Majorcan Flat Bread

Coca, the popular flat bread of the Balearic Islands and Catalonia, comes in a variety of shapes -- rectangle, square, oval, round -- and with countless toppings, such as caramelized onions and anchovy, greens seasoned with ham, and small dollops of fresh cheese. I like to make a sponge first, to give the yeast a headstart and because it yields a lighter crust. In the past, this dough was made with lard, but nowadays olive oil is more common.

1 tablespoon active dry {yeast}
1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached {all-purpose flour}
3/4 cup cool water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
 cornmeal for dusting
 Caramelized Onion Topping
 Mixed Greens Topping
To make the dough, first make a sponge. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Add 1/4 cup of the flour and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Add the remaining 3 1/4 cups flour and the cool water, oil, and salt to the sponge. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky and leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly, about 10 minutes. (Or, you can stir the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until a dough forms, and then knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface until smooth and no longer sticky.)

Shape the dough into a ball, transfer to a large oiled bowl, and turn the dough to oil it on all sides. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, and shape into a ball, or divide in half and shape into 2 balls. Place on a floured baking sheet, cover, and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you make the topping.

Ready the carmelized onion or mixed-greens topping. If you are using a baking stone, place it on the oven floor (being careful not to cover any heat vents) or on the lowest rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 475° or 500° (allowing at least 30 minutes if using a stone). If you are not using a stone, oil a large rimmed baking sheet.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, gently press, lift, and stretch the dough into the desired shape and size: an 11-by-17-inch oval if making 1 flat bread, or 9-inch rounds if making 2 flat breads. With your fingertips, form a slightly raised rim around the edge. (You can also roll out the dough with a rolling pin and then form the raised rim.) Transfer the dough to a floured (or cornmeal-dusted) baker's peel or rimless baking sheet, top with the selected topping, and slide the dough onto the hot stone. Or, shape the flat bread(s) on the oiled baking sheet, top with the selected topping, and place the pan on the lowest rack in the oven.

Bake until the edges of the crust are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

Ease of Preparation: Moderate

Preparation Time: 1 hr
allow about 2 hrs resting/rising time

Cook Time: 15 min

Servings: makes 1 11x17-inch oval or 2 9-inch rounds

Recipe By: Joyce Goldstein

From:  Tapas: Sensational Small Plates from Spain
Used with permission of Chronicle Books

Chef Suggestions
Cocas are usually served warm, not piping hot, though they are delicious even at room temperature.