Bread

Sourdough Schiacciata

July 31, 2020
Photo by Maurizio Leo
Author Notes

Schiacciata (skiah-cha-tah) is a specialty of Tuscany and, at its core, has many similarities to the popular focaccia. Still, it’s just different enough to justify having its place alongside its mighty sibling. The word “schiacciata” in Italian means squished or smashed, so to me, the important aspect of this bread is that it’s not overly thick, perhaps only half the height of typical focaccia. This squishing leads to sturdier and crunchier bread, which is terrific for making sandwiches or accompanying a light summer lunch. Typically, the dough is at lower hydration than focaccia as well, which makes it easier to handle and further amplifies the crispy result.

Traditionally, schiacciata is topped very simply, with only sea salt and olive oil. When I make this at home, I follow tradition and keep this bread straightforward—it plays more of a supporting role in a meal than being the lead actor (as focaccia might, with its myriad toppings). I like to bake this in round pans (10” diameter) to have two smaller schiacciate, but a single, half baking sheet or deep 9 x 13-inch baking pan will also work well. If your pan is not non-stick, I recommend lining it with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Schiacciata keeps very well for a few days after it’s baked when loosely wrapped and kept on the counter. Depending on your preference, you might find it’s better after it’s cooled; the olive oil in the dough and the drizzle on top before baking keeps the bread just soft enough. —Maurizio Leo

Test Kitchen Notes

The Perfect Loaf is a column from software engineer-turned-bread expert (and Food52's Resident Bread Baker), Maurizio Leo. Maurizio is here to show us all things naturally leavened, enriched, yeast-risen, you name it—basically, every vehicle to slather on a lot of butter. Today, a guide to making a Tuscan classic—a crispy, crusty, perfectly salted schiacciata. —The Editors

  • Prep time 4 hours 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 1 big loaf or 2 small loaves
Ingredients
  • 520 grams all-purpose flour
  • 16 grams extra-virgin olive oil
  • 349 grams water
  • 9 grams sea salt
  • 104 grams ripe sourdough starter
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, and when your sourdough starter is fully fermented and ripe, add the flour, olive oil, water, salt, and starter. Mix on low speed for 1 minute until the ingredients are combined. Then, increase the speed (#2 on a KitchenAid) and mix for about 5 minutes. After this time, the dough should start to cling to the dough hook, but it will still be shaggy and sticky. Transfer the dough to another bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
  2. Let the dough rise, covered, for 2 hours during bulk fermentation, at warm room temperature (72 to 74°F). During this time, give the dough two sets of stretch and folds to give it additional strength, where the first set happens 30 minutes into the bulk fermentation. For each set, perform four folds, one at each direction, North, South, East, and West. For each fold, wet your hands, grab one side of the dough in the bowl and stretch it up and over to the other side. Rotate the bowl and continue folding each side. After the last fold, the dough will be neatly packaged up in the container. Cover the bowl, let it rise for another 30 minutes, give it one more set of folds, then let the dough rest for the remaining hour.
  3. After two hours, your dough should have smoothed out and risen some (but not significantly) in the bulk fermentation container. If your baking pan is not non-stick, use parchment paper to line the pan to prevent sticking. Liberally oil the interior of your baking pan with extra virgin olive oil. If using a single pan, scrape the dough out of the container directly into the prepared pan. If using two pans, gently scrape out your dough to a lightly floured work surface and divide the dough directly in half, placing one half in each pan. In either case, wet your hands and gently stretch the dough out until it resists to help it fill some of the pan, but don’t worry if it doesn’t fill the pan. Cover the pans to prevent a skin from forming on the dough, set a timer for 1 hour, and let the dough proof.
  4. After 1 hour, uncover the pan(s), wet your hands again, and gently pick up and stretch the dough outward. Avoid pressing the dough at this point; you want to scoop up a side and extend it outward toward the rim of the pan. It’s not necessary for the dough to fill the pan. Cover the pans and set a timer for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, place an oven rack in the middle of the oven with a baking stone or baking steel on top. If you don’t have a baking surface, these can also be baked directly on the oven rack. Preheat the oven to 450°F or 425°F convection (which I prefer for a faster bake and a more golden crust). Set a timer for another 30 minutes to let the oven preheat and to let your dough continue to proof.
  6. Now, your dough should have had a full, 2-hour proof, and your oven should be preheated. The dough should show bubbles on the surface, and it should have relaxed outward to either fill the pans or come close. The dough should look slightly risen, and if you poke it gently, it will feel light and airy. If it’s still dense, give it another 15 minutes to rise and check back.
  7. When the dough is ready to bake, uncover the pans. Drizzle on a good measure of extra virgin olive oil to cover, but not drench, the surface of the dough. Using wet fingers, dimple the dough assertively from top to bottom, so each dimple presses down through the dough to the bottom of the pan. Then, sparingly sprinkle on coarse sea salt to coat the top of the dough.
  8. Place the pans onto your preheated baking surface in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 450°F or 425°F convection. Rotate the pans 180° halfway through baking and keep an eye on them in the last 10 minutes to avoid overbaking—each pan and oven are different! When nicely golden-brown on top, take the pan(s) out of the oven and let the bread cool for a few minutes. Then, remove the bread from the pan(s), slice, and enjoy.

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Maurizio is the software engineer-turned-baker behind the award-winning sourdough website, The Perfect Loaf. He grew up in an Italian household and spent many summers in the back kitchen of his family's Italian restaurant, learning the beauty of San Marzano tomatoes and the importance of well-proofed pizza dough. He went on to get a master's degree in computer science and co-create the stargazing app, SkyView, before eventually circling back to food and discovering the deep craft of baking sourdough bread. Since that first loaf of bread, he's been obsessed with adjusting the balance between yeast and bacteria, tinkering with dough strength and hydration, and exploring everything sourdough.