My favorite bready thing in Florence doesn't involve cheese, cured meat or cow stomach...
It involves grapes. Tons and tons of sweet, squishy, in-season grapes.
It's called schiacciata all'uva, and it's a fruity twist on Florence's focaccia-like flatbread.
Usually, schiacciata is seasoned with olive oil and salt, which fill the fluffy bread's craters (made by pressing your fingers into the dough before baking) with savory, lick-your-lips goodness.
During grape-harvest season in late September through October, though, those pockets are studded with deep purple wine grapes for a sticky sweet bread you can eat for breakfast or dessert. You can only find it in certain bakeries for a short window this time of year, so I've been eating it every chance I get.
I first heard about schiacciata all'uva from a local food blogger I follow on Instagram, Emiko Davies, who has a very enticing recipe for the bread here. When I saw her picture of the pillowy, violet-stained bread, I could almost taste the jammy grapes, and I knew I'd be a fan.
A few days later, I was shopping for a not-at-all exciting salad mix at the Eataly on Via de' Martelli when I caught a flash of purple shimmering in the corner of the pizza case. There it was: schiacciata all'uva. I pounced. Thinking I'd save it for when I got home so I could put it on a plate and eat it at the table with dignity, I snuck a bite as I walked away from the cash register. Game over. The bread won. I grabbed a seat at the cafe and polished off the whole big square in stunned silence.
Eataly's take on schiacciata all'uva is pretty thick and sturdy, with crunchy edges that allow the bread to maintain its shape when held up. In the middle, it's soft and chewy, with plenty of juicy grapes in each bite. There's an extra element of crunch on top from a sprinkling of sugar. It's sweet, but not overly so, which means I could eat it for breakfast.
The version I buy at Vecchio Forno, my local bakery that I visit more than I'd care to admit, is totally different. The dough itself is much more pillowy and delicate, so the grape juices permeate every millimeter and give every bite a squishy sensation. It's definitely a dessert.
These little differences in bread texture, grape dispersion and sugar levels mean that schiacciata all'uva varies depending on where you get it. If you ask me, that's a delight.
Wherever you go, you can bet that it will be unlike any other dessert you've tried.
I think that's why I like schiacciata all'uva so much. It's nothing like the La Madeleine pain aux raisins I grew up eating on Sunday mornings, which is much flakier and crispier than soft, fluffy schiacciata. (Apparently La Madeleine doesn't make this pastry anymore, which is a big mistake.)
Schiacciata all'uva isn't like any raisin-y dessert, actually, because (duh) it's made with fresh grapes, not dried ones. Even though the grapes lose a bit of moisture when baked, they remain shiny, plump and juicy — not at all like their dull, wrinkly relative (no offense, raisins). They're also usually left with their seeds inside, Tuscan-style, but the seeds seem to get a bit wispier and less noticeable when baked. The key difference: Raisin breads are usually pretty dry, with a few chewy raisins flecked throughout. Schiacciata all'uva is made with two layers of dough and topped with grapes on each, so every single bite is moist and juice-stained. Pretty great.
It will be a sad day when I go to Vecchio Forno for my purply fix and find that schiacciata all'uva season has ended. But I'll be OK — because I know that the end of one food season means the beginning of another, and I can't wait to see what the next one brings.