Squashed, with Grapes
Names of Italian dishes are nothing if not evocative. Schiaciatta all’uva, or simply ‘squashed with grapes’ is a Tuscan speciality which echoes the equally ‘squashed’ fly biscuits of Britain, using fresh grapes between layers of a simple dough, rather than raisins. In a strange twist of fate, these beloved British biscuits are also known as Garibaldi biscuits, named after Italy's unifier himself, who was adored and revered so much by the Victorians they created a teatime treat in his honour.
Neither totally sweet or savoury and much like its British cousins, Schiaciatta all'uva relies on the fruit to provide most of its flavour, making it a wonderful way to celebrate the humble grape.
Traditionally, wine grapes are used in Tuscany, and this sweet focaccia-style bread is made around the time of the harvest. I managed to procure some Uva Fragola, or Strawberry Grapes, a strain of grapes which have a distinctive sweet flesh reminiscent of strawberries.
The combination of salty, oily, crispy bread with a crunchy sugar topping and fragrant, juicy bursts of fruit is delicious.
Once baked, this is best eaten almost immediately, and then any leftovers warmed the following day for breakfast.
2g fresh or dried yeast (literally a small pinch)
750g organic 00 flour
450ml warm water
15g sea salt
4 tbsp of olive oil
4 tbsp of sugar
Pinch of fennel seeds/aniseeds (optional)
600g uva fregola, or other sweet black grapes
Dissolve the yeast in the water and add 250g of the flour to it. Mix well with a whisk or fork until you have a smooth batter.
Leave this to ferment for around twenty minutes at room temperature. You should see little bubbles forming.
Add the rest of the flour, most of the salt and 1 tbsp of the oil. Knead well, using your hands, or an electric mixer. When you have a lovely, stretchy and smooth dough, place it in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave it overnight in the fridge.
The next day, remove the dough from the fridge. Leave it in a warm place for at least two hours, until it has come to room temperature and risen to double its original volume.
Remove the dough from the bowl and flatten it out with your hands. Divide it into two even sized pieces.
Preheat the oven to 190.
Spread and press one of the pieces on a flat, oiled baking sheet.
Sprinkle half your grapes over the first piece of dough, and then over these sprinkle a pinch more of the salt, a pinch of the aniseed/fennel (if using) half of the remaining oil, and half of the sugar. Lay over this the second half of the dough and press down, sealing the edges well. Sprinkle the remaining grapes, sugar, oil, salt and fennel/aniseed over this and then press down again.
Place the tray in the oven and cook for around 30 minutes, until golden and crunchy.