Schiacciata all’uva – Florentine grape bread
This is one of those things that you crave for many months of the year but can only find for a fleeting moment. Then you have to wait patiently for the rest of the year before they will appear again in bakery shop windows. You can of course make it at home (that’s what the recipe is for!), but grapes – and the best ones to use for this delicious treat, local Tuscan wine grapes such as canaiolo or American concord grapes, called uva fragola in Italian (“strawberry grapes”) for their sweetness – are seasonal too, and can usually only be found around harvest time in the month of September. So I am actually posting this a few days late, but you might still be lucky to see schiacciata all’uva in Florentine bakeries even now.
Schiacciata is the Tuscan word for what most English-speakers might recognise as ‘focaccia’. Aptly meaning ‘squashed’ or ‘flattened’, schiacciata is flattened with the fingers of the baker, leaving characteristic pock marks along the top of the dough that hold wonderful pockets of olive oil and salt. Schiacciata all’uva is of course a sweet version, and not to be confused with this schiacciata, a very traditional bread made in parts of Tuscan for Easter (in this case, it’s quite the opposite of something that you would describe as ‘squashed’, but they say that it’s named for all the eggs that are cracked to make this bread). Last year I also posted a recipe for a ricotta and cherry tomato schiacciata made with farro flour, inspired by the method of making schiacciata all’uva.
Schiacciata all’uva is made with two layers of dough, with plenty of red grapes dotted in the middle and on top, usually the favourite is the berry-like concord grapes, seeds in and all – oh yes, that crunch is part of what makes this delicacy so delightful.
A couple of tips: Try to avoid using table grapes or white grapes for this schiacciata, they just don’t do this bread justice, the table grapes in terms of flavour and the white grapes purely in terms of visual appearance. The dark, violet, jammy juice oozing from the red grapes is part of its appeal. If you can’t get good, sweet wine or concord grapes or it’s the wrong season, try this with blueberries. It’s completely unorthodox, but it’s a very tasty substitute and you get a much closer result than using table grapes.
A sprinkling of raw sugar over the top together with the grapes leads to a juicy, sticky-fingered situation when eating this, but it is not overly sweet, making a perfect treat for breakfast or a mid-morning snack. Icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar) dusted over the top of the schiacciata when completely cool is optional, if you prefer a bit of extra sweetness like I do.
- 500 gr plain flour (if using Italian flour, tipo ’00)
- Around 400 ml lukewarm water
- 7 gr dried yeast (25 gr of fresh yeast)
- a bunch (about 250 gr) of fresh concord or other sweet red grapes
- 5-6 tablespoons caster or raw sugar
- 3-4 generous glugs of extra virgin olive oil
- icing (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting, optional
Preparing the dough:
Prepare the dough for the schiacciata, this can be done the night before you need to bake it, or a couple of hours ahead of time.
Dissolve the yeast in a little bit (a few tablespoons) of the lukewarm water with a tablespoon of the flour. Leave aside until little bubbles begin to form – if this doesn’t happen, throw it out and start again. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the yeast mixture. Mix to combine. You can do this in a food processor or by hand. Bit by bit add the rest of the water, working the dough after each addition. This is important to allow the flour to absorb all the water. Good flour can absorb even 70-80% of its weight in water. If, while adding the water, you see that it’s losing its ‘doughness’ and becoming a batter, then stop, add a bit more flour until it returns to a dough. Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to the dough.
Place the dough onto a well floured surface and knead for about 5-10 minutes or until the dough bounces back when you poke it. Roll into a ball and place it back into the bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and set it in a warm place, away from drafts, until it doubles in size (about one hour). If you do this the night before, you can leave the dough in the bowl to rise in the fridge – it will rise slowly, and this will result in superior flavour and smell.
Assembling the schiacciata:
Wash and pat dry the grapes and separate them from the stem, no need to deseed them, Tuscans eat them with the seeds and all.
When the dough has risen, line a rectangular baking pan with some baking paper and heat the oven to 180°C.
Take the dough out of the bowl with well-floured hands as (if it is successful), it will be very sticky! Divide the dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger ball on a well-floured surface roughly to the size of your pan, no more than 1cm thick. Lay the dough in the pan, pushing the dough to the corners and sides with your fingers if necessary.
Divide about two thirds of the grapes and scatter them on top of the first dough layer and sprinkle half of the sugar over, with a drizzle of olive oil.
Roll out the second ball of dough to the size of the pan and cover the grapes with this second layer of dough, rolling up the edges of the bottom layer of dough from underneath to the top, to close the schiacciata. Gently, with your fingers, push down on the surface of the dough to create little ‘craters’ all over.
Cover the top with the rest of the grapes and sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the dough becomes golden and crunchy on top and the grapes are oozing and cooked.
Allow to cool completely. When ready to serve, cut into squares and dust generously with icing sugar, if using. This is best served and eaten the day of baking, or at the most the next day.