water
3 per cent salt
1.5 per cent yeast
86 per cent poolish

Step 1 – Mix the poolish (12-16 hours before mixing the dough)

To ensure even distribution, first disperse the yeast in the water and then add the flour, mixing by hand until smooth. Be sure to use a big enough bucket or tub, as the mixture will more than double in size overnight. The ideal room temperature would be 21 degrees celcius, but our bakery is definitely not temperature controlled and we don’t have any trouble.

Step 2 – Mix the dough

In order, add poolish, water, yeast, flour and salt to the mixing bowl. Mix for 2 minutes on first speed until all the ingredients are combined. It will look like a big mess in the bowl – don’t worry this is what you want. Mix on second speed and stop as soon as you have gluten structure. This takes between 5 – 6 minutes in our mixer, it is loose and sticky but has definite dough strength. You will notice the dough holds up like a ball on the hook while mixing but it will drop back down into the bowl when the mixer stops.

Step 3 – Bulk fermentation (3 hours)

Spray oil a rectangular shaped tub suitable to the size of your dough (the tub affects the end size and shape of your bread). We use a number 10 food grade tub for our 3kg dough as its height ensures the dough won’t reach the lid when it almost triples in size during fermentation.

Step 4 – Fold

During bulk fermentation the dough needs to be folded twice after 1 hour, and then twice again after 2 hours. This will add strength to the dough and make it easier to handle and divide.

Step 5 – Prepare the bench

Heavily coat your bench with flour, a dusting over the dough in the tub doesn’t go astray either as it will still be reasonably wet and sticky. Invert the dough onto the floured bench and if needed lightly stretch it into shape. You don’t want to play with it too much as you risk losing the gases that have developed during fermentation. Dust with flour as needed to aid in cutting and handling the wet dough.

Step 6 – Divide the dough

Using a scraper, cut the dough into the desired sized rectangle rolls or loaves. Invert on to a tray with silicone paper, so the heavily floured bench side is now facing up. If you wish to scale to a specific weight it is possible to add to an underweight dough by placing a small amount of scrap on the top before it gets inverted onto the tray. Again, if needed you can lightly stretch the dough to make sure you get your desired shape, but don’t overdo it!

Step 7 – Rest / final prove

Ciabatta is Italian for ‘slipper’ which is appropriate as this bread is traditionally flat and shapeless like its namesake – a final prove of 1 to 1.5 hours will yield such a loaf. At Home Grain Bakery however we prefer a little more ‘lift’ in our ciabatta, and as such will give a short 10 – 15 min rest at most before baking.

Step 8 – Bake

Bake with normal steam at 230 degrees celsius for 30–40 minutes depending on the size of the loaf. Our 150g rolls take about 30 minutes while our 550g loaves take just over 40 minutes. Be sure to bake fully. Our rule of thumb is; when you think it’s done, give it another 5 minutes.

Step 9 – Enjoy!

Serve ‘caprese’ style with mozzarella, tomato and basil, with a light sprinkle of olive oil, salt and pepper and your senses will have you in the Mediterranean in no time!

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