Grape Harvest Bread
Makes one, large rectangular bread
Walking through the miles and miles of vineyards at Castello Banfi in Tuscany is meditative. From the back of the castello, Mount Sant’Amiata, a now-defunct volcano casts a looming presence over the sloping vines. This unforgettable landscape builds hope, if you are a winemaker, of a good harvest to come and spectacular wines to follow. When it is vendemmia (harvest season), the grapes are plucked and carried away on huge trucks to the winery. There, the fruit begins its slow transformation into wine. Grapes that are not good enough for the crush are good enough for schiacciata con l’uva, a sweet, flat yeast bread embedded with juicy, sweet grapes.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110°F)
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
5½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus a little more if needed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles, finely minced
2½ cups red, seedless grapes, stemmed, washed and dried
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
2. In a small bowl, mix 2½ cups of the flour with the salt and add it to the yeast mixture. Using your hands, work the ingredients until a ball of dough forms. Add additional flour as needed, but do not make the dough too stiff. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until it is smooth.
3. Grease a large bowl with ½ teaspoon of olive oil and turn the dough in it. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
4. Brush a 17½-inch-by-11¼-inch baking sheet with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Place in a piece of parchment paper, cut to fit the bottom, and set aside.
5. After the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured surface. Spread the dough out roughly with your hands and sprinkle the rosemary over the top. Fold the dough over the rosemary and knead a few times to evenly distribute the rosemary. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 20-inch-by-16-inch rectangle. Place the dough in the pan, stretching it about 1 inch over the sides. Brush the dough with the remaining olive oil; scatter the grapes evenly over the top and press them into the dough with your hands. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the grapes.
6. Bring the overhanging pieces of dough from the two longest sides toward the middle and pinch the seam together. Cut most of the excess dough off the two remaining short sides, leaving about ½ inch extending. Then fold the dough in on itself, pinching the ends closed. Use a fork to crimp the two short ends. The finished size should be about 15 inches by 8 inches.
7. Re-roll the dough scraps and make a decorative pattern on top. I use a small knife to cut leaves and vines, and use small balls of dough to make a bunch of grapes.
8. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 30 minutes. Brush the top with the beaten egg and sprinkle the top evenly with the remaining sugar.
9. Bake on the middle rack for 35–40 minutes or until the dough is nicely browned on top and bottom.
10. Remove the bread from the oven. Let the bread cool for 30 minutes. Then use the parchment paper and carefully lift the bread out to a wire rack. Let the bread cool again until it’s warm. Carefully pull the parchment paper away from the bottom, or leave it in place and remove after cutting the bread into serving pieces. This is best served warm the day it is made.