Wednesday, October 17, 2007
When were in a little seaside town in Tuscany, a restaurant at the beach made a flat bread with ham and cheese cooked into the center. The crunchy top was fragrant with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Everyone would eagerly wait for the lunch time batch to be ready. Slices wrapped in paper would be handed out and we would gingerly hold the hot bread while nibbling at the cooler edges.
It took a long time to recreate this dish to our satisfaction. The dough has to be rolled thin so the crust is thin and crunchy. The ham that works the best is a black forest style ham that is thinly sliced. The cheese can be thick and ooze out to greet you or thin and subtle. A baking stone works best to give a crunchy bottom crust but it isn't really necessary. Sea salt wasn't easily available years ago so we substituted coarse pickling salt.
(skee-ah-chat-ah - means flattened)
1&1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1&1/2 tsp instant yeast
3&1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil
3/4 lb thinly slice Black forest style ham
3/4 lb thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for top
1 tsp coarse salt for top
1 large baking sheet or pan 9x13 to 10x15. A baking stone makes the baking time longer and a tin sheet makes the time shorter. Check the Schiacciata after 15 minutes. The top and bottom should be a nice golden brown when it's time to remove it from the oven.
Mix water, sugar, salt, 1 tbsp of olive oil and 2 cups of flour until it forms a smooth paste. Mix in the yeast. Let the mixture sit until the yeast is bubbling. This will take about five minutes, but if you're busy and you give it more time, don't worry about it.
Mix in the rest of the flour a little at a time. Mix and knead until the dough is a soft and slightly sticky. The dough will pull away slightly from the walls of the bowl but will not form a solid clump. The dough will stick to your finger if you poke it. You may need to add a bit more flour.
Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to grease the sides of the bowl. Scoop the dough from the bowl and roll it around so it is covered in oil. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. (You can make the dough the day before and put it in the fridge. Just bring it to room temperature before trying to work with the dough.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease the baking sheet. Divide the dough in half and carefully roll out to form a thin sheet. Place the dough on the baking sheet. If the dough over hangs the edges or is too thick, trim carefully. Place a layer of the thin slices of ham followed by a thin layer of cheese. Roll out the other half of the dough and place carefully on top. Trim any thick or overhanging edges. Pinch the edges together to keep the cheese from oozing out of the Schiacciata.
Pour 1 tbsp of olive oil on top and spread smoothly. Sprinkle the coarse the salt over the top. You can let it rest at this point for 15 minutes or pop it directly into the oven.
Cook on center rack for about 25 minutes.
* Prosciutto does not work well in the Schiacciata because it becomes tough when cooked.