April 8, 2009 · 11 comments

A Hidden Tuscan Treasure

in Bread

I’d forgotten about a lovely wee book I bought in Pisa airport after my last holiday to Italy and it fell off the bookshelf yesterday morning! What a surprise, I just had to bake something from it. I ended up deciding on Schiacciata Con L’Uva – Sweet Grape Bread.
Tuscan Desserts: Pastries, Cakes and Sweets by Elisabetta Piazzesi is a lovely compact little book comprising all kinds of sweet delights typical of the Toscana region of Italy; a sweet journey from basic cookies to complex yeasted treats, they’re there in all their splendour. The book also contains a lot of history and interesting facts about the food and region.

Schiacciata Con L’Uva has a long history, pictorial references have even been found in Etruscan tombs! Once you’ve tasted this delightful sweet treat though you’ll understand the reason for its longstanding popularity and why it hasn’t faded from life today. It is astonishingly rich and sinfully juicy.

Schiacciata means crushed, flattened or squashed in Italian, and is the name for flatbread in Tuscany.  Both savory and sweet versions of schiacciata are found there. In general, savory schiaciatta is made using bread dough as the base, much like the pizza and focaccia in other regions of Italy. The addition of olive oil and sugar to the bread dough results in a sweet schiacciata. 

The recipe called for the addition of rosemary which I thought rather unusual but it worked so well. As the rosemary is basically used to flavour the olive oil it gives a sweet scent rather than overpowering soapy flavour as too much rosemary sometimes can. Instead the lightness of the flavour just gave a little excitement to the ‘buttery’ bread.

Typically this sweet bread is made during the grape harvest and uses Uva Fragola grapes but alas there were no grapes to harvest in this village 😉 It isn’t even grape harvest time in Italy (which occurs in the autumn by the way) so I couldn’t get any imported either so I had to make do with the ones that arrived in my weekly organic delivery. Unfortunately my grapes didn’t contain any seeds whereas wine grapes have seeds, and they add a distinctive crunchiness to the schiacciata. I am going to have to make this again with wine grapes methinks!

The recipe is quite lengthy but it’s not all that time consuming really as much of the time is in fact taken up by waiting for the dough to rise. Anyhow you’ll be greatly rewarded by your efforts with a sweet, sticky, chewy bread that is absolutely bursting at the seams with flavour.  The intense sweetness of the bread is offset really well by the grapes sweet/sour nature. 

For a yeasted bread this schiacciata is surprisingly light to eat, I was expecting a much heavier texture but oh no I could happily sit and munch my way through far too much of this and far too easily too. Don’t say I haven’t warned you :) 

It is quite common to serve slices of this fruity delight alongside glasses of vin santo or red wine but I chose to serve a slice with a small tipple of grappa the other evening after dinner.

My recipe said to eat the schiacciata cold but I found it tasted better slightly warm and so I reheated it the following morning to eat with a cappuccino :)

As usual with my bread postings I am going to enter this to YeastSpotting. How could I not give even more people the chance to experience this dolci Toscani?

The Recipe (Slightly Adapted):

The Dough:

  • 500g tipo 00 flour
  • 1 sachet fast acting yeast
  • 1 cup tepid water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Using a free standing food mixer combine the flour, yeast, salt and olive oil on low speed (for KichenAids it is speed 2) and gradually add the water until you have a soft, sticky dough.
  2. Continue to knead the dough (in the machine or by hand) until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
  3. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size (approx 1 hour). 
  4. Punch back the dough and proceed with the required recipe.

For the Schiacciata:

  • 1 quantity of bread dough
  • 1 stem rosemary
  • 500g grapes, washed and the stems removed
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Heat the olive oil and rosemary in a pan, removing the rosemary as soon as the oil is warm, allow the oil to cool slightly before kneading into the prepared bread dough, knead until all the oil is absorbed.
  2. Spread half the dough in an oiled baking sheet (approx 9″x12″)
  3. Squeeze 3/4 of the grapes and put them onto the prepared dough and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
  4. Cover the grapes with the other half of the dough and press the edges together well.
  5. Press the remaining 1/4 of the grapes into the top of the dough, firmly but gently, and scatter with the remaining sugar.
  6. Pour the red wine over the top and bake in a preheated oven (190C or the equivalent) for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.