Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Sweet Bread for Fall From Chef Michael

Apple trees are heavy with fruit this week in Northeast Italy. It's a prefect time for a Venetian Apple Cake.

That's what chef Michael is making in Titina's kitchen as he kicks off a series of Italian Deserts Classes. (Select Wednesday nights 6-9)

Michael, who lived in Italy for 7 years, says that this sweet, spicy treat is one of the seasonal dishes that Italians from that region make once a year.

Here's another favorite seasonal recipe from Michael's collection--Schiacciata or Sweet Grape Bread, which is made in Tuscany when the grapes are harvested every fall.

At home or on the job in the kitchen of a five star, five diamond hotel, Michael uses metric measurements . He suggests that all home bakers do the same.

"I weigh just about everything when I cook--It's far more accurate and quicker."

He says scales are inexpensive and can be found at found at chains like Target, and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Read last weeks post for Michael's full class line up. And check out this web site he likes for more information on converting metric to US

Schiacciata con l'uva: Sweet Grape Bread

Schiacciata (Ski-a-cha-tah) means crushed, flattened or squashed in Italian, and is the name for flatbread in Tuscany. Both savory and sweet versions of schiacciata are found there. In general, savory schiaciatta is made using bread dough as the base, much like the pizza and focaccia in other regions of Italy. The addition of olive oil and sugar to the bread dough results in a sweet schiacciata.

For the base:
500 g flour
25 g yeast
pinch of salt
60 g white sugar
15 grains of anise seeds or 1sp Sambuca or 1/2 tsp anise extract
3-4 cups of water

For the topping:
1 kg big black, juicy grapes
100 g powdered sugar
a few twigs of fresh rosemary (optional)
6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Warm the water and dissolve the yeast completely. On a clean surface, place the flour, salt and sugar and mix. Form into a small heap with a well in the center. Slowly pour the dissolved yeast into the center, mixing with the flour until all of the yeast water is incorporated. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, like for bread, until it is smooth and elastic. Cover and place in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
In a small saucepan warm the olive oil with the rosemary. As soon as the rosemary starts to sizzle, remove saucepan from the heat, throw away the rosemary and let the oil cool.
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Grease a rectangular baking pan (around 50 x 20 cm or 13 x 9 inch). Roll out the dough to about 1 cm thick (1/2 inch), and wide enough to have the dough overlapping the edges of the pan by about 2-3 cm (1 inch) all around. Place the dough on the pan and cover it completely with the grapes. Dust the grapes with the sugar and rosemary, then drizzle the olive oil over all of this. Fold the edges of the dough over on top of the grapes around the border, pinching the corners to make the schiacciata rectangular in form.

Bake the schiacciata for 30 minutes. You might want to place another pan underneath, because the grapes' juice could drip out over the edges of the pan. Let cool and serve with a bit of honey on top.
Buon appetito!

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