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As I’m writing this blog I can hear our neighbour passing by outside with his motocarriola full of grapes. Yes, it’s the season of la vendemmia (the grape harvest).
My mind wanders back to when I used to live in Lucca …….
On our way to school we’d stop by the bakers’ to buy some focaccia for la merenda a ricreazione (our snack at break time), but in October a special treat awaited us: la focaccia con l’uva.
With its mixture of savoury and sweet flavours, la focaccia con l’uva is quite unique. It’s a traditional cake made during the period of la vendemmia in central Tuscany, roughly the area between Lucca, Firenze (where it’s called schiacciata or stiacciata con l’uva) and Siena.
Its ingredients are very simple: bread dough, black grapes, olive oil, sugar and salt. It’s important to use the right grapes though, and the variety which is traditionally chosen is uva Canaiola which is also used to make vino San Giovese. It’s small, very sweet and juicy, so if you want to make this recipe but can’t get hold of this particular variety try to find something similar.
N.B. According to purists you should not remove the seeds from the grapes. However, if you don’t enjoy munching on seeds, and have plenty of time on your hands then just get rid of them. But shh … don’t tell anyone! 😉
Here’s the traditional recipe:
400 grams of flour; 20 grams of yeast; 200 ml of lukewarm water; 1 teaspoon of salt; 1 kg of small, juicy, sweet black grapes; 150 grams of sugar; extra virgin olive oil.
Prepare the dough by putting the flour, salt, yeast, and 2 teaspoons of sugar in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour the warm water and 4 tablespoons of oil into it. Mix the ingredients with a spoon, then, using your hands, knead the dough for at least 5 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Make the dough into a ball, dust the mixing bowl with a bit of flour, put the dough back in it, and cover it with a tea towel. Wrap the bowl in a small blanket or bath towel to keep it warm, and let the dough rise for about an hour, by which time it should have doubled in size.
In the meantime wash the grapes, and dry them carefully.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
When the dough has risen, divide it into two portions, one part slightly bigger than the other, and roll out each piece into a thin sheet (about half a centimetre). These will be the top (smaller piece) and bottom (larger piece) of your focaccia.
Oil a baking tray and place the bigger sheet of dough on it. Put most of the grapes on this base (about 700 grams), sprinkle with two tablespoons of sugar and two tablespoons of olive oil. Cover with the smaller sheet of dough, and carefully seal your focaccia around the edges by rolling up the excess pastry of the lower sheet.
Put the remaining grapes on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
Bake in a hot oven for about 30 minutes until the focaccia has risen and is a nice golden colour. Serve warm or cold.