Best sandwich bread, Florence-style schiacciata
” A whopping 85% hydration… transforms into a gorgeously glossy and almost fluid blob of a dough that spreads willingly, and yields elastic translucent crumbs and a terrain of air bubbles. “
I am no master baker. But dude, you listen to me on this one.
Been to Florence? No? Well, okay… sorry I guess. But this message is no less urgently relevant to you than those who have, particularly, those who have visited what is rumored to be the greatest sandwich shop in the world, All’antico Vinaio right in the center of Florence. But what makes their sandwiches good you ask, some even say the best? One could certainly make a convincing case for its market-style array of every single charcuteries, cheeses, vegetables and spreads that the great region of Tuscany has to offer. But if you ask me, as it usually turns out in the subject of sandwiches, it is the bread. More specifically, schiacciata.
What is schiacciata? And do not mistaken it with focaccia don’t you dare. Schiacciata is a Florentine flatbread that characteristically is closer to, I’d say, a pizza bianca than anything else. Ever since my visit to All’antico Vinaio years ago, it wasn’t their truffle cream or fennel salami that haunted my restless keto dreams. It was the carbs. It was the fucking carbs. So last week, I finally decided enough is enough.
I didn’t base my recipe on any that I have seen out there, because a brief internet search had landed me on a slew of upsetting focaccia with the name schiacciata slapped on it. Yes, upset, I’m upset. Thus for the first ever in the history of inadequate amateur bakers (this woman here), I started the recipe completely from scratch. I never thought I’d say this about baking blind but dear David of Michelangelo, was I happy I did.
What sets this recipe apart from other schiacciata recipes, and I’d like to think as its secret of success, is its higher-than-usual hydration ratio. A whopping 85% (compared to 60~75% in others on the street). What this means is that for one part of dry ingredients there will be 0.85 part of liquid by weight, resulting in an extremely wet formless mixture which, after proper kneading, transforms into a gorgeously glossy and almost fluid blob of a dough that spreads willingly, and yields elastic translucent crumbs and a terrain of air bubbles. It also has a darker complexion which is not a mistake with over-baking but the inclusion of buckwheat flour, a nutty and speckley flour commonly used in Japanese noodles (saba) for its aroma and texture. Crusty, chewy, bubbly and wheaty, with flecks and sheen in its crumbs like Italian terrazzo flour, it makes four gigantic sandwiches as the way Roman Gods intended.
Not another word, I say. There’s a god damn pandemic going on out there and what better things have you got to do other than making godly sandwiches?
- 1 1/3 + 1 tbsp (330 grams) water
- 1/4 cup (60 grams) plain yogurt
- 3 cups (385 grams) bread flour
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) buckwheat or rye flour (see note *)
- 1 1/2 tsp (9 grams) fine sea salt
- 1 tsp (4 grams) instant dry yeast
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- In a stand-mixer or hand-held mixer with dough-hook, whisk plain yogurt and water until even. Add bread flour, buckwheat flour, sea salt and instant dry yeast, and mix on low until incorporated, then turn to medium-high speed and knead for another 12~15 minutes. The dough will be very wet in the beginning, sticking everywhere, but it will eventually (in the last few minutes) develop enough gluten to pull away completely from the sides and bottom of the bowl, and become very silky, shiny and elastic. When the machine stops, the dough will stick right back to the bowl, but should pull again cleanly when you scrape it with a spatula. This will be very hard to achieve by kneading with hands, but you're welcome to try.
- Cover the bowl and let rise at room-temperature until fully doubled, about 1:30 to 2 hours.Alternatively, you can let the dough rise in the fridge for 24 hours or until doubled.
- Preheat the oven on 570 F/300 C with fan-on (or as high as your oven can go which is sometimes 500 F/250 C). Rub a little oil on a large baking sheet and stick a piece of parchment paper on top. Generously dust the entire parchment paper with flour, then scrape the dough on top. Gently fold 1/3 of each side the dough over itself into a rectangular shape, like folding a letter (the long side should be the same as the baking sheet). Generously dust flour on top of the dough and cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap (be generous with flour because we don't want the dough to stick to the plastic!). Let rise again for 45 minutes to 1 hour until doubled again. If your dough rose in the fridge, it may take longer like 1:30 to 2 hours.
- Remove the plastic wrap (be careful because some small areas might stick). Use the middle knuckles of your fingers to GENTLY dent and push the dough outwards towards all four directions, keeping the air bubbles inside and dusting with flour as needed, until the dough is about 3/4" (2 cm) at its thickest part. Now use the middle knuckles again to make random punctures 2" (5 cm) apart that goes all the way through the dough to the pan. This will prevent the dough from doming too much while baking. With a spray bottle, spray a thin mist of water all over the dough and the baking sheet (helps crust forming), then drizzle extra virgin olive oil on top of the dough.
- Bake in the middle rack of the oven for about 12~17 minutes, until the crust is deeply browned and blistered. I like to use a blow-torch to further char the surface of the bread when it comes out of the oven. Let cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.
- A suggestion for sandwich: Burrata + mortadella + prosciutto + baby arugula + clotted cream + dust of black pepper.
* Please do not take the liberty to increase the amount of buckwheat in this recipe! Buckwheat, despite its name, is not a wheat and is gluten-free. Too much of it will deter the gluten formation in the dough, which is paramount in this bread.