Ever since I discovered that Italians traditionally studded their focaccia dough with red or green grapes instead of just sundried tomatoes, I’ve been on the occasional focaccia con frutta-making streak. However the variations I’ve concocted, have morphed into flatbread closer to a dessert pizza.
I did not know the Italian tradition when I jumped into schiacciata-making, because I was inspired first by the grape bread from the Vancouver bakery, Terra Bread. It’s wonderful stuff with a coffee or tea. Schiacciata means “crushed or smashed” according to one helpful cycling friend who visits her family in Italy. (For some reason, that term is used by some recipes to denote the grape focaccia version.)
Unlike some Internet recipes which may use sugar in the dough or on top, or drizzled with sweet wine, I’m pleased to say that I’ve stumbled across as equally tasty, yet creative versions that eliminate the use of sugar. By default, traditional focaccia or pizza dough, has no egg, butter nor shortening. A great healthy base to begin piling on the fresh fruit and spices.
Usually it’s summer time with piles of local fruit at the markets, particularily the berries, that inspire me to mess around with the warm, yeasty focaccia dough.
Rustic Experiments with Juicy, Fresh Berries
I make my jazzed-up schiacciata with any of the following fresh berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or grapes. The latter is my last choice since my juicier experiments with ripe berries are more elegant and luscious in taste. I have also tried sliced fresh mango, though when it’s baked, the mango flavour is muted.
After the focaccia dough has risen twice with intermittent punch down and 3 minutes of kneading, press out the dough flat onto a baking sheet. Before laying on fruit, press into the warm dough: freshly grated ginger root, followed by freshly pounded aniseed –about 2-3 tablespoons per large cookie sheet of dough.
That’s the secret, flavourful gentle kicker that is both east-west mysterious. I have even tried peeled and seeded ripe lichees also –lovely. They are married with fresh blueberries or another berry. Lichees taste like a fragrant grape.
After gently pressing into the dough, fresh whole blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, sprinkle all over the focaccia with cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg if you wish. Grate fresh lemon rind of 1 lemon, squeeze fresh lemon juice and drizzle all over with fresh honey.
Pop into the oven, 475-500 degrees F for 15 minutes or until the dough is springy firm and very lightly golden. The hot berries might have burst abit by now.
Be sure to eat while still warm –the berries or warm grapes explode sweetly in your mouth while also the dough is still abit soft. A perfect healthy dessert that celebrates summer goodness and joy.