Tart Cherry Schiacciata

Image: Tart Cherry Schiacciata.
National Festival of Breads Finalist
Mary Kay Allen, Troy, OH

Prep Time: 5 hours
Bake Time: 24 minutes
Yield: 2 loaves, 16 slices each

Ingredients

3 ½ cups unsweetened frozen tart cherries, thawed 
2 teaspoons brandy 
1 cup warm water (100⁰ - 110⁰F) 
1 (¼ ounce) package yeast 
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
¾ cup granulated sugar for almond sugar 
2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten 
4 - 4 ¼ cups King Arthur all-purpose flour, divided 
4 ounces almond paste 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided 
1 teaspoon almond extract, divided 
1/3 cup brandy 
½ teaspoon salt 
2/3 cup butter, softened 
4 tablespoons sliced almonds, divided

Instructions

1. Cut cherries in halves. In small bowl, marinate the cherries in 2 teaspoons brandy. 

2. In mixer bowl, add water, yeast, and 1/3 cup sugar; let stand 10 minutes. Add eggs and 2 cups flour; beat 2 minutes on low speed. Scrape down sides of bowl. Cover; let rise 30 – 45 minutes, until bubbly. 

3. Meanwhile, prepare almond sugar. In food processor bowl with knife blade, add ¾ cup sugar, almond paste, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Pulse the mixture until the almond paste is cut finely into the sugar, about the size of grains of rice. (Or, the almond paste can be cut into the sugar mixture with a hand-held pastry cutter.) Spoon into small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. 

4. To prepare dough, using the paddle attachment, blend into flour mixture 1/3 cup brandy, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and ½ teaspoon almond extract. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups flour and salt until thoroughly blended. 

5. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the butter, cut into small pieces. Once the butter is incorporated, switch to the kneading hook. Knead on medium low speed 5 minutes. If needed gradually add enough of the remaining ¼ cup flour to make a moderately soft dough. (Note: this dough is a wet dough; avoid adding too much flour.) 

6. Place dough in bowl coated with cooking spray. Lightly spray surface of dough, cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. 

7. Drain the cherries thoroughly. Spray bottom of two 17 x 11-inch sheet pans with cooking spray. 

8. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, but do not punch down. Divide the dough in four equal pieces. Gently stretch one-fourth into a 10 x 7-inch rectangle. Move to prepared pan, rearranging into a rectangle. Sprinkle with one-fourth almond sugar mixture. Top with one-fourth drained cherries. 

9. Repeat the stretching and shaping of one-fourth dough. Cut 6 half-inch slits, evenly spaced, to release steam. Lay on top of the first layer. Pinch the edges together. Top evenly with one-fourth of the cherries. 

10. Repeat with remaining dough for second loaf. Cover; let rise until puffy, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. 

11. Preheat oven to 400⁰F. Stir the sliced almonds into the remaining almond sugar. Sprinkle half over top of each bread. Bake 20 to 24 minutes until golden. Place pans on a rack and cool 10 minutes in the pan. Remove from pan to wire rack and cool slightly. Cut into wedges or strips and serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information

One slice provides 163 calories, 3 g protein, 23 g carbohydrate, 1 g dietary fiber, 6 g fat (3 g unsaturated), 22 mg cholesterol, 36 mcg folate, 1 mg iron and 44 mg sodium.

Additional Notes

A schiacciata (pronounced skee-ah-cha-tah) is an Italian flatbread which can be sweet or savory. Following a trip to Italy, I first tried a sweet version using tart red grapes from Carol Field's book, The Italian Baker. Immediately I knew that I wanted to develop a recipe for this bread using tart cherries and almonds.

Baker’s Bio

Mary Kay was introduced to baking, cooking and food preservation at an early age. In fact, she was entering baked goods in the county fair by the age of 7. This passion for baking didn't end there as she taught home economics prior to going into her current field of special education. Mary Kay enjoys reading, traveling, Zumba classes and Celtic music on top of her love of cooking and claims her perfect day would consist of rising to a sunny day, reading the newspaper and attending a Celtic music festival.