Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina
Carnevale is a festive and happy time in Italy. It is kind of the “last hurrah” before the period of lenten fasts, abstinence, and repentance. Elaborate masks and even costumes are donned, and the celebration begins early and leaves late – lasting for weeks and with the final big splash on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Carnevale brings many traditional dishes with it each year. One of these is a dessert cake, CARNEVALE CAKE or SCHIACCIATA ALLA FIORENTINA. It is absolutely addictive in flavor and amazingly easy to make.
About Carnevale: Perhaps the most well known festivals are held in Venice, home to many of the beautiful masks we associate with this event, and Viareggio in Northern Tuscany, famous for its parades and beautifully detailed floats. The official mask of Carnevale in Viareggio is “ Burlamacco”, the clown who pilfers pieces from the other character masks and costumes to make one very odd looking and sometimes scary fellow. There is even a hotel named after him. Carnevale is considered a major event in Italy. Everyone, from children to the very old, participates in some way.
The Food of Carnevale: As with every other feast day or celebratory event in Italy, Carnevale seems to have its own set of foods that are associated with it. Every region has a special dish or dishes that they prepare to mark the celebration and especially on Shrove Tuesday, the last day of fun. As with other regional dishes, you’ll find similarities and differences in some recipes from region to region.
Polenta (a form of cornmeal mush) is a favorite in Italian households on Shrove Tuesday here in the US and in Italy. There will be some variation in how the polenta is made from region to region. Italians prepare it in all sorts of ways. In the south, most notably in Campania, the Napoletanas like to serve it with a beautiful red tomato sauce containing sausage and tiny meatballs. They serve it on a large board or platter and everyone eats from it. This is the way, my family enjoyed it every Shrove Tuesday for as long as I can remember. In my early days, my father, Attilio, would stand me up on a chair and let me stir the polenta with a special endlessly long wooden spoon – one of the most vivid of my childhood memories. For two posts on polenta try these other links on my site:
Smashed, crushed, and squeezed: Whatever am I getting at here now? And no, it is not a new way to order hash browns at the Waffle House. Schiacciata translates to “smashed, crushed, squeezed” and a variety of other words of a similar nature. What exactly are we smashing, crushing or squeezing? Not a thing really! This is a very typical stew you find yourself in with so many Italian words and translations. As my mother, Loretta, used to say, “It sounds better in Italian.” She had a point.
The many faces of Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina: This Schiacciata or CARNEVALE CAKE takes many forms in Italy. It is mainly a Tuscan idea, specifically Florentine. You’ll find it as a bread, a focaccia, a stuffed bread, a cake, and even a pizza. None of these have much similarity in preparation to one another.
Today’s Schiacciata at Linda’s Italian Table is most definitely a cake. It is a beautiful and simple cake to prepare (all in one bowl) and is also an example of the very popular and much requested Olive Oil Cake. The olive oil is not only good for you, but it also makes this cake irresistibly moist – giving it a an almost unique consistency. I have used lemon in this one: both extract and zest to give it a VERY definite citrus flavor. The special surprise is the addition of Candied Lemon Peel.I have long been a fan of the homemade candied peel. It has so many uses in baking and in cooking savory dishes. It also is delicious and different served at the end of a meal with espresso for just a little sweet treat. You can omit the Candied Lemon Peel entirely, if you wish, or use store bought – but OH the difference the homemade version makes to this cake – just can’t describe! I recommend an easy and fun recipe for making your own Candied Lemon Peel just a click away on my post “NO NEED TO PUCKER”. This beautiful Candied Peel lasts a long time in a sealed container at room temperature or you can freeze it.
Trust me – they won’t be able to stop eating this one!!
(Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina)
Makes: one 9” round cake
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
1 1/2 c. Flour
1 c. Ground Almonds
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. Olive Oil
3/4 c. whole milk
Zest of a fresh lemon
1 Tbsp. Lemon Extract
1 c. chopped Candied Lemon Peel (optional) For a homemade version: see my post: NO NEED TO PUCKER
Powdered sugar for dusting
Grease a 9 “ spring form pan.
Put whole almonds through a food processor to grind them finely
Mix together in a large bowl: flour, ground almonds, sugar, and baking powder.
Add olive oil and milk. Mix together until incorporated.
Add the extract and lemon zest and mix well.
Add the chopped candied lemon peel, if using it.
Pour into your prepared pan, and bake at 350 degrees until golden and set in the center – about 35 minutes depending on your oven. Test with a knife – if it comes out clean – you’re done!
Release and remove the side of the spring form pan and cool. Dust with sifted powdered sugar.
Serve: You will love this beautiful lemony CARNEVALE CAKE. You might enjoy it with a glass of Limoncello and an espresso! Believe me – there is nothing lovelier than this cake – especially as your swan song before Lent.
Just one more thing: Don’t forget your mask!
PARLA COME MANGI!
Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.
Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography