Cherry tomato schiacciata
In a couple of week’s time I am going to feed myself exclusively on one thing, schiacciata all’uva. It begins appearing in Florentine bakery windows in September (some even earlier) and only lasts a month at the most, which is why I’m going to make the most of it while I can. Schiacciata is basically a Tuscan focaccia, the word literally means “flattened” and describes its shape. It’s made as an every day bread made with white flour and when it’s freshly pulled out of the oven, drizzled in generous doses of extra virgin olive oil and salt. But schiacciata all’uva is a sweet focaccia made with two layers of bread dough with plump, round concord grapes in the middle and on top. Simple and delicious.
I’ve often wondered why the Florentines don’t get creative with this gorgeous schiacciata and make it with other fruit or make it savoury (I also love making this with blueberries when I can’t wait until September for the grapes to be out in the markets). Traditions are always the preferred way to go here, but it is a great formula that really lends itself well to other ingredients.
As I’m impatiently waiting for September to roll around and I’m surrounded by the most amazingly, plump and sweet cherry tomatoes of the season, I thought I’d use them to make a savoury version of Schiacciata all’uva.
I have made this schiacciata with farro flour, which has a really tasty, nutty flavour. Farro has been used on the Italian peninsula since ancient times, and goes so far back that the Italian word for flour, farina, comes from the latin word, farro. It is similar to spelt, so if you cannot get farro flour you can try this with spelt flour for the same effect. Farro is actually Emmer wheat, but is now becoming better known in the English-speaking world simply by its Italian name.
Essentially, the options for alternatives in this recipe are endless. You could use fresh mozzarella, smoky scamorza or a tangy goats cheese, fresh herbs such as basil or mint, or dried spices like fennel seeds or cumin. Vegetables like radicchio or zucchini would be great too, but there’s just one rule: keep it very, very simple. Stick with just one or two flavours, less is more with this schiacciata!
Cherry tomato schiacciata
Serves 6 generously
- 500 grams of farro flour (can be substituted with any other flour, eg spelt, wholemeal or plain flour)
- 220 ml of tepid water
- 7 grams of dried yeast (25 grams if using fresh yeast)
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 125 grams of ricotta
- 400 grams of cherry tomatoes on the vine
- fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to about 180 C.
For the dough: Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the tepid water. Mix well with the flours and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. A food processor is handy for this, as it aerates the mixture as well. When combined, add a generous pinch of salt and turn the mixture out onto a floured, clean surface and knead for about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a large bowl and cover. Set aside to rise. Ideally, leave it in the fridge overnight or for at least 12 hours – this allows the yeast to work very slowly, improving the flavour and smell of the bread. Otherwise, leave it in room temperature in a warmish place for at least 2 hours.
In the meantime, cut half of the cherry tomatoes in half, leave the rest on the vine, whole.
When the dough has risen, divide it into 2 equal parts. Roll out the first to about 1/2 an inch thick, shape into a rectangle to fit your cookie sheet or dish (I use a ceramic dish lined with baking paper, it’s about 2 inches high).
Spread the ricotta over this layer, it doesn’t have to be perfectly even, this is a rustic dish! Top with the cherry tomato halves to cover the entire surface. Season with salt and pepper. Add your herbs.
Roll out your second ball of dough and place carefully on top of the halves of cherry tomato layer. Fold up the edges of the bottom layer towards the top layer. Gently press down on the surface of the schiacciata to get those characteristic indents that will pocket very nicely the rest of the olive oil and salt that you’re about to scatter over the top! Before you do that though, layer your cherry tomatoes on the vine on top, then season with olive oil and sea salt.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until golden brown.