Traditional Italian desserts are usually egg-rich baked goods. For example, Sicily has its cassata, a sponge cake layered with ricotta and candied fruit, and covered in royal icing.
Tuscans have a simpler palate for sweets.
The most traditional Easter treat is the schiacciata di pasqua, a fluffy, sweet bread scented with the unmistakably Tuscan aroma of aniseed.
It’s basically Tuscany’s answer to Milan’s panettone.
I’ve cut this down from the original recipe so that instead of making three 8” round cakes, it makes only one.
I also cut the yeast way back so it’s an appropriate amount to raise the dough, but not to overwhelm it with a yeast taste.
The only other thing I changed is using just the zest and juice of an orange as opposed to grating the entire thing on a box grater. If you’d like to try it, please do so, it’s an interesting experience and not as hard as it sounds! Just watch your knuckles!
- 3 ¼ cup flour
- 1 packet dried yeast, dissolved in ½ cup water
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup sugar + 1 tbsp
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ cup Vin Santo, or semi sweet sherry or marsala
- ½ cup mint rosolio or 1 tbsp crème di menthe
- 1 tbsp anice seed
- Pinch of sea salt
- Zest of one orange
- Juice of same orange
- Powdered sugar
Place all the flour, one teas sugar and the pinch of salt in a large bowl.
Make a well in the center and add ½ of the yeast and water and one beaten egg.
With a fork, mix a small amount of the flour into the wet ingredients.
You must not mix in all the flour, only enough to make it thick but still very soft and moist, leaving this starter, or “lievitino”, in the center like a volcano.
Mix it well and then cover it and allow it to rise an hour in a warm place.
Meanwhile, mix together in a small pan the remaining sugar, oil, butter, orange zest and juice (or the whole orange if you’ve gone that route), anice seeds and liquors.
Heat the mixture until the sugar is melted, without bringing it to a boil. Take it off the stove and allow it to cool.
Butter your round pan, either a cake or spring form.
If you can find the brown paper pans that are used to make panettone, all the better.
Remove the bowl of flour from its warm resting place, add in the remaining yeast, the other egg and all the liquid mixture.
Mix it well, preferable with the dough hook of an electric beater.
The mixture is very soft and you won’t be able to knead it on a board.
Pour the dough into your cake pan and allow it to rest and raise in a warm space another hour.
Heat the oven to 350 and place the schiacciata in the oven.
Bake it until it is risen and browned, about 30-40 minutes.
When the cake is cooled dust it with powdered sugar.