My parents-in-law used to own a bakery in Manciano.
Every year around this time, they would start making kilos and kilos of schiacche di pasqua (Easter bread).
Unlike most Italian desserts, the schiaccia is not particularly hard. It has yeast in it, but it doesn’t have to rise like a beautifully puffed panetone or brioche.
Instead it’s quite squat, flavourful and rich like banana bread. In true Maremman style, it’s flavoured with aniseed, but you can use cinnamon, vanilla, orange or lemon zest if you prefer.
You can’t celebrate Easter in the Maremma without a schiaccia. Most parts of Italy have their own recipe, but the Maremman version is one of the few to include ricotta.
This soft and humble cheese makes all the difference. It’s what allows the Maremman schiaccia walks that fine line between sweet and savoury.
The schiaccia is traditionally eaten on Easter morning with an array of treats. My husband loves it with sliced proscuitto and a hard boiled egg. I am a little more ‘white bread’ and toast mine with a coat of jam or marmalade.
As popular as this bread it, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find in the Maremma. It’s no longer made in the big cities like Grosseto or Massa Marittima. If you do find it, it’s mass produced and dry.
The best schiaccia are made in the days before Easter in the Maremma’s smallest country towns, where the tradition is alive and well.
Breakfast on Easter morning is perhaps the most important meal of the day in Italy. Sure we’ll get together for lunch or dinner too, but Easter morning breakfast is a beautiful tradition, where the family gathers to celebrate being together and breaking bread together.
My family is Calabrese, so we don’t have a schiaccia di pasqua. Instead we draw inspiration from our Greek neighbours and bake our own sweet bread with dyed boiled eggs woven between the threads of dough. It’s a complicated recipe that I leave to my nonna.
But this year, I learnt how to make a schiaccia di pasqua with my mother-in-law. It was incredibly quick, delicious and easy, so I just had to share… with pictures.
Buona Pasqua and enjoy!
Maremman schiaccia di pasqua
- 500g plain flour
- 200ml water
- 100ml olive oil
- 200g fresh ricotta, sheep’s milk if you can find it
- 20g fresh yeast, you can substitute this with dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt
Sift the flour into a big bowl. Make a well in the centre and add all the other ingredients. Mix until it comes together into a ball.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Place the dough into a greased 20cm cake tin. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. I find leaving the dough in the oven with only the oven light on works a treat.
Bake in a preheated oven at 220°C (428°F) for 25 minutes.
Leave to cool and serve with deli meats or jam.