Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

By • February 28, 2014 • 9 Comments

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Author Notes: At this time of the year there's no avoiding it – you can't go past a pastry shop in Florence without noticing the windows are filled with large, flat, powdered sugar-dusted cakes known as schiacciata alla fiorentina. The scent of orange peel and vanilla wafts through the cold, late winter air, inevitably leading you right in to the nearest pasticceria for a slice of schiacciata and a coffee. Traditionally served plain, but sometimes filled with slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream or pastry cream, they're instantly recognisable for the giglio, the stylised lily and symbol of the city of Florence, masked and dusted over the top in contrasting powdered cocoa.

Schiacciata means 'squashed' or 'flattened' and usually refers to Florence's savoury salt and olive oil drenched focaccia or flat bread. But in this occasion, like their schiacciata all'uva (grape bread), the word not only refers to something flat (it should never be taller than 1 inch), but also to something sweet and strictly seasonal.

This yeasted cake has long been a tradition of Carnival season and is a centuries old recipe of peasant origins. With its typical ingredients including lard (today, though not the same, often olive oil or butter replaces this), eggs and a long rising time using fresh yeast, it would have been a simple, but hearty and caloric country cake. It's directly related, in fact, to the unappealingly but aptly named, schiaccata unta (“greasy schiacciata”), which at one time included ciccioli – pieces of deep fried pork fat.

Today's schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a delicately scented, fluffy, not too sweet cake. The characteristic flavour, marked by orange zest, and incredibly soft, spongy texture, make it a favourite for a mid-morning or afternoon snack or even breakfast (well, why not?). It also goes down quite nicely with a glass of vin santo or dessert wine.

Although it requires a lot of rising time, it's a simple preparation and easy to do at home, even if these days, Florentines, will usually buy this out at their favourite pastry shop.

You could leave it simple with just a dusting of powdered sugar. But note that the hint of bittersweet cocoa goes so well with the subtle orange scent of this cake, you'll want to offer the slice that has the lily on it to your favourite person. Or, do what I do (to make it fair): I put the layer of cocoa on the bottom to cover the entire cake. Then I mask out the lily shape with a paper cut out that I cut myself and I cover the whole cake in a very generous dusting of powdered sugar. It means everyone gets a bite with cocoa on it, even if the easier and more traditional way would be simply to dust with only powdered sugar, then, with a empty lily cut out (this time rather than use a lily shape, use the empty stencil of the lily) carefully dust a cocoa lily onto the cake.
Emiko

Serves 8

  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) plain flour
  • 3/4 ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) lard (or, less traditional, butter)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
  • Powdered bittersweet cocoa for dusting (optional)
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour and fresh yeast (along with the water) until you have a dough. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, dry spot to rise for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.
  2. Beat in the lard, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla and salt until well combined. Place the dough in a buttered rectangular tin. It should be about 2cm or 2/3 inch in height. Cover with a tea towel and let the schiacciata rise for 2 more hours.
  3. Bake at 350 ºF (180ºC) for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn onto a wire rack to cool and when cooled completely, dust liberally with powdered sugar.
  4. If you like, cut out a mask of the Florentine lily and dust with cocoa powder. If desired, cut through the middle of the cake and fill with some slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream, pastry cream or diplomat cream (half pastry cream, half whipped cream) before dusting with powdered sugar.
Jump to Comments (9)

Comments (9) Questions (2)

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about 1 month ago Dorene

I USE TO HAVE THIS WITH GRAPES DROPPED ON TOP OF THE BATTER AND COARSE SUGAR AND CHOPPED FRESH ROSEMARY BEFORE BAKING. E BUONA

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9 months ago Lorenza

Please advise as to the amount of water called for in step one of the recipe; "combine the flour and fresh yeast (along with the water)" I do not find that measurement in the list of ingredients or the written instructions. Grazie

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9 months ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

Add a bit at a time until you have dough.

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9 months ago Emiko

Thanks for pointing out that this isn't clear enough for some readers, Lorenza. It's the sort of recipe (like many traditional recipes) that are passed on with measurements by eye and feel! In the list of ingredients you'll see "fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water." This is the water you will be adding to the flour. It doesn't need to be much, just enough to loosen the yeast and create a dough with the flour - it doesn't need to be a precise amount, but you can aim for using about 1/2 cup and just watch as you're adding until you get a dough. If it's too much, leave it as is, if it's too little, add some extra water. I hope this helps.

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9 months ago Amber

Can it substitute dry yeast for fresh in this recipe?

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9 months ago Emiko

Yes you can, you'll just want to make sure you get the right ratios when substituting dry (7 grams of dry yeast should work for this recipe). This article has some more info too: http://food52.com/blog...

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9 months ago Amber

Made the cake this morning and it is delightful! The 7 grams you recommended worked well and I found the article very informative - thank you! I used butter but was tempted to try the olive oil. Would you use the same amount (100 grams) for the olive oil? I used about 3/4 cup warm water with dry yeast to get a dough consistency. Didn't know how fluid (olive oil) vs. butter might affect the cake.

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9 months ago Emiko

Substituting olive oil for butter you generally use a little less oil than the butter required (there's a chart here that gives you an idea: http://thefamilydinnerbook...) so for 100 grams (about 1/2 cup) you could go 1/4 cup according to this chart. I've never tried it myself but I've seen quite a few of schiacciata alla fiorentina recipes that use it. So happy to hear you had good results!

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10 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Bellissima!! ;o)