Easter time in Italy is a special moment. Apart from the religious importance of the feast, it's considered one of the best times to spend at home with the family, and eat!
Today's recipe is a Tuscan Easter dessert. While the majority of Italian Easter desserts are egg-rich baked goods, like the Pastiera from Naples, or heavy iced ricotta cakes, like the Sicilian Cassata, Tuscan sweets are a bit more delicate and light. So let's have a look at the typical Tuscan Easter Schiacciata, a fluffy sweet bread, scented with the unmistakable Tuscan aroma of aniseed.
WHAT YOU NEED:
- 550 gr "0"flour
- 170 grams of sugar
- 85 grams of butter
- 20 ml of olive oil
- 4 eggs (2 whole, 2 yolks and 2 whites for brushing the top of the dough)
- 28 grams of fresh yeast (or 9 grams of dry yeast)
- 15 grams of aniseed
- A dash of vin santo
- A dash or more of Sambuca or Strega (these liqueurs have strong fennel or liquorice-like flavours, which add to the aniseed aroma. If you don’t have it, use Marsala as Artusi does)
- Pinch of salt
- A teaspoon of honey
- Juice and rind of ½ an orange
- Rind of a lemon
Now that you have all your indredients ready, we can start cooking!
1 . For the starter - 20 minutes
Activate your starter by combining the yeast with about 60 ml of lukewarm water and 50 grams of flour. Let it bubble and rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 20 minutes or so.
In the meantime, soak the aniseed in the orange juice together with the citrus rinds and honey. Preheat the oven to warm it up to help the dough rise in the next step.
2. First rising - 90 minutes
When the starter looks doubled in size, add to it 250 grams of flour, 85 grams of sugar, 43 grams of butter, 1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk (save the white for later), 8 grams of olive oil, pinch of salt and half of the aniseed mixture. Combine well to get an elastic, slightly sticky dough.
Place the dough in a large bowl, covered, inside the warm oven (which should be turned off). Let the dough rise until it is soft and wobbly – it should tremble like a pudding when lightly shaken.
3. Second rising - 3 hrs
When the dough is appropriately wobbly, it’s time to add the rest of the ingredients. Combine everything very well and then place the dough in its baking pan – this should be a greased (traditionally with lard, but you can use olive oil) round, deep baking tin (around 20-26 cm in diameter). Let the dough rise, covered and even swaddled in tea towels, overnight
The dough should rise about 3 times its original volume and be perfectly rounded.
4. Baking - 50 mins
Brush the top of the dough with the egg whites leftover from earlier and bake in moderate oven (150-160°C) for about 50 minutes until cooked and dark brown on top. (it won’t rise much further). A small saucepan filled with water and placed in the bottom of the oven will help keep the oven humid and create a nice crust.
This desert should be made on Good Friday in order to serve it for the Sunday Easter lunch.
Let us know how it turned out!