Schiacciata alla fiorentina! Yes, I am taking you to Florence today!
This week, we celebrated love throughout the world and, in the wake of Valentine’s Day, I decided to take you to one of the most romantic cities in the world: Florence!
Tuscan cuisine brings together all the characteristics of Italian cuisine and the Mediterranean diet. It is a poor cuisine (cucina povera) that consists of simple ingredients, linked to the rural tradition, and to products from the Tuscan countryside. Simple and tasty, traditional Tuscan recipes distinguish themselves for the excellent quality of the ingredients used and for the care with which the dishes are cooked.
The Florentines love to eat. From the Middle Ages to the present, many documents show that the rich Florentine lords of the Middle Ages, and later the Medici and their followers, loved being at the table to enjoy gargantuan meals at times when poverty was raging and most people ate poor food.
However, despite its modest origins, Florentine cuisine has blossomed around fresh foods from the surrounding countryside. The local ingredients are simple and rustic, and the dishes that highlight them offer a cuisine that is high in flavors. And for good reason! One of the main economic activities of the region is the cultivation of vines, olive trees, cereals, vegetables and fruits, cow and sheep cattle. Everything you need to make great food!
Bread is the most ubiquitous food of Florentine cuisine. It is very important in the Florentine and Tuscan diets. In addition to being used in sandwiches and served with antipasti, it is also used as an ingredient in soups like in pappa al pomodoro and salads such as panzanella.
Tuscan bread, known as pane sciocco (bland bread), is traditionally baked in a wood fired oven, and is characterized by its lack of salt.
As a matter of fact, schiacciata alla fiorentina was originally a sweet bread dough, with lots of lard, to which was sometimes added bacon or cretons. Over time, the recipe has evolved into this fragrant dessert with orange and olive oil, which is representative of the city of Florence during the carnival period.
In Italian, Schiacciata means “crushed”. The origin of the name comes from the fact that eggs need to be crushed (beaten) to prepare it. This dessert was formerly known as schiacciata unta (crushed fat) given the use of lard.
In addition to the most commonly prepared version that I decided to feature today, there are a few other variants: stuffed with whipped cream, chocolate cream, or dunked in custard.
And even if my recipe is the traditional “modernized” version nowadays, there is still in Florence, or other places in Italy, a few bakeries that prepare schiacciata alla fiorentina in a more authentic but not as tasty way, with yeast and lard.
But schiacciata alla fiorentina is not the only famous schiacciata in Tuscany and Florence. There is also the popular schiacciata all’uva which is made with grapes.
During the autumn months, it is harvesting time in Florence and Prato in Chianti. Over there, you will find a very special type of grape called canaiolo. The same is used for the production of famous Chianti. Canaiolo is a red variety of large grapes, that are sweet and very juicy. Schiacciata all’uva is just as famous as today’s schiacciata alla fiorentina but the grapes replace the orange.
In its most traditional form, schiacciata alla fiorentina must be rectangular and its height must be about 3 cm (a little more than 1 inch). It is also one of the basic rules of “La migliore schiacciata alla fiorentina”, the competition that is organized every year in Florence, during the carnival period, and that will award the best schiacciata alla fiorentina,.
The fleur-de-lis, made of cocoa powder, that is featured on all traditional schiacciata alla fiorentina is none other than the symbol and the coat of arms of the city of Florence. Simply print one that you will find on many websites and cut out the outlines to make a stencil. You can download a template here for example.
In order to respect the real Florentine recipe, I used Tuscan olive oil that I found at my local market because you will never find a Tuscan pastry chef who will make this recipe with an olive oil coming from elsewhere, even if this olive oil is fragrant and of great quality.
This cake is quick and easy to prepare. We tasted as an afternoon snack with my adorable and loyal friends Rosette and Claude and we all loved it!
- 2-½ cups flour , sifted
- ¾ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup whole milk , at room temperature
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 eggs , at room temperature
- 1 large organic orange + zest , at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon baking powder , sieved
- 1 vanilla bean , cut lengthwise and seeds scraped
- 3 tablespoons icing sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons butter , soft
- 1 tablespoon flour , sifted
Whisk eggs, icing sugar and vanilla seeds for 5 minutes using your mixer.
Add orange zest and olive oil, and continue beating, at low speed.
Add the orange juice and beat for one minute.
Add the milk, and beat for another minute.
Mix the baking powder and flour, and gradually incorporate them with a spatula, adding one spoon at a time and making sure they are entirely absorbed before adding the next spoon.
Preheat convection oven to 350 F.
Dust butter and flour the bottom and all the sides of a 10x8 inch pan. Pour the batter.
Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, check if the cake is baked by inserting a toothpick.
Unmold and let the cake cool on a wire rack.
Sprinkle icing sugar over the entire surface. Create a fleur-de-lis stencil, put it on the cake and sprinkle cocoa powder.
Gently lift the stencil so that no cocoa powder spills onto the icing sugar.