Report from a photo shoot and as dessert a Sweet Tuscan Grape Bread With A Twist or Schiacciata con l’uva con un tocco in piú


This is going to be a long post because not only do I want to make Merisi happy and post the schiacciata con l’uva (Tuscan Grape Bread) that I made yesterday but I also want to post about the big food job I am working on right now so sit down and prepare yourself for many photos.

set up

As usual we are shooting in the best of photo studios in Milan, Cantiere Bovisa, I really like the people there, they are fantastic and always ready to help. I have been there so much that they somehow have become a second family for me and that tells it all I think. And the owner´s wife who is japanese makes the most fantastic food for us-well can I ask for more?
This summer I have been doing the first Christmas catalogue which is dealing with gifts and such so now I am shooting the food catalogue with around 100 photos to do, some are simple and some are more complex so you can imagine how much creativity and inspiration you need to put into it to find different settings, milieus and props all the time. I have to confess that after a day of work, usually around 9-10 hours, I feel quite tired and usually just go home to my wonderful parents in law who put me up when I’m in Milan to eat and then I go to bed. That’s my life in Milan, the city of shopping, restaurants and lots of people I know and would love to meet but no, I just take my taxi and crash into bed.

set up-3

The most important photo is obviously the one for the cover and we make several versions so that there is a wide variety for the client to choose from. It also needs to sum up the mood of the whole catalogue, to prepare for what the readers will find once they start turning the pages so you can immagine the work that is put into the making of these photos. 
I work with a really good team from Armando Testa, one of the biggest ad agencies in Italy, and with jobs as big as these it feels good to be able to share the workload with and to have great people to bounce ideas with.

prop table-2

I have now been wading in Christmas props since the beginning of July and despite the fact that there are loads of them, far more than what you see in the photos, there are as usual never enough. I don’t know what it is about props but you always need more than you have, it doesn’t matter how many you have around, you still always need something else or different. Quite amazing really.

prop table

We have sets standing around all the time, waiting for the approval of the client so we need many tables. Most of the time we build up the sets on wooden boards that we can lift and move around so we can create new ones to shoot while we wait, there’s not much time to waste. Some photos are quick to shoot, we find the right props, the right mood and the right angle straight away but some take ages to get right. I shoot and shoot again, move the props and the plate, change angles and move closer or further away and then in the end I get it. Often it is the ones you think will be easy that are the most difficult ones, maybe it is because you put more thought into the difficult ones beforehand so you need to work less when it is time to shoot it. 


I work with a really talented food stylist and her talented assistant on this job, it is incredible to work with them, not only are they nice people but also very good at what they are doing and as I will be working with them a lot next month (I will hardly be at home!) I thought I will try to follow them with my camera to get some photos when they work and then post it here later on as I think that it might be interesting for you (?) to see food stylists in action on a commercial shoot.



But now it is time to get down to today’s recipe, Sweet Tuscan Grape Bread or schiacciata con l’uva as it is called here. It is a typical autumn treat here that I rarely miss to make because it is a really delicious bread or cake, I really don’t know how define it. Traditionally it is made with bread dough that is sweetened by the addition of grapes and a bit of sugar but I use a recipe from one of my favourite Italian cookbooks, Paolo Petroni’s excellent Il libro della vera cucina fiorentina. My copy is old and tattered but who cares when you know that every recipe in it is great and never fails to deliver delicious food. It was my first real cookbook in Italian and the first I dared to cook from when my Italian wasn’t that good. This version is my take on it, I added cinnamon and almonds to the sugar and I must say that it combines nicely with the grapes. I use small, blue, sweet and succulent wine grapes so if you can find these you will get a great bread but if you can’t find them, try to find the sweetest and smallest blue grapes you lay your hands on.

schiacciata con l'uva

based on a recipe in Paolo Petroni’s Il libro della vera cucina fiorentina

750 g/  1,6 lb small, blue wine grapes,
350 g/ 12, 2 oz flour
200 ml/ 0,85 cup tepid water
25 g/ 0,88 oz fresh yeast
8 tblsp sugar
100 g/ 3,5 oz blanched almonds, chopped
1-1,5 tsp ground cinnamon
8 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

 Dissolve the yeast in 4 tblsp sugar, add the tepid water and 4 tblsp olive oil. Add the flour and a pinch of salt and work the dough well. Put it to rest and let it rise for about an hour.

 Rinse the grapes, pick them off one by one and pat them dry. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon and the chopped almonds

 Grease an oven-proof form then put the dough the table, remember to sprinkle it with flour beforehand. Roll out the dough into a thin oval or rectangle shape, it depends on the shape of your form.

 Transfer the dough into the dish, let a fair amount of dough hang over the rims so they can be folded over the grapes later. Put 2/3 of the grapes in the dish, sprinkle 2 tblsp of the sugar mix and drizzle 2 tblsp of olive oil over them.

 Fold the dough over the grapes so it covers it all. Put the rest of the grapes on top, sprinkle the rest of the sugar mix and pour the rest of the olive oil over it.

 Bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/350°F) for about 1 hour.

 Let it get cold or at least tepid before you eat. If you can resist that long…

schiacciata con l'uva-4

schiacciata con l'uva-6