Ciabatta is one of the simplest and most nearly fool-proof breads. Baking bread is so simple, just mix flour, water, and yeast. But so much can go wrong, and there are so many variations on the theme…
So, because ciabatta is one of the simplest and most nearly fool-proof breads it is a great place to start.
Mix dry ingredients except salt. Make a well, pour in the water, and begin mixing. Before the dough has really come together sprinkle on the salt and mix for 3 minutes. The dough should be soft and almost runny compared to most bread doughs. (As this is a wet dough, so it will develop impressive gluten just with this mixing and standing.)
Allow to rest for 30 mins. Oil an roasting tray well (too much is better than too little), and tip the dough into the middle. Put in a warm place (e.g. airing cupboard) for 20 mins.
With oiled or floured hands (I use flour if the dough risks being too soft) fold one edge into the middle, and repeat for the opposite edge. Turn 90° and repeat. Leave to rise in the warm place. (Repeat twice more, i.e. folding and rising three times).
Tip out onto floured surface and cut into three oblongs. push each one down and spread, repeat the foilding and place on the baking tray. Leave to rise 30 mins or until doubled. Dust with flour.
Bake in a 210°C oven for 20 mins (turning half way through) put a pan of boiling water on the base of the oven to develop a nice crust.
NB I make bogus baguettes using this recipe (with a little higher flour/water ratio) and just cutting in half (instead of three) and folding the final time only the long sides.