Author Notes: I posted a picture of schiacciata all’ uva on my Facebook page the other day and realized how GORGEOUS this focaccia is so, time to share on my blog and tie it to a great memory of a cooking school in Tuscany.
It was a gift from the hubby on my 40th birthday, a 4-day cooking school in Tuscany. After all I needed something to sustain the blow of going into the 4 decade of life!
We booked the adventure for the fall of the following year, this is my favorite time to travel to Europe or anywhere for that matter, and the class existed of us and my dad. It was PERFECT and Elena was the quintessential master chef!
Each day encompassed the lesson of a 4-course Italian extravaganza, all inclusive of eating our delicious preparations accompanied by the wine made at the farm. Good thing the wine flowed with lunch and not before as I doubt any of us would have made it through the instruction of course 1 much less course 4!
It was simply one of the BEST experiences of my life! Elena would reel off instructions in Italian, forgetting I was the only one who understood her, and when the boys stood with a blank stare her response was “beh….VAI”! She didn’t understand why they weren’t jumping to her command so I would quickly “shoo” them away with the instructions she spoke and a smile would make its way to Elena’s face; I knew it was part of the entire package.
As we learned, prepped, and cooked, Elena would explain all the reasons for the dishes, the history, the ingredients, and occasion. Each one had a special cooking vessel and serving dish/platter, all which were handed down to her from those who passed on the secrets…..it was magnificent.
Day 3 of the venture was no different than the first except that the dessert we prepared became a fast favorite of mine, the schiacciata all’uva. Not only was it delicious but also it was balanced so perfectly between savory with a dash of sweet and served with a beautiful Vin Santo dessert wine. This is one of the many reasons I love Italian food, the desserts are balanced and NOT sweet which leaves me so satisfied.
The schiacciata all’uva was made with grapes from the farm vineyard but throughout the year, could be substituted with blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, whatever you like but since I am in love with the traditional version, I freeze grapes from my sister’s vines and enjoy all year long.
So here’s to the memory of Elena, the 4-day cooking school, and the birthing of the 4th decade of my life…. —Eatentions
grams plain flour (if using Italian flour, tipo ’00)
milliliters lukewarm water
grams dried yeast
grams fresh concord or other sweet red grapes
tablespoons caster or raw sugar
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
icing (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting, optional
- For 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 (350 degrees)
- 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 35-40 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.