Schiacciata all’Uva: Florence’s Grape Focaccia
In Florence, schiacciata coll’uva is sold in bread and pastry shops during the fall wine grape harvest season, vendemmia. It’s a common mid-morning snack, eaten there on the spot, after the day’s grocery shopping. Schiacciata--- meaning, “flattened or squashed”---- is the Florentine term for foccacia.
When you take a bite, you get the satisfying chewiness of bread, crunchy in spots, plus the warm grapes, which burst in your mouth. It’s sophisticated and rustic at the same time. Scrumptious on its own, it goes well with a dessert cheese or a glass of red wine.
This dessert is actually two focaccias, one baked right over the other, topped and stuffed with plump grapes. The bottom crust bakes thin and crisp while the top puffs up tender and cakey. Some of the grapes collapse a little and release pools of pretty purple juice, while others stay whole.
The recipe calls for 3 pounds of the grapes. I almost couldn’t believe it when I saw all those grapes and that little bit of dough. No worries. It’s been tested, retested, and tested again. The grapes magically absorb into the dough.
In a small saucepan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil and rosemary until warm. Allow time to cool. Reserve.
Sprinkle the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water and let rest until it bubbles about 2 minutes. Sift the flour onto a clean work surface or in a large bowl. Make a shallow well in the center and fill with the yeast water, reserved rosemary oil, 3 tablespoons of the sugar and salt, and slowly begin to incorporate the flour into the center hallow, until dough forms. Knead the dough until smooth and rest it in a lightly oiled bowl until it doubles about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a rectangular baking pan, about 9 by 13-inches or 14 by 10 inches.
Put the grapes into a bowl and using a large fork or potato masher, gently mash about half of the grapes, leaving half of them whole. Don’t mash them to a pulp! Just gently break the skin.
Take slightly more than half of the dough and roll it out to fit the baking pan. Put the dough into the pan and brush with the 2 tablespoons of remaining olive oil (if you like, you can use a branch of rosemary to brush on the oil). Top with 1/2 of the grapes. Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of the anise seeds.
Roll out and hand stretch the remaining dough to fit the pan. It will be thin. Put the dough over the grape layer. It’s okay if it doesn’t fully cover the bottom layer. Spread with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, remaining grapes, sugar, and anise seeds. It’s okay if the grapes roll off onto the sides of the pan. It all comes together nicely as it bakes.
Allow to rest for 20 minutes before putting it into the oven so the ingredients can absorb and the dough settles. Bake for about 1 hour until golden brown on top and cooked through.
Allow to rest at room temperature, in the baking pan so the focaccia can absorb the grape’s juices. Serve at room temperature.