There is a point at the end of summer when the natural world feels suspended: the landscape assumes a rather dull and tired appearance and the air feels heavy with humid stillness. But then the night time temperatures drop and your breath appears noticeable in the latent morning light. Blazing maple leaves beckon to unearth that favorite fuzzy sweater and seemingly out of nowhere mysterious dark grapes appear at market with the most alluring yeasty bloom. Upon sampling, their robust foxy flavor easily displace table grapes as inferior impostors.
These magnetizing orbs beg to make their way into your market basket. Staining your fingers when you just can't resist fondling them on the way home, their skins are thick and pulpy - an invitation to allow them to linger on the tongue long after their flesh has dissolved in the mouth.
This flatbread is one of my favorite seasonal recipes because it celebrates a rather fleeting crop of one of the most flavorful fall fruits available. It was originally developed in the Tuscany region and is much adored for its irresistible jam-like topping once baked. If you can't source Concords (my favorite for this recipe!) or sweet red wine grapes (the original regional choice), you'll be sorely disappointed if you use table grapes from the grocery store. A substitution of blackberries, blueberries, or black currants would be a wiser choice if you happen to stumble upon this recipe in late spring or summer.
Using the focaccia recipe from my cookbook Sourdough as the base, simply substitute with Concords, fresh rosemary (or anise or fennel seed), and a sprinkling of sugar to make this bread a savory dessert focaccia you will crave all year long!
SCHIACCATA con L'UVA
1 focaccia dough recipe (Pages 75-76 of Sourdough)
1/3 cup (70 g) extra virgin olive oil
3 cups (450 g) Concord grapes
1 heaping tablespoon fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
3-4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Build the Dough:
Prepare the focaccia dough according to directions on Page 76 of Sourdough.
Assemble the Focaccia:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and turn out onto a well-floured surface. Gently pat into a large rectangle. Divide in half using a bench knife and transfer to a lightly oiled, parchment-lined baking sheet. (Alternatively, you may use two 9" parchment-lined cake tins, although this will make the dough significantly thicker and cooking time about 5-7 minutes longer). Using your fingertips, make indentations into the dough surface that will act as wells for the olive oil. Drizzle the oil evenly over the dough. Distribute the grapes, gently pressing them into the surface. Sprinkle the rosemary and sugar over the grapes and allow to proof at room temperature for about one hour.
Bake the Focaccia:
About 30 minutes before the dough is finished proofing, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. When the surface of the focaccia shows a few emerging gas bubbles and the dough appears puffy and supple, place the focaccia in the oven. Bake for about 27-30 minutes, rotating halfway. The focaccia will be ready when the surface is a deep golden brown and the edges are a bit crisp and caramelized. Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for about 10 minutes. Using a spatula to loosen the sides if necessary, remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Best if eaten the same day.