Ciabatta vs Focaccia: What’s the Difference?

Written By Lewis Crutch

Updated:

Although both ciabatta and focaccia hail from Italy, there are some significant differences between these two types of bread. So what makes ciabatta and focaccia so different from one another?

The main difference between ciabatta and focaccia is the texture. Focaccia is softer and lighter, but ciabatta has more of a crust on the outside with a chewier internal texture. Other differences include the flavour, ingredients and age.

What is Ciabatta?

Ciabatta is an Italian white bread loaf made from bread ingredients (flour, water and yeast). It is a reasonably new bread, invented in Veneto in the early 1980s.

It was invented to combat the rising favour of French baguettes. Italians are particularly proud of their cuisine, so they wanted to do what they could to stop French cuisine from encroaching.

When Was Ciabatta Invented?

Ciabatta was invented relatively recently, in 1982, by a baker named Arnaldo Cavallari in the Veneto region of Italy.

My Favourite Ciabatta Filling

My favourite ciabatta filling has to be a classic Italian combination: freshly sliced mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, and a handful of vibrant basil leaves. It’s simple, but the quality of the ingredients and the balance of flavours is sublime. It’s like having a Caprese salad but in sandwich form!

Ciabatta Sliced

What is Focaccia?

Focaccia is often regarded as similar to pizza as it is a flat-leavened baked bread. It can come in various forms and shapes, from round and topped with tomatoes to square and dotted with garlic and rosemary.

Like ciabatta, it contains the usual bread ingredients with the essential additional olive oil in the dough. This gives it the texture that people love so much. Focaccia is often adorned with toppings.

These can be kept simple, such as black olive, or more complex, such as marinated peppers and anchovies.

My Favourite Focaccia Filling

For focaccia, I love a rosemary and sea salt topping. Focaccia is such a lovely bread with a light, airy crumb and a slightly crisp crust, and this classic topping lets the bread shine.

Tomato Topped Focaccia

Differences Between Ciabatta and Focaccia

Although they are both breads from Italy, the list of differences is extensive. Here are the main differences between ciabatta and focaccia:

Texture

Although some of the texture is similar, there are still some significant differences.

Ciabatta usually has a crisp crust that forms around the outside with a chewy, open centre. Focaccia will have a golden top, a soft interior, and a slightly tighter crumb.

What Causes the Holes In Ciabatta?

The large holes in ciabatta bread are a result of the high hydration level of the dough and fermentation. The dough for ciabatta has a high water content, making it very loose and sticky. During fermentation, yeast produces carbon dioxide gas. The gas gets trapped in the dough, creating bubbles.

Flavourings

Ciabatta is kept plain when baked with no additional flavourings or toppings. Once cooked and cooled, it can then be filled.

Focaccia, however, is often adorned with additional ingredients from rosemary and basil to cherry tomatoes and sliced potatoes.

Ingredients

Although both are made with flour, yeast and water. Focaccia usually has some form of fat or lard added to it, usually olive oil – it is Italian, after all!

Age

Ciabatta is a relatively new invention, having been invented in the early 1980s. Focaccia, however, has been around for centuries. It is believed to have been invented in the 2nd century BC!

Variety

Ciabatta is a loaf of bread, and that’s about it. There aren’t endless varieties to choose from. Focaccia, however, comes in many forms from across Italy. You get Genovese (as shown below), Pugliese, Tuscan Schiacciata, Guastella calabrese and Seravezzina.

Traditional Genovese Focaccia

Similarities Between Ciabatta and Focaccia

Although the list of differences is quite extensive, there are some similarities between ciabatta and focaccia:

Italian

The most apparent similarity between ciabatta and focaccia is that both of these are from Italy. Ciabatta was invented in Veneto, whereas focaccia is thought to have originated from Northern Central Italy.

Bread

Ultimately, both ciabatta and focaccia are forms of bread. They are both made with the basic bread ingredients; flour, water and yeast.

Uses

Many of the uses for both bread types are the same. You’ll often find ciabatta or focaccia sliced and dunked into olive oil. You’ll also find both sliced, filled and served as a sandwich.

Hydration Ratios

Sorry to get all scientific about bread but ciabatta and focaccia have different hydration ratios. This is the amount of water used versus the quantity of flour. Both doughs will have between 80% and 90% hydration.

Ciabatta vs Focaccia: Which Wins?

There might be differences and similarities between these two bread types, but which is your favourite?

Do You Prefer Ciabatta or Foccacia?

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