A panini is a small Italian sandwich that is served on small, hearty, textured bread. It is generally grilled using a panini press, which pushes down on the bread while it cooks and gives it distinctive grill marks. The term "panini bread" is not an actual bread, rather it refers to the bread most commonly used for making authentic panini sandwiches: ciabatta. Ciabatta bread is thin and chewy with small holes throughoutand can withstand toppings and the panini press without falling apart.
Add one and one-fourth cups all purpose flour and one-fourth tsp active dry yeast into a large bowl. Measure out one-half cup cold water and insert an instant-read thermometer to ensure it's between 23.9 and 25.6 degrees Celsius, then pour it into the large bowl.
Stir the mixture gently with your hands, then mould it into a ball. Use cling film to lightly cover the top of the bowl and leave it at room temperature for at least 12 hours or until it has small bubbles.
Add another one and one-half cups all-purpose flour and one-half tsp active dry yeast into a second large bowl, then stir in three-fourths cup cold (75 to 78 degrees) water and the bubbly ball of dough. Combine the mixture with a rubber spatula, wrap with plastic and leave it at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes.
Transfer the dough onto a flat surface and add one and one-half tsp salt and two tbsp olive oil on top. Press the heel of your hand into each side of the dough and push the dough in opposite directions so the salt and oil will spread out, then fold the dough in half and repeat the pushing until the dough absorbs all the oil.
Grab the dough and lift it vertically above your flat surface, then use the heel of your hand to press down the bottom portion of the dough so it stretches. Fold the top half down to meet the bottom edge, then repeat the stretching and folding process one more time.
Press the heel of your hand directly into the folded dough, then flip it over and repeat the process for about 10 minutes or until the dough is pliable enough to shape into a ball. Coat the bottom and sides of a large bowl with non-stick cooking spray, then add the dough ball and wrap the bowl with plastic. Leave for about 45 minutes.
Sprinkle your flat work surface and your hands lightly with flour, then add the dough. Stretch the dough ball into a 10 inch long rectangle, then fold it into thirds and then again in half vertically.
Add the folded bread back into the bowl and allow it to sit covered for about an hour and 15 minutes or until it rises and becomes twice as large, then cut it in half and place the pieces back into the bowl covered for another 20 minutes. Shape the pieces into four-inch by six-inch rectangles, then fold them into thirds.
Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and add the dough, then drape cling film over it and let it rise for another 45 minutes. Turn your oven to 232 degrees Celsius, shape the rectangles into 10-inch by four-inch rectangles and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the centre of the loaves and ensure it reads 205 degrees before slicing.
Add four oz grated cheese or one-half tsp chopped herbs to the dough for a richer flavour.
Do not add extra flour into the dough when you're handling it--it is supposed to be sticky and extra flour will make the bread overly chewy. Do not press down and pop any air bubbles when you handle the dough or the bread will be dense.