Schiacciata, the harvest bread from Tuscany is a sweet focaccia traditionally stuffed with grapes - or with raisins. Who says you can't have both in one schiacciata?
Flat breads of Italy and France
The Italian and the French have a lovely way with flat bread. They salt it, stuff it with olives, ham, cheese, soft fruit, preserves, sugar or whatever else you like. There's French fougasse, there is Italian focaccia and their respective varieties, sweet or savoury. This one is Tuscan festive harvest bread and it's great with a cup of coffee in the morning.
Schiacciata con l'uva
It is traditionally made with black, juicy Italian grapes - uva - hence the 'harvest bread' label it bears. What if you are overcome by an irresistible craving for schiacciata in early spring? You're saved, because there is also a version with raisins, schiacciata con uvetta.
I love grapes and strongly support their use in cakes, bakes and desserts but having seen Andrew Whiteley's recipe from his book 'Bread Matters', I decided he had the brilliant idea. Best of both: this schiacciata has raisins stuffed in the middle of the bread and grapes decorating it on top.
How to make grape schiacciata?
It's easy to make: the dough comes together nicely and it's pleasant to handle even if you need to knead it by hand. I've seen enormous rectangular schiacciatas (schiacciate???) taking up the whole baking tray but a round, not too large loaf is more pleasing on the eye.
The soaking of the raisins for the filling is an absolutely essential step: you do not want dried gnarly fruit spilling out from the middle when you cut into your bread: you want luscious, gelled together filling of plump, swollen with wine flame or jumbo raisins, the best and biggest you can get.
How to pronounce 'schiacciata'?
Regarding the name: for people with next to no Italian like me, schiacciata is a bit of a mouthful. I insisted on calling it SCIATICA, cleverly figuring they must both be derived from the word ‘squashed’: squashed nerve, squashed dough, same difference.
Sadly – not. Sciatica is from the Greek iskhiadikos - ‘pain in the hips’ rather than anything Latin or Italian meaning ‘squashed’ which is indeed the literal translation of ‘schiacciata’. Andrew Whiteley, of ‘Bread Matters’ that inspired me, helpfully suggests it’s pronounced ‘ski-a-charter’. Nice connotation. One way or another, sciatica or ski charter, this is simply a wonderful sweet focaccia.
And it freezes well
The only downside is that it doesn’t keep so well, being a not particularly rich dough, so it’s best eaten when fresh. But in the unlikely case of there being a lot left, after it's served warm from the oven, freeze it. When defrosted, it will be nearly as nice and if you show it a warm oven for a few minutes, you won't be able to tell it has not just been baked.