Coca is to Catalans what pizza to Italians. A fun, simple and delicious comfort food that everyone will love. And here’s the good news: it’s dead simple to make it. Shall we?
Many years ago my friend Lluis Artús from Barcelona, gave me an excellent cookbook about Catalan cuisine. The book in question is Catalan Cuisine: Europe’s Last Great Culinary Secret. It was written by Colman Andrews and published by Grub Street in 1997.
Very often when we invite friends over lunch or dinner, I enjoy cooking a local speciality from my guests’ region. When you’re away from home, people usually miss the flavours from their local cuisine, so cooking something that is close to their hearts is a way to make them feel immediately comfortable and homey.
So last Sunday, when our Catalan friends Toni and Pati came over for lunch, I decided to cook a full Catalan menu for them. After looking through my cookbook, I ended preparing some cocas to start with and some beef meatballs with cuttlefish as a main. After all, everybody seems to like cocas.
We already explained what cocas are in this article, but for those who aren’t familiar with it, they are like a Catalan version of the Italian pizza. An oval-shaped thin dough that serves as a base for a variety of toppings, sometimes savoury, sometimes sweet.
As the book reminds us, cocas differ from pizzas not only in their shape, but also in the total absence of cheese and/or herbs amongst the ingredients that go on top of the dough. Also, whilst pizzas can include many different ingredients in a single portion, cocas are simpler in their composition. And another difference… pizza is usually served hot (although I love it straight off the fridge!) whilst coca can be served either hot or cold.
Anyway, what they all have in common is the dough. An easy and quick one to prepare. One that will give you a blank canvas to be creative and prepare the most amazing combinations (such as this one). And like pizzas, everybody will love them, specially the kids!
- 15 g Dried yeast - Dissolved in 8 tsp of hot water
- 600 g Plain flour
- 2 tbsp Salt
- 300 ml Water
- 3 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- I use a big bowl to put all the dry ingredients. That’s the flour, the yeast and the salt. Mix it all well with you hands and make a crater shape to pour all the liquid ingredients in.
- Add the olive oil and the water. Mix it all well with your hands and knead it on a flat top until you achieve a smooth and elastic dough.
- Put the dough back in the big bowl, paint it with some olive oil and let it rest for one hour in a warm place until the dough raises, almost doubling its size.
- Preheat the oven at 230ºC / 450ºF.
- Since we’d like to bake 2 cocas for 2 people each, prick the dough with the tip of a knife and split it into two equal sizes.
- Over a flat and clean top, roll the dough with the help of a roller, until you get a long ovaled shape that is around 1cm thick.
- Place the dough on a shallow oven dish covered with greaseproof paper and paint the dough surface with a little olive oil.
- Make some shallow cuts diagonally over the surface and repeat on the opposite direction too. You should end with a diamond shaped pattern.
- Pinch the edge of the dough to create a decorative pattern all around it. On top of looking pretty, this will help us prevent the toppings to spread over the edges.
- Top the dough with whatever ingredients you want. In our case we’ve added paper-thin slices of courgette, julienned onion and some Piquillo pepper strips.
- Put into the oven and bake for around 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Be careful it doesn’t burn!