Tuscan Harvest

During the golden days of autumn, when the vendemmia, the grape harvest, is in full swing, Tuscan country bakers take advantage of the abundance of wine grapes to make schiacciata coll’uva, an old-fashioned treat that’s sometimes called ‘ciaccia coll’uva. It’s best made with the small, tartly sweet, dark purple grapes used for red wine. In Tuscany that means the sangiovese or canaiolo that go into the Chianti blend, but I’ve made it with golden blonde trebbiano grapes too.

Isabella della Raggione’s trebbiano grapes, drying on the farmhouse beams

In fact, any fresh grapes you have available should be fine but if you have to use the very sweet table grapes from California that are in most supermarket produce sections, I recommend cutting down the sugar. This is not a dessert—it’s meant as a mid-morning snack or merenda, a pick-me-up for flagging harvest workers.

Should the grape seeds be removed? Not in Tuscany, where the seeds give a bit of crunch to the finished product.

A note on the photo to the left: This is in the Umbrian farmhouse of Isabella della Raggione, noted agricultural historian and researcher of antique varieties and traditional practices. The Trebbiano grapes are hung to dry until the cold months of winter at which point they are added, as il governo, to the wine barrels to induce a secondary fermentation, an ancient method of wine-making in Central Italy, especially in Umbria and Tuscany.

Schiacciata coll’uva

This makes 8 to 10 portions.

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little more for the board
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Sea salt
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh grapes, preferably small, tart wine grapes, destemmed

Dissolve the yeast in a half cup of warm water. Put the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the dissolved yeast and water. Gradually stir in the flour, adding up to a cup more of warm water to get a very soft dough. Mix in the quarter cup of oil, the quarter cup of sugar, and a big pinch of salt. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is soft and springy. Return it to the clean bowl, cover with a damp towel, and set aside to rise for an hour or so.

Rinse the grapes and set aside to dry while the dough is rising.

When you’re ready to bake, lightly grease a shallow rectangular pan about 8 x 10 inches, using a bit of the oil. Divide the dough in two pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger piece and fit it in the bottom and sides of the pan. Distribute about 2/3 of the grapes all over the dough and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil and 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Now roll out the second piece of dough and cover the grapes, folding the bottom and top pieces of dough together all around the edges to seal. Distribute the remaining grapes over the top, pressing lightly, and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of oil and tablespoon of sugar.

Set aside to rise for about 30 minutes while you heat the oven to 375º.

Bake the risen schiacciata for about an hour, or until the top is golden and crisp, with the grape juices running over it. After removing it from the oven, let it cool slightly before cutting it in squares and serving.

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