Having a blog brings you to “meet” a lot people, frequently other bloggers that share the same passion. And it’s thanks to some of these acquaintances, that I’m now a proud member of the newborn project “Cucina Conversations”.
Cucina Conversations is a virtual yet international roundtable, where six other foodbloggers and I will share our passion for the Italian food culture, the one connected to seasonality and traditions. Every month we will deal with a common theme, and everyone will propose a recipe together with our insight about certain aspects of the history and culture surrounding Italian food.
Who are the members of this international team?
Rosemarie – of Sicilian and Calabrian descent, she’s originally from Sidney, and now resides in Turin. Author of the blog Turin Mamma, also writes for Italy Magazine.
Francesca – an Italo/American residing in Rome shares her passion for writing and cooking via Pancakes and Biscotti;
Flavia – born in Washington, DC and now living in Texas, shares her passion for Italian recipes on her blog Flavia’s Flavors;
Lisa – a New Zealander married to an Italian and lives in France. She writes about her passion for Italian cuisine and travel on her blog Italian Kiwi.
Carmen – an Italo/Australian, born in Piedmont and migrated to Melbourne, Australia at the age of five. With a sense of nostalgia shares recipes and anecdotes from her Italian heritage, via The Heirloom Chronicles.
Marialuisa – lives in Calabria; shares her love for writing and cooking via Marmellata di Cipolle.
Daniela – it’s me! born and raised near Milan, I live in Viareggio, Tuscany. I’m a food traveller, and on my blog La Dani Gourmet I share my culinary experiences and recipes.
September, it’s Vendemmia time in Italy. And it’s right the first topic of our Cucina Conversations.
Those who follow me should remember that on January I started the three levels course at FISAR here in Versilia, to get the Sommelier certification. I’m not interested in working as a proper sommelier, but rather I want to have a deeper knowledge of wine.
Vendemmia means “grape harvest” and in Italy it’s frequently related to bucolic and festive imageries, something like the movie “A Walk in the Clouds”. I don’t know if this picture is accurate, since I’ve never participated at a grape harvest (even though I would love to).
According to my studies, vendemmia is a very delicate phase. The harvesting has to start when the sugar ripening is at its best, according to grape variety and conditions.
So before starting harvesting, it’s necessary to measure the sugar content of grapes, using specific tools: the mustmeter and the refractormeter. The longer grapes remain on the vine, the higher the sugar content will be; that’s why it’s needed a late grape harvest for more structured wines and passito wines.
If you think about vendemmia in Italy, you can’t just speak about wines.
There are plenty of recipes based on wine grapes, coming from long-lasting traditions. In Tuscany, the most famous it’s Schiacciata con l’Uva.
It’s prepared mainly in the Prato and Florence provinces, and it was originally thought as a way to use grapes, that were unsuitable for winemaking. It’s a simple focaccia, with generous sugar and grapes, specifically Canaiolo grape, a wine variety frequently used for blending in Tuscany.
As other traditional recipes, there are many versions of this schiacciata, but let’s say there are two main types: one with a single layer of thick focaccia covered with grapes and the other (which is my favourite) with a double and thin layers of dough, which hide a generous and syrupy filling of grapes and sugar.
Some people add anise seeds to the dough, but important is not to remove the grape seeds. Schiacciata con l’uva wouldn’t be the same without those crunchy seeds.
For the focaccia, I prepared my classic pizza dough (which I had also shared here), with a few changes.
SCHIACCIATA CON L’UVA
for the dough:
430 g flour, W190-210
280 g water
4 g fresh yeast
8 g cane sugar
2 tablespoons evoo
4 g Cervia salt
for the filling:
1 kg wine grape, better if Canaiolo
170 cane sugar
In a stand mixer, dissolve yeast and cane sugar into 150 g of water (taken from the total 280 g) and combine with 150 g of flour (taken from the total). Cover and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
Add the remaining water, 3/4 of the rest of the flour and start kneading at low speed, using the flat beater.
After a few minutes add the salt and the last batch of flour for some minutes, until the gluten starts to develop. The dough will get more elastic and smoother and it will detach from the bowl of the stand mixer.
At low speed, slowly add the evoo and continue kneading, until the dough is elastic again.
Now change the flat beater with the dough hook and continue kneading until the dough is nice and smooth.
Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for about 45 minutes, or in the oven with the light on for about 25-30 minutes.
Oil a bowl and place in it the dough. Cover with double plastic wrap, one touching the dough, the other sealing the bowl.
Place in the fridge at 6°C for about 8 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge, place it on a board previously floured with semolina. Gently stretch with your hands and fold it into three and then back into a ball (similar to this photo, taken from Anice e Cannella blog).
I divided the dough into 2 pieces: one slightly bigger than the other.
Shape a ball with each portion of dough and cover with an upside down bowl. Let it rest for half an hour.
Separate the grapes from the bunch (previously washed and dried) and mix them together with sugar.
Place the dough on wooden board, and stretch until you get a quite thin rectangle. Place the focaccia on a oiled tin and cover with 3/4 of the grape-sugar mixture.
Stretch the smaller ball of dough and place it so that it covers completely the grapes. Fold the edges, oil the surface and put the remaining grapes on the focaccia.
Bake for about 45-50 minutes at 190-200°C. During baking, you’ll notice a syrup coming out the focaccia. From time to time, brush this syrup on the surface, so that you’ll get a nice and sticky, super yummy focaccia.
You can eat it, as soon as it cools down, but it actually tastes better the following day. It can be stored up to three days.
Other Cucina Conversations recipes about “La Vendemmia”:
- Grape Must Pudding, by Rosemarie
- Marmellata di Zibibbo, by Marialuisa
- Salsa Agresto with Verjuice, by Carmen
- Sorbetto all’Uva, by Lisa
- Torta della Vendemmia, by Francesca
- Ciambelline al vino, by Flavia
This post is also available in: Italian