Easter Pastry – “Buona Pasqua”

In Italy, traditional Easter desserts are usually egg-rich baked goods. Naples’ Easter sweet is pastiera, a ricotta and wheatberry cake scented with orange blossom and candied citron. In Sicily, it is cassata, a sponge cake layered with ricotta, chocolate and candied fruit. Tuscany’s simpler palate is evident in the Easter schiacciata di Pasqua, a fluffy, sweet, crumbly bread not unlike Milan’s panettone, scented with the unmistakeably Tuscan aroma of aniseed.

There are claims that the schiacciata di Pasqua originated in eighteenth-century Fucecchio, a small town along the Arno roughly equidistant from Florence, Pistoia, Lucca, San Gimignano and Pisa. Schiacciata di Pasqua is indeed found in Tuscan towns from Fucecchio to Pisa to Livorno, and even as far south as San Gimignano. Although often known by different names—sportellina in San Gimignano and stiacciata in Livorno and along the Etruscan coast, and even pizza in other areas from southern Tuscany into central Italy—the ingredients are essentially the same, with aniseed the constant in any Tuscan version, but the amounts and other little touches differ.

A long process, the baking of the Easter schiacciata was a tradition of nineteenth-century contadini, the country folks’ way of both using and preserving spring’s abundant eggs. The recipe, a version of which is offered in the link below, needs to be followed with patience and care, letting the bread rise slowly and adding the ingredients in at least two stages, sometimes more.

This recipe dates back to eighteenth-century Fucecchio. Traditionally, each family would make its own schiacciata di Pasqua, leaving the starter and the dough to rise in the warm spaces of the kitchen. The process would begin at night, after dinner, with family members taking turns checking on the dough throughout the night. Once the dough had risen completely, it would be taken in its copper or terracotta pan to the wood-fired oven of the baker on via delle Valle, together with an egg for brushing on top to get that deep, dark brown crust.  Buon Appetito.



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