The “Carnovale” or “Carnasciale” (Carnival) in Florence, is the period from the Epiphany to the day of the ashes (this year Wednesday 14th February). The streets come alive with masked courses throughout the period, particularly on weekends. There are various hypotheses regarding the derivation of the word “Carnival” but the most accepted are of culinary origin; one is “carne a scialo” (Carnasciale), which indicates the large consumption of meat before Lent, the other “carne-vale,” which would indicate the removal of meat from the day after Shrove Tuesday, the last day of Carnival, before of Lent.

Having historically been a period of celebrations, banquets, fun and abundant meals, it is in these days that desserts, each tastier than the last, abound. The best known of all is probably the Schiacciata alla Fiorentina (Florentine Focaccia), which, from the traditional savory Focaccia, takes its name due to its golden color and height (2.5/3 cm), and because it also derives from the preparation of bread, which however he added lard and sugar, thus completely changing the flavor.

The original recipe included leavened dough, lard, sugar, eggs, salt and orange or lemon zest. Today, Schiacciata alla Fiorentina has undergone variations, but retains its characteristic aroma and preferably long leavening.

The Schiacciata alla Fiorentina has ancient roots, although we have the first official recipe from Pellegrino Artusi in his recipe book, The science in cooking and the art of eating well, it was originally prepared much earlier, by the nuns of the Murate convent of Via Ghibellina (where today there are rooms, apartments and hotels), and survived even when the convent was transformed into a prison. Legend says that it continued to be served as the final course in the last meal of the condemned.

Its main characteristic lies in the simplicity of the ingredients, it is a soft and fragrant cake, to which today a filling of custard or whipped cream is often added, not included in the original recipe. The Schiacciata is covered in icing sugar and has a decoration, a Florentine lily drawn with cocoa powder.

To emphasize the tradition of this dessert, since 2007 a competition has also been held for The Best Schiacciata alla Fiorentina.” For more than fifteen years now, the longest-running pastry contest in Florence has been pitting the flatbreads from the best pastry shops and bakeries in the metropolitan area against each other to find the best flatbread.

But the schiacciata is not the only Carnival dessert in Florence, there are others and they are no less: the Cenci”, rectangles of fried sweet dough covered with icing sugar, the Berlingozzo, a sort of donut created to be eaten on the day of Berlingaccio, Shrove Thursday, usually amber in color and with a lemon, orange or anise flavour.

Happy Carnival!