Schiacciata 101

Updated: May 5, 2019

Schiacciata is a fantastic Tuscan flatbread, from Florence, Italy, and possibly the best bread in the whole world. You pronounce it like SKEE-AH-CHOT-AH. It's got an incredible crumb and chew, along with copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil and salt. For a mental reference point, it's kinda sorta similar to focaccia, but not exactly, and a regional Tuscan favorite.


The word schiacciata itself is the past participle of the Italian verb schicciare. It means to flatten, smash or crush. We'll do that to the dough near the end of the rising process, giving it an authentic flat shape with lots of little holes. Little holes that conveniently hold lots of extra virgin olive oil.


With a modicum of skill and just a little practice, our base recipe below will produce true Tuscan bakery-quality schiacciata at home.


It just might be the best thing you'll ever eat.


And once you learn the base recipe, you can use it as a foundation for all kinds of toppings, such as schiacciata with potato and rosemary, with onions, with sun-dried tomatoes, or slicing it and filling it with prosciutto and arugula, and on and on and on.


When it comes to slow food and making the good stuff at home, this is a life-changing recipe.


If you think that's an exaggeration, make it a time or two and then we'll see.


The Backstory and Inspiration


I spent a couple of years in Italy, mostly in Florence, and schiacciata was a staple of my diet. I ate it every day, sometimes more than once. You can eat it on the go, you can slice it and make sandwiches, excuse me, panini, you can slice it and serve it along with your salami and olives.


The bread is sold in all grocery stores, coffee shops, little bakeries. You can find it everywhere.


At least, in Tuscany.


When I returned home to the good old USA, I couldn't find it anywhere. And I really, really missed it.


Now, granted, I live in flyover country. And although I can occasionally find an Americanized version of focaccia, I have never even met a person who has even heard of schiacciata. Even my friends in Rome call it focaccia or even pizza (Romans call lots of things pizza that would seem strange to Americans).


So I loved, loved, loved schiacciata and no one in America even knew what it was.


I had two choices: move to Florence permanently or learn to make it myself. I chose to delay the former, at least temporarily, and accept the latter until I can convince my wife to move, and that was an early inspiration for learning to cook.


So I found recipe after recipe for focaccia and tried them all. They weren't right. They were too puffy or cakey or bready, without the right crumb or crunch.


I bought Italian cookbooks, and those recipes weren't right either, producing acceptable breads, but not la vera schiacciata like I got every day in Florence.


Something was missing.


I searched and searched and searched, and finally found a few recipes, some in Italian, that mentioned a secret ingredient. Now maybe it only seems secret to me, and maybe everyone else already knows, but I never saw it in the other recipes. Maybe it's that old grandmother trick when she gives out her famous recipe but accidentally forgets to list one ingredient and nothing ever tastes quite like hers. Who knows? But it's really nothing wild or exotic.


It's a potato.


Instead of using plain water, a good schiacciata dough uses potato water. Or rather, you boil some potatoes, blend them up into their cooking water, and use that as the liquid to make your dough.


The chemistry and science on how potato changes the dough? No idea. Prehaps the potatoes release starch into the water, and maybe this gives the yeast a little something else to eat besides the flour, and that changes the taste and texture. Who knows?


Our recipe builds on the standard four dough ingredients - flour, water, salt and yeast and adds two more: the aforementioned potato and a little sugar, for a more authentic flavor and crumb.


Schiacciata is fairly easy to make, with maybe 15 minutes of actual hands-on prep and work time, and a four or five hour or so total time from beginning to first bite.


I'm hungry already. Let's get started. The video shows the entire process to make the bread, while the recipe and directions are below.



Ingredient List


Use a 3:3:1 ratio by weight with water, flour and potato, respectively


- 600 grams water

- 600 grams type 00 flour (bread or all-purpose also OK, but I like Antimo Caputo 00)

- 200 grams potato, peeled and cut into small cubes

- 3.5 teaspoons dry instant yeast

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 3/4 teaspoon sugar

- Lots of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

- Coarse salt for sprinkling on top


Equipment List


- Kitchen scale (use to measure the water, potato and flour)

-Medium to large mixing bowl and mixing spoon/spatula

-Measuring spoons

-Hand-mixer, blender or food processor

-Pot with lid

-Baking sheet or pan, preferably non-stick... you can choose the size and this will determine the final rising time and baking time of your dough and final thickness of your schiacciata. Wider pans will yield thinner schiacciata. A 13x18 non-stick baking sheet is what I normally use, but you could use a cake/brownie pan for a thicker final bread.


Directions


1. In a mixing bowl combine/whisk the dry ingredients (600 g flour, 1 tsp salt, 3/4 tsp sugar, 3.5 tsp yeast). Set aside.


2. Put 600 g water and 200 g potato cubes in small pot with lid. Bring to a boil and boil until fork-tender, usually 15 minutes. Important: keep the lid on so you don't lose too much liquid to evaporation. Set aside and let cool until only slightly warm to the touch (95 - 110 degrees F). Do not use water that is too hot or it will damage the yeast later. Also, if you think too much liquid evaporated, re-weigh and make sure there is 800 g total (potato + water).


3. With a hand-mixer (or use a blender), puree the liquid and potato until smooth.


4. Pour the potato water mixture into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients and stir for one minute. The dough will be wet and sticky. This is what you want.


5. Cover the bowl with towels or plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise until doubled in volume. This usually takes 2 - 4 hours, but normally about three hours. Don't put it in an area that is too warm... over 75 degrees can make it rise too fast and become overly yeasty.


6. Pour olive oil into your baking sheet and rub it on all surfaces with your fingers. Don't be afraid to use a lot of oil... 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup or more. See the video for what it should look like.


7. With a spatula, scrape/pour out the dough onto the cookie sheet. Oil your hands and gently start pressing the dough out. Keep pressing and pressing until it fills the bottom of the sheet. If the dough does not reach the edges, do not worry.... we are going to let it rise a second time and it will keep expanding.


8. With your fingertips, make many many many small indentations/holes in the top of the dough. This is why it's called "schiacciata" which means smashed/crushed/flattened in Italian. Don't press all the way through the dough... just make craters/holes on top.


9. Pour/drizzle copious amounts of olive on top of the dough, allowing oil to flow into the holes. Take your coarse salt and sprinkle all over the top. Regular salt is fine if you don't have coarse. Coarse has a nice look/texture, but the taste is the same regardless of the size of salt crystals.


10. Start your oven and set it to 400 F.


11. Recover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise again for up to an hour or so. When it has risen to the top edge of the baking sheet, it is ready. Note here that if you have trouble with the plastic wrap sticking to the top of the dough, you don't have to cover it for this final rise. It won't dry out too much in this short rising time and it already has olive oil on it.


12. Put in your oven, middle rack is fine. Set timer for 20 minutes.


13. After 20 minutes, check your schiacciata. Ovens are all different. Some are accurate, some are not, some have hot spots, etc. You want your schiacciata to get a nice golden slightly brown top. You do NOT want it to be dark brown. This isn't a crusty dark loaf, and the bottom will cook more than the top, so if your top is brown and crunchy then your bottom is burnt. Keep an eye on it. Mine usually take 25 minutes, though some have taken 35 to 40. It's ready when it's ready, not just when the timer goes off.


14. Remove the schiacciata from the oven and let it cool in the pan for one minute. Then transfer it to a wire baking rack and let it cool for five minutes.


15. Slice it and chow down!














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