There's no need to throw out stale ciabatta bread or even succumb to sacrificing it to crumbs and croutons if you know how to refresh it correctly. The best way, of course, is to not let ciabatta get stale in the first place, but if that does happen, there are several ways to resurrect and enjoy this delicious Italian classic.
Preheat your oven to 450 F (250 C). If using a microwave, skip this step.
Dampen a few paper towels by sprinkling them with water. About half the towels should be damp with water. Then wrap the the bread in the towel.
Place the bread in the preheated oven. You can use a cookie sheet or pan if you like, but it is not necessary. If using a microwave, heat the wrapped ciabatta for 15 seconds on high. If the bread isn't soft enough, you can microwave it again in 15-second intervals until it is ready.
Bake the wrapped ciabatta for five to 10 minutes in the oven or until the bread has the desired softness. If the paper towels dry out and the bread isn't soft enough, take the bread out of the oven and unwrap it. Then dampen the towels again, once more making sure that about half the towels are damp. Rewrap the bread and place it back in the oven until ready.
If you would like to crisp the refreshed bread, simply take off the paper towels and bake for an additional five to 10 minutes.
Putting the ciabatta in the microwave without the dampened paper towels will initially result in soft bread, but after 30 seconds the outer crust will become leathery, hard and generally inedible. For best results, use the oven.
A. Boncimino graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She works at "Crain's Chicago Business" newspaper.