Author Notes: Literally 'bread with grapes', pan con l'uva is one of the traditional cakes of early autumn in my home town Prato and in the Florentine area. Also known under the name 'Schiacciata con l'uva' ('stiacciata' as we say in Tuscany), it is made only with dough, grapes, olive oil and sugar. The simplicity of its ingredients reveals a peasant origin, this being a dish closely connected to vintage time. Only grapes unsuitable for good wine-making were actually employed, particularly the so called canaiolo variety which has very small black round grapes. Baking these grapes with dough to make a sweet bread was indeed a way to make the most of food that otherwise had to be thrown away – an unforgivable waste – in a period when every woman made bread at home. Preparing pan con l'uva is very easy for it basically consists in two layers of dough with grapes and sugar inside.
For this recipe I must thank my husband Mario who did the greatest part of the job, kneading bread dough with his own hand. Fortunately, he's exceptionally talented, maybe because he's the grandson of two bakers and he had some tricks taught by his Calabrian grandmother. With awesome results, I dare say.
As suggested by a friend of my mother's (who makes delicious pan con l'uva), aniseed can be added for a liquorice-fennel-like taste. —Rita Banci
pounds canaiolo grapes (concord grapes can be a substitute)
pound flour (plus some for kneading)
milliliters water at room temperature
ounces baker's yeast
tablespoons caster sugar
tablespoons extravergine olive oil
- Wash and clean grapes. Preheat oven to 180°C (about 350°F).
- Pour flour directly onto a smooth surface (marble or glass). Make a hole in the center and crumble yeast into it together with a pinch of salt. Add little water. With your forefinger start turning ingredients around so that a little dough ball is formed (remaining flour will be all around). Little by little add small amounts of water and knead with a finger. When the dough ball is pretty big, start kneading using both hands until dough is soft and smooth. At this point, gradually add four tablespoons of sugar and four tablespoons of oil. If dough is too dry, add a little more water; otherwise, if it's too damp, add a little flour.
- Form a ball with dough and let it rise at room temperature for about an hour wrapped in tea cloths (rising depends on temperature: it can take half an hour in summer or up to an hour and a half in winter).
- When the dough has become twice its size, split it into 1/3 and 2/3 parts. Roll out 2/3 of dough with a rolling pin directly onto baking paper (that will be placed over a baking sheet). Riddle the sheet of pastry with a fork so that it won't swell during baking. Spread over about 2.6-2.7 pounds of grapes; drizzle two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of aniseed. Roll out the remaining 1/3 dough and lay it over grapes. Fold the pastry edges up to 'close' the cake. Spread the remaining grapes, drizzle two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with four tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of aniseed. Bake for about an hour.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Non-Pie Thanksgiving Dessert