Schiacciata con l'uva

It happens that every so often -- just often enough to keep me on my toes -- I come across a recipe that challenges me, intrigues me, and overall becomes the culinary bee in my bonnet, grabbing my attention and holding it tight until I've figured out just how the recipe in question should be made. This can occur when I'm working on a recipe that I've developed myself -- an idea that I know has potential, but takes some testing, tweaking, and trial runs -- or with a recipe that's new to me, never made before, standing firmly in uncharted recipe territory, as is the case of today's schiacciata con l'uva.

First things first -- what is schiacciata con l'uva, you may be wondering?! The answer is a Tuscan sweet bread made with grapes, and the name (pronounced skee-ah-cha-ta -- say that five times fast) comes from the verb schiacciare, which means squashed or pressed, referring to the fact that the bread is flat. It is traditionally eaten for breakfast or as a snack in September, when the grapes used to make wine are harvested -- this period is known as la vendemmia -- and as I'm not much of a wine drinker myself, I find this a much better use of grapes (*ducks*).

So! My schiacciata saga began with a first innocent attempt using a recipe taken from the blog of a well-known food blogger, one I figured would therefore be a sure, get-it-right-on-the-first-try sort of deal. Surprisingly enough, however, I was disappointed -- although the resulting bread had a nice texture and mostly looked pretty, it tasted of, well, absolutely nothing (the recipe hadn't called for salt or sugar in the dough, which seemed suspect, but what did I know?! I was a schiacciata novice). The grapes were not nearly cooked enough, having mostly retained their shape -- the recipe hadn't specified what kind of grape to use, and it turns out I'd used grapes with thick skins and little juice -- and I decided that this was not what schiacciata was supposed to be, not at all. Hmmm. 


I wasn't at all perturbed by this roadblock -- anzi, my interest was peaked -- and schiacciata con l'uva, at least for a few weeks, became my new obsession. I read about it, comparing recipe upon recipe, and along the way learned that there is no one way to make S.C.L'U. While all the recipes I read resulted in sugar dusted bread topped with grapes, the similarities seemed to end there. I came across recipes that called for fresh yeast, while others called for dried; some called for multiple rises, others an overnight rise, and still others minimal rise time; some called for salt in the dough, others called for sugar, and one in particular even called for honey and wine in the dough; a few I saw recommended adding rosemary to take the schiacciata in a more savory-sweet direction, while others opted for cinnamon. There were recipes that were so heavy in grapes that the bread was bright purple, and others that used a smaller quantity, with bread peaking out between the grapes. 


Needless to say, my mind was positively buzzing.


In the end -- after a few weeks of trying and tasting various recipes, learning what I liked best in a 
schiacciata, and ignoring my sister's polite hints that she'd eventually like to eat something other than schiacciata con l'uva -- the best recipe that I tried, the one that made me say "exactly,!" at the first bite, the recipe that made my schiacciata dreams come true, came by way of Carla Tomasi. If  you're experiencing a sense of deja vu, that's because Carla has also gotten a mention on here before ( here and most recently here, to be precise). Apart from being a positively delightful person, she is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to cooking, and is responsible for some of the most solidly delicious recipes I've come across the past few month; this one was no exception. Carla's recipe was one of the least fussy recipes I'd come read -- it required a short rise, and was a one layer deal, unlike most of the recipes I'd seen, which layered the grapes and the dough. It was the lightest and the fluffiest of all the schiacciata that I'd baked previously, not to mention the most flavorful, sweet but not overly so, slightly crisped with sugar, fragrant with toasty cinnamon, and thick with juicy, sweet, slightly caramelized grapes, which delivered the traditional,telltale crunch from their seeds (true schiacciata connoisseurs claim that this crunch is the best part of the whole schiacciata experience). It was perfect, and addictive, so addictive that it even caused the phenomena I'd grown to associate with fudge brownies, or rather, the tendency to repeatedly creep back to the kitchen "just to even out the corner," because, well, symmetry. I loved, loved, loved this, and it brought my schiacciata adventures to a close, in a delicious way.


A couple of notes: Ideally, the grapes to be used here are wine grapes, which are small, and juicy (canaiola is one of the more commonly used varieties). I used uva fragola (for any of you in Rome: I got these at the Testaccio Market) which are a wine grape that work perfectly, but if you don't have access to wine grapes, use the smallest, juiciest grapes you can find. If you're afraid your grapes won't get too juicy in the oven, you can always give them a quick stew on the stove in a little water until they've burst, let them cool, and sprinkle them on (I did this in one of my trial runs with good results). If you don't have any good grapes around and don't want to take the risk, you can also make this schiacciata with figs or plums, or even cherries, blueberries, or blackberries if they're in season, thus taking this in a completely different direction. Lastly, this is best eaten on the day it is baked.

Looking for other homemade bread/pastry recipes? I've got this Challah bread, these Homemade bagels, these Danish fastelavnsboller, these Overnight cinnamon rolls, this Pizza bianca, this Rosemary Focaccia, this Piadina, this Calzone, and these Tigelle

SCHIACCIATA ALL'UVA
Recipe from Carla Tomasi

Ingredients for the bread:
A little over 3 cups (400 grams or 14 ounces) strong white flour (00 flour in Italy, bread flour in the U.S)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried yeast
1 cup (250ml) warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
5 tablespoons olive oil

Ingredients for the topping:
5 tablespoons sugar
2 large bunches of grapes, preferably wine grapes (see notes)
A good sprinkling of cinnamon
A drizzle of olive oil

Directions:
Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water. Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and olive oil in a bowl pour the yeast mixture in. Stir to combine until a dough forms.
On a clean, lightly floured workplace, knead the dough for about five minutes, or until the dough is shiny and smooth. Form the dough in to a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Using your hand smear a film of olive oil on the top, to keep the dough from drying out. Cover with a tea towel and leave to proof in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius). Grease the bottom of a rectangular pan. Roll out the dough into a rectangle big enough to fit snugly in to the pan and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar. Top with enough grapes to cover the surface completely, and press each grape down in to the dough and if you're me, give it a little squish. 
 
Sprinkle over the cinnamon and a drizzle of olive oil, plus another two tablespoons of sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and the grapes have almost caramelized. Let cool slightly and then dig in.



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