Thursday, December 15, 2011

No-knead schiacciata with potato in the dough

Before I give you the recipe for this schiacciata, let me explain a couple of things. If you are not interested, scroll down to read the recipe, or just click here to download it or print it, and go try it.

Schiacciata is as Tuscan as the leaning Tower of Pisa: you eat it every day, either as a snack mid-morning, or at lunch, or as a mid-afternoon snack, or at dinner. Or - at least in my family - in the morning AND at lunch AND at dinner. Alas, finding a good schiacciata outside of Italy is difficult. And that's what got me into bread and schiacciata baking: the need to replicate the flavors that i couldn't find anywhere else.

The perfect morning snack. The perfect lunch. The perfect mid-afternoon snack. The perfect dinner.
What is schiacciata, you may ask? For the sake of brevity, let's just say that schiacciata is the name used in Tuscany to indicate what is elsewhere known as focaccia bread. I am half lying saying this, because there are some differences, and focaccia is a very confusing word in Italian, sometimes indicating even sweets, panettone style. I will get back to the linguistic differences of schiacciata and focaccia. For the time being though, let's just say that if you are in Tuscany and go to a bakery you are going to ask for schiacciata and not focaccia. 

At its core, schiacciata is a very simple thing: a flattened bread (schiacciare in Italian means to flatten), containing three basic ingredients (flour, yeast, water). But the infinite ratios to combine these ingredients (and the different quality in the flours and the water), the addition of other elements (olive oil, herbs...), and the climatic conditions mean that 1) a lot of different products go by the same term and that 2)  it is very difficult to consistently obtain the same product at home.

As you may have understood from my previous posts about schiacciata baking, this has almost become an obsession of mine. I am spending a lot of my free time baking schiacciate from different recipes, from books, blogs, conversations with old Italian ladies...each one comes out different. Some of them I discard after the first attempt, because, honestly, they suck. Some I spend weeks baking them again and again to make them come out as I want them. I even baked a sweet focaccia with dried fruits and jams as dessert once. (And yes, it was very good).

Some of the focaccia bread I have baked...

Today I want to share with you the recipe that got me started, and that I baked and altered, baked and altered, baked and altered, until I consistently started to get what I wanted: a schiacciata with a crisp crust, a moist crumb, tall enough to be sliced open and eaten with cold cuts, but not as tall as to lose its crunchiness and become too airy when eaten on its own.

I developed this recipe starting from the no-kneading recipe given by Jim Lahey in his "My Bread" book. Lahey's method for bread baking calls for a lot less yeast and a lot less kneading (almost none). As a trade off, it requires extremely long rising time, sometimes as long as 24 hours (although this is not the case for this schiacciata). According to Lahey, working the dough less but let it rise longer, develops a bread structure stronger than what you can obtain with longer kneading and shorter rising times. I can confirm this: I baked tens of focaccia recipes requiring longer kneading times, and none of them has given me the same strength in the schiacciata crumbs (I am not saying the no-kneading method is the best for every bread, of course. All I am saying is that it seemed to work for this specific schiacciata I wanted).

Obviously Lahey hasn't invented anything, and he admits it openly: this method was used already in Roman times, and often in Middle Age's Tuscan bread making.

My obsession started now more than 18 months ago. Since then I have actually developed another recipe, with no potato in the dough, which has become my absolute favorite. I will publish it some other time, if you are interested. However, every guest we have seems to prefer this "potato" version, so here you go.


No-knead schiacciata with potato in the dough 
DOWNLOAD OR PRINT THIS RECIPE

The final product will look like this
This schiacciata takes very little active time to prepare, but it takes a long time to rise (twice), and you should plan accordingly. From the moment you start to the moment the schiacciata is out of the oven at least 5 hours will have passed. In cold weathers, make that 6 or 7.

For this particular version of schiacciata, in my experience all purpose flour seems to work better than bread flour, which has a higher protein content: the schiacciata comes out less dry. However, if you only have bread flour, it will do perfectly (for Italians I would recommend OO flour). As for the potato to use: russet potatoes seem to work better than Yukon gold: Yukon gold leave the crumbs too moist to my taste, but any yellow potato will do the trick (I even tried it with a sweet potato and it came out delicious...). The potato in the dough serves to moisten the crumbs and to make the schiacciata lighter, since it replaces part of the flour. 

I call for honey or sugar in my recipe: both help the flour ferment. I prefer honey because it gives a darker crust, but sugar will work just as perfectly.

Also, this is a no-topping recipe, perfect to be cut open and filled with cold cuts. This is the real deal. For this reason, there are no herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, onions) nor olives added on top. What I am giving you is a "vessel" to transport the cold cuts' flavors, but which is also delicious on its own. But of course you can add whatever herb you want. Keep in mind though, that adding "wet" ingredients, such as onions and olives, will have an impact on the rising times and on the fermentation. 


Ingredients
  • 600 gr (4 1/2 cups) all purpose or bread flour (or 00 for my Italian readers)
  • 600 gr water (2 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 potato (approximately 200 grams)
  • 4 gr sugar (1 tsp) OR 10gr honey (1 tsp)
  • 10 gr dry yeast (or 30 grams fresh yeast - lievito di birra - diluted in a finger of water)
  • 5 gr table salt (3/4 tsp)
  • 10 gr coarse salt (if you don't have it, you can use regular table salt) for dusting the dough
  • olive oil: enough to coat the pan and the top of the dough, approximately 50-70gr (1/4 cup)
How to make it
  • Cut the potatoes in cubes, put them with the cold water in a sauce pan, and bring to boil, covered, over high heat. Cook until the potato is very tender (you need to be able to cut through it with a fork), about 15 minutes. Keep the sauce pan covered, or else the water will evaporate, leaving you with a dough non wet enough. 
  • With an immersion blender (or in a blender) pure' the potato with its water. Let the mixture rest until it gets cool enough to touch, but still warm. It will take about an hour. 
  • In a large bowl, sift the flour, then stir in the yeast, the sugar (or the honey), the salt, the water with the potato. Mix with your hands or with a wooden spoon for about a minute, until you have an extremely wet dough (there is a 1:1 flour/water ratio!). Cover with plastic wrap and put this in a draft-free spot to rise for 3 hours, or until the dough has at least doubled, but preferentially tripled. (Remember that - as for any baking - the rising times and fermentation are heavily conditioned by the atmospheric pressure, the humidity, temperature...this is why a good recipe during the summer may not work as well during the winter. Put the dough to rise in a draft-free spot. The oven is perfect. A trick I sometimes use is to turn the light of the oven on (NOT THE OVEN) and, with a thermometer, I check that the temperature is at 25C/77F. If the temperature goes up, I turn the light off: fermentation above 25C/77F will give a nasty yeasty flavor and smell to your schiacciata - or to any bread, really). 
  • Oil a 13 X 18 inches (33X40cm) pan (beware: a smaller or larger pan will give you a thicker or thinner schiacciata than the one I took photos of, altering the flavor and consistency: you may even like it more, or less, who knows). Pour the dough onto the pan: it will be very soft, sticky and messy. Oil your fingers, and use your hands to gently press the dough down, so as to extend it to cover the whole pan, creating a surface of an even thickness. (See the photo below).
  • Using your fingertips, create dimples in the dough (no long nails, please): this is typical of any schiacciata. Drizzle with olive oil, and spread the coarse salt evenly (table salt will also be fine).
  • Let the dough rest around 1 hour, or until it has risen to the (or over the) edges of the pan. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).
  • Put the pan into the oven on the middle rack, paying attention not to move it too violently, or else the dough will collapse. Baking times vary a lot: from a minimum of 20 minutes to a maximum of 45 minutes. Just make sure you have a golden brown crusted top (see photo below).
  • Take the schiacciata out of the oven, let it rest a minute. Take it out of the pan, gently, so as not to break it. Let it rest using a cookie rack or something that lets air pass underneath, or else the schiacciata will become soggy. 
  • Slice after at least 5 mintues and devour it...
  • Schiacciata can be served warm or cold, and can be frozen in air-tight containers.  
1) The ingredients; 2) sift the flour; 3) cook the potato until it is soft, but it doesn't break out completely; 4) mix the wet dough; 5) let the dough rest for at least 3 hours; 6) the dough has risen and fermented; 7) pull the dough onto an oiled pan; 9) spread the dough to cover the entire surface of the pan; 9) after 1 hour the dough has risen again; 10) cook in the oven at 400F/200C; 11) and 12) the schiacciata is ready. Look at that crumb and that crust... 



23 comments:

Not Just A Pretty Dress said...

So is the potato the magic ingredients? I've never heard of it before (it sounds like pasta al pesto which requires the potatoes to be boiled in the pasta water...), but I'm going to it it a try and I look forward to the more traditional recipe. PS: i miei stivali sono meravigliosi! Solo tu, 'Luca' e mia mamma pensate il contrario...

Simona said...

DAVVERO..VAVVERO SPLENDIDA SI SENTE IL PROFUMO ANCHE DA UA BACIO SIMMY

Simona said...

PS CARO FRANCE CHE BELLO VEDERE SCRITTO SCHIACCIATA.. SOLO NOI TOSCANI LA CHIAMIAMO COSì IN LAZIO LA CHIAMNO PIZZA???????!!!!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

@NJAPD: the potato AND the long rising time and the little yeast. They all work the magic. Just yesterday I baked a schiacciata very similar to this, but using a different method (more yeast, less rising time) and it come out not even remotely near the flavors of the recipe I published here. It looked like a schiacciata you can find in a foreign supermarket.

@Simona: grazie! Fammi sapere se la provi e come ti viene. Si', sul nome hai ragione, c'e' una grossa confusione in Italia. Ne parlero'. Ma chi e' France?

Beau @ somethingedible said...

Thanks for all those great illustrative pictures! Can't wait to give it a go!

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Beau - I felt the photos were necessary especially to understand the consistency of the dough, which MUST be very wet. If you can work it with your hands that means that it is not wet enough!

Let me know how it turns out for you!

The Kitchen Bitch said...

Holy yum Tuscan Foodie! This pictures make me miss Italy more than I already do, and I love that it's no knead (saves the arm strength).

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Kitchen Bitch - not only does your arm's strenght, but it also comes out better than all the other focaccia bread I have tried to bake (and I did try an awful lot!)

Trobairitz said...

Looks delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe. One of these days i'll have to get adventurous and try it out.

Is that mortadella in your first picture? I worked in a German deli right out of high school that also stocked a lot of Italian meats and this looks familiar.

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Good eye, Trobairitz! It is mortadella, the perfect companion of schiacciata, as far as I am concerned.

Vittorio said...

Amazing!!! I made it today. It came out great! Crunchy on the outside and soft and moistly on the inside. Thank you!!! I will make soon a video on simplebaker.com
Ciao!!!

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Ciao Vittorio, Welcome! Happy to hear it worked out for you! Let me know when you put up the video!

Ruccina said...

Hello,
I too have spent sleepless nights pondering flour-to water ratios, the importance of top quality flour, the difference between different types of yeast etc. I am sure my husband thinks that I have lost my mind. Nevertheless, while watching "La Prova del Cuoco" with Gabriele Bonci, I discovered a very interesting 'impasto' that you may find interesting. Here is the link:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDO_m7S-Pr4 . If the link doesn't work you can simply google it. In bocca al lupo!

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Thank you Ruccina: I am always eager to try new pizza dough recipes. Although I think I may have found "the one".

Andrea said...

Och well... I didn't realise you had a detailed recipe as well...
Anyway, going back to my earlier comment, the water-flour ratio is not 1:1 because it all depends on how much water has indeed evaporated...

Answering my other question, so the focaccia doesn't have to taste of potato at all:) So perhaps the name on Vittorio's blog is a bit misleading (focaccia con patate or something like that) as I was expecting a different taste. No matter... it is good anyway:)

It is true though that it does look like the pizza bianca you find in Rome, only thinker :D

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi Andrea, you are right that the water ratio is never actually the same, because it depends on how much water you let evaporate. This is why I recommend that you put a lid on the pan with the water while boiling, and make sure that the water does boil, but that not too much vapor will come out. The dough will indeed be very liquid, and that's how it should be.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful recipe!! How would you vary it to make a schiacciata all'uva, with grapes and sugar? Simply work some grapes into the dough and then sprinkle the top with sugar before you bake it?

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi, thank you! I baked schiacciata all'uva only once, adding sugar also to the dough. I then added sugar after baking it, for it to have the same texture. But I am not sure...I need to try again!

Anonymous said...

The scacctia I grew up loving is more of a potato and sausage and cheese and lite sauce herb blend mixture folded like a calazone but in a much bigger size sheet pan size or you could get it with broccli. Yummy cant seem to find it any where

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Never had such a thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi. In the ingredients list it says 2 1/2 cups water and 4 1/2 cups flour, but in the instructions it says there is a 1:1 water to flour ratio. Can you tell me which one is right?

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Hi, e 1:1 ratio is in weight, not volume. I say in my recipe you need 600gr of water and 600 gr of flour. The volume ratio of fliur and water is not 1:1, because the same volume of water weighs more than the same vokume of flour.

The cups measure I put are correct. However, espcially when baking, you should try to use weight measurements, to ensure consistency (1 cup of flour may be more or less packed, whereas 100 gr of flour will always be 100gr.)

DAVIS said...

Ah! Grazie per il risposto. I have spent almost two years in Florence, and I would eat fresh schiacciata almost every day. When I return to the USA I can never find good schiacciata. This recipe is the closest I have found so far. - DAVIS

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