the appetizer:

Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley, includes recipes like Basic Festive Bread Dough; Stollen; Schiacciata di Uva (Tuscan Harvest Bread); and Pirozhki.

Cookbook Profile

Schiacciata di Uva
(Tuscan Harvest Bread)

Makes one fairly large 12-inch (30cm) schiacciata

Tuscan Harvest Bread


Schiacciata means "squashed" in Italian. The savory versions of schiacciata are the Tuscan variant of Genoese focaccia and Neapolitan pizza. This is a slightly sweetened dough made into a filled flatbread, which celebrates multiple harvests. Vin Santo is a fortified sweet wine fermented from raisins, not fresh grapes, and so is at two removes from this year's harvest. The raisins are last year's product, and the fresh grapes on top are this year's. The best grapes to use for the topping are very ripe black ones (ideally seedless), which will bleed a little crimson juice into the dough as they are partially cooked during baking.

Warmed very slightly, this bread makes a great centerpiece on the table for dessert. It is equally good in slivers with fresh espresso.

The Fruit

Pour the alcohol over the raisins and soak thoroughly, overnight if possible. Drain before using. Reserve any liquor as a reward for later.

The Ferment

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in the water. Pour some of this onto the flour to make a paste. Mix until smooth, then gradually add the rest of the yeasty water. Whisk all together. Leave, covered, in a warm place until the ferment rises and then drops. This should take 40-60 minutes.

The Dough

Adjust the water temperature so that the final dough works out at about 81 degrees F (27 degrees C). Mix all the ingredients together and knead the dough until it is soft and supple. Cover it and put it to prove in a warm place for about one hour or at least until it has roughly doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and roll them into circles, each approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick and no more than 6 inches (15cm) in diameter. Line a baking sheet with nonstick baking parchment and dust it with a little whole-wheat flour or semolina. This will help the schiacciata to stretch as you complete its assembly.

Lay one disk of dough on the baking sheet and spread the drained raisins over it evenly, almost to the edge. There will seem to be rather a lot, but don't worry. Lay the second circle of dough on top of the raisins and seal the edges well. This is best done by using a little of the moisture from the raisins to dampen the edge of the bottom piece of dough, then pulling this bottom piece over the top of the upper piece, and pressing down with a finger end to make the seal. Work your way round the whole thing like this.

You may now have a rather domed center to your loaf, so press down gently with the flat of your hand to squash it a little. You may also have trapped some air between the dough layers, so get a skewer (a digital probe thermometer works well) and make a few holes for the air to escape. You should end up with a reasonably flat disk about 8 inches (20cm) in diameter. The final stage is to decorate the top with grapes.

The Topping

Wash and dry the grapes and pull them off the bunch. In a random, freespirited, Italian sort of way, push them firmly into the dough. You need to break the surface of the dough to make them stay in position, otherwise they will not survive final proof and baking, which will simply eject them and leave you with a ring of grapes around a naked schiacciata.

By the time you have finished pushing the grapes in, the schiacciata will have expanded to about 12 inches (30cm) in diameter. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the whole thing. Proof for about an hour, then bake for approximately 30 minutes in a moderate 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) oven, which should not scorch the top.

Serve slightly warm, just as it is with a cup of coffee, or with cream or thick yogurt as a dessert.


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This page created November 2009