would you like a piece of spring-y schiacciata to take with you on a picnic? i sure do!
if you’re wondering what a schiacciata is, think flatbread. but since the dough contains yeast it’s not technically a flatbread anymore. when referring to a schiacciata in italian one’s talking about a piece of dough that’s been shaped in a flat, irregular disc, usually by hand – we say “schiacciare”, that means flatten.
this preparation is neither a focaccia, because there’s not much oil in the dough itself, nor a flatbread as you now know. i guess you could say it is just a fancy pizza and call it a day… but we’re real fancy today so i decided to use the italian term for it. so schiacciata it is!
the dough for the base comes together with a bit of elbow grease, but nothing complicated. kneading dough has almost a therapeutic effect to me, and if you have any tension that’s the right moment to let them go. of course if you have a standmixer fitted with dough attachment things are way easier, as the machine will do the hard work for you.
you can make a double batch of dough and freeze it after the first rise. it will keep for a few months, so you just have to transfer it in the fridge to thaw overnight, shape and bake the next day for a no fuss pizza!
the schiacciata dough is also very forgiving and easy to tweak: you can use active dry yeast if you’re not familiar with the fresh kind, or use different flours. lately i’ve been loving white spelt flour both for sweet and savory applications; rye flour would provide a nice taste too.
the recipe calls for a mixture of different flours, and the amount of whole wheat flour is smaller than the other two ones – this is to prevent the dough to be too stiff and tough, because whole wheat flour-based goods tend to be less tender. again, balance is key, right?
please keep in mind that gluten free alternatives won’t rise as much and won’t have the same texture, because of the lack of gluten and the strength it provides to the dough.
speaking about yeast, quantities here are lower than other recipes, because we’re going to let the schiacciata dough rest for quite a bit, slow and nicely in a warm environment. however, if you’re short on time you could opt for a forced rise – that is, more yeast and a warmer environment (place the bowl with the schiacciata dough on a radiator, or heat oven to 50 C, turn it off and stick the dough in there) to make the little folks in the yeast run faster. it should take about two hours.
even though spring is still at large i decided to top my schiacciata with something that would call warmer days, new vegetables and fresh greens. we have beautiful scallions, chargrilled to perfection, a fresh (vegan!) pesto, pine nuts and lemon zest – which you don’t see in the pictures because i totally forgot to add it. but it was meant to be there lol
the idea for this post was actually based on another italian classic called erbazzone, a stuffed deep-dish pie that’s rich in greens (erbe, or erbette – think spinach). but the thing is, when i was grocery shopping for the shot i noticed a bunch of beautiful scallions from tropea, a gorgeous calabrian seaward corner on the mediterranean sea. they’re called cipollotti di tropea, and unlike your usual scallions, green onions and spring onions they have a beautiful purple hue to the bulb. side note: if things are getting confused, here’s a nice article about the difference between those baby onions.
after a few trials I finally nailed the recipe for a vegan pesto sauce. i’ve always suspiciously judged all those recipes calling for lemon juice in the pesto. boy i was wrong. you need lemon juice to have a bright taste that won’t make you miss the regular version! thank god I have no ligurian roots or friends to offend with this recipe – it seems they’re very jealous of their green hued baby’s purity.
since i was already altering the original recipe I decided to replicate something I learnt reading tons of pesto jars’ labels. many store bought brands here in italy use cashew nuts to replace a fraction of the total nut content, that should be composed just of pine nuts – but they’re quite possibly the most expensive nut on the market. the pesto has a mellower and silkier taste to it, thanks to the swap, and so does this recipe. nutritional yeast takes the place of cheese, and then you have good quality olive oil, basil of course, an ice cube (trust me on this one), a tiny squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper.
if you’re wondering why my recipes always call for good quality or premium extravirgin olive oil, here’s why. i don’t use large quantities of added fats to cook with, and my chosen one is said good quality extravirgin olive oil. oil is not just an addition or a base for something else – it is a food itself. so i carefully choose it, investing my money to make sure i enrich my recipes with something top quality that will actually last me enough to cover the higher price. as they say, a little goes a long way!
an inviting, delectable and colorful schiacciata that celebrates spring and its fresh flavors. the italian flatbread or schiacciata gets topped with delicious vegan pesto, chargrilled spring onions and pine nuts, making for the perfect nibble to take with you on a walk or picnic.
- 100 g white spelt flour
- 50 g whole wheat flour
- 80 g bread flour
- 10 g fresh yeast (the one sold in cubes. you can use 3g active dry yeast instead)
- 1 spoonful extravirgin olive oil
- 3 g salt
- lukewarm water
- 20 g cashews, raw
- 10g pine nuts
- a bunch fresh basil
- 4 to 5 spoonfuls quality extravirgin olive oil
- 10 g nutritional yeast
- one ice cube
- 1/2 small lemon, juiced
- a pinch salt + black pepper
- 1/2 bunch scallions (I used cipollotti di tropea here)
- a handful pine nuts
- lemon zest (optional)
have ready a large wooden board and a cupful of lukewarm water.
weigh out flours and salt, mixing them with a whisk to loosen any lump and areate the powders. dump dry ingredients onto the prepared board.
in a separate mixing bowl add yeast and about 1/4 cup lukewarm water. mix to dissolve. you'll want to do this if you're using active dry yeast, too.
make a well in the middle and pour the yeast mixture in, as well as a spoonful of extravirgin olive oil. loosely mix with a fork, adding extra water (about 1/4 cup more) to combine.
now things get dirty: knead the dough with your hands adding water as needed, until you can shape a sticky ball. the amount will vary depending on the flour you used.
knead the dough for 10 minutes, stretching and folding it with the palm of your hand. you'll know when the dough is ready if it feels smooth and tough (but not too much!) and it will wipe your hands clean.
place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let proof in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 to 4 hours.
split the dough in half and roll out the two halves with your hands, leaving the outside slightly thicker than the center.
cover with a cloth and let proof again for a couple hours on a tray.
place the tray you'll bake the schiacciata on in the oven and preheat it to 250 C. this will help the bottom to crisp up and shorten the overall baking time.
remove the hot tray from the oven, carefully place the two schiacciata on and return the whole thing to the oven. bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until puffed up nicely.
place all the ingredient listed into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until combined. add more ice-cold water or oil as needed, the mixture will be rather thick.
preheat a griddle pan on high until very hot.
wash and halve scallions, then carefully place them in the hot pan. grill the vegetables one to two minutes each side, or until griddle marks form. remove and let cool.
top each schiacciata with a generous serving of pesto, spring onions and a handful of pine nuts.
quickly broil them, top with lemon zest and serve immediately.
the dough can be made in advance and stored in the fridge - that is called a retard. yeast will slow its activity down in the cold environment, so you won't end up with over proofed dough.
remove the dough from the refrigerator about half an hour to an hour before shaping it into a schiacciata, so that yeast will wake up and be ready to leaven your flatbread.
you can also shape one big schiacciata to share, instead of two individual ones.
if you can't find fresh yeast, use active dry yeast instead.
all the components for this recipe can be prepped in advance.
store any leftover in the fridge, in sealed containers. pesto should keep for a few days, although it may turn darker or brownish due to oxidation.