In Tuscany a warm schiacciata with olive oil is something we worship. There are those who want it soft with just a drizzle of olive oil, those who prefer it crisp and thin, those who would gladly drench it in good extra virgin olive oil, those who only bake it on stone and those who do not survive without it, as a bite of schiacciata is like traveling back in time, when it was a school snack.
As a child we would often cross the entire town of San Gimignano, from Porta San Giovanni where my grandfather Remigio lived, to Porta San Matteo, an up and down along medieval streets of gray stone, to buy a piece of schiacciata from the Boboli bakery, still the best I’ve ever eaten. It was thick, with little puddles of olive oil on the golden surface, just enough to make it softer and grease your chin, with the right amount of salt which was the perfect balance to a mellow crumb.
During summer, when we use to rent a house on the seaside for a few weeks in Maremma, my dad would ride his bicycle every morning to a bakery right on the port of Castiglione della Pescaia to buy a dozen pieces of schiacciata with rosemary. He would then bring the schiacciata right on time for our second breakfast on the beach, after an endless swim. Nothing beats a piece of rosemary schiacciata on the beach, with your feet tucked in the sand and your hair still dripping salty water.
When I was attending middle school in Colle Val d’Elsa my dad would leave me every day on his way to work in a nearby village where I would wait for the bus. There was a bakery, and it is still there, where students and families would queue outside to buy some snacks for school. I could choose between a piece of schiacciata simply seasoned with olive oil, one filled with ham and cheese, the thin and crispy one or the thick one, which would loudly beg to be stuffed with mortadella.
Today I have to limit the consumption of gluten and yeast, but when I want to indulge myself and break the rules, I knead and bake my own schiacciata all’olio.
The starting recipe for the Tuscan schiacciata is the same dough I use to make pizza in our wood burning oven, with slightly different doses and time of ripening. It is one of the achievements which made me prouder in these more than six years of blogging. I would have never thought to be able one day to produce such a soft schiacciata, not to mention the pizzas, which my father takes out of the oven still piping hot, with a bubbling mozzarella combined with a fragrant tomato sauce.
I learnt this recipe a few months ago at my baking course and this grants me a thick, crisp Tuscan schiacciata with tiny puddles of olive oil on the surface.
Tuscan schiacciata with walnuts
Today I added a handful of walnuts, previously finely chopped so that they won’t damage the dough, giving it a deeper nutty flavour.
Such a tasty schiacciata becomes the perfect excuse to go on a picnic, or simply have it for dinner: cut it in half and fill with thin grilled zucchini drizzled with olive oil, salt and thyme and crushed boiled chickpeas seasoned with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of black pepper.
- 1 g of fresh brewer's yeast
- 250 g of bread flour
- 250 g of cold water
- 500 g of poolish
- 500 g of tender wheat flour
- 250 g of lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil + more to grease the pan and to drizzle on the surface
- 160 g of shelled walnuts, finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon of rock salt
- The previous day, around dinner time, make the poolish, which will need at least 12 hours of fermentation. Dissolve the fresh brewer's yeast in cold water in a large bowl, then add the flour and stir with a whisk to remove any lump. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the next day.
- After 12 hours the poolish is ready: it will be full of bubbles, alive.
- Scrape the poolish in a large bowl, add the flour, salt, honey, extra virgin olive oil and start stirring, adding slowly the warm water. Knead the dough on a board but also in the bowl itself, for about ten minutes, giving time to the dough to absorb the water. It will be sticky and very soft.
- Cover your hands with olive oil and form a ball of dough: place it in a bowl greased with olive oil.
- Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled, for at least 3 hours.
- After this time, always with oiled hands, gently deflate the dough and add the finely chopped walnuts, leaving aside only two tablespoons for later.
- When the dough has absorbed all the finely chopped walnuts drizzle some olive oil on baking pan and gently stretch the dough into the pan.
- Leave the dough in the pan, allowing some time in between every attempt to roll it out, pressing your fingers and gently stretching it, so that the dough will relax. Let it rise for about two hours.
- Preheat oven to 220°C, drizzle more extra virgin olive oil on the surface, sprinkle the schiacciata with the finely chopped walnuts and some rock salt.
- Bake the schiacciata for at least 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.