I first ate this bread in a Bakery in the Prades Mountains and I instantly fell in love with it. Known as coca in Catalonia, it comes in sweet or savoury varieties. Every Mediterranean country has its version of it, in Italy they have their schiacciata and the French have their fougasse.
I have adapted a recipe from Peter Reinhart's 'Crust and Crumb', this book is a must for lovers of bread baking. I have used his master formula for multipurpose sweet dough but with some changes. Peter uses butter in his recipe but I have used olive oil, also he adds buttermilk which, I use when I can find it or I substitute it with a mix of yoghurt and milk or quark or have even used fermented milk. I have added my own flavourings.
1 tablespoon fast acting yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
100ml olive oil
250ml buttermilk or yoghurt/milk mix
1 tablespoon anise seeds
zest of lemon
a few drops of vanilla essence or a sachet of vanilla sugar
How to go about it
Put all the ingredients (except water) in a bowl or bread machine and mix adding the water until you have a fairly wet dough. Knead for 10 minutes in the machine or by hand. If you are doing it by hand as I do you can use the 'Bertinet method' of slapping the dough on the work top, stretching and folding it over itself.
Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap and leave until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. It takes a while because the oil and sugar retard the action of the yeast.
Next turn it out on to a lightly floured work surface and divide it in two and form each into ball. Place each piece of dough on to a piece of grease proof paper that has also been lightly floured. Stretch the dough into a circle of about 30cm. Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise until it starts to have some bubbles and swells. It takes another hour. Preheat the oven to 230°c at least half and hour before you are ready to bake the bread.
Give the bread a light spray of water and sprinkle a good tablespoon of sugar over each one. I bake them one at a time but it depends on your oven. They need about 12 minutes but watch them as they burn easily. Let them cool completely until you eat them. They are absolutely delicious, they go great with a coffee. Sometimes I add the zest of an orange as well. If you don't like the bits of peel in the bread you can pare the peel with a vegetable peeler and put the peel in the olive oil and gentle heat the oil and then leave it to cool for 15 minutes and take out the peel before adding it to the rest of the ingredients.