recipe testing: socca/farinata.

I've posted about besan, or chickpea flour, or kikkererwtenmeel, before, but not in any useful detail. I've been going through periods where I cook with it quite a bit and then give up on it because it takes too much attention to detail (or so I thought...keep reading), and well...I'm la-zy.

In my defense, there are a couple of issues with it: it doesn't really operate much like flour during the cooking process, for starters. It acts like mashed beans. That means it behaves badly in the pan, falls apart during flipping, it crusts up on the outside while remaining uncooked on the inside, it doesn't do its homework, stays out late without calling, etc.

Secondly, it needs to be browned perfectly in order for things to taste right. If you don't brown it, it tastes like you ground up uncooked chickpeas and added water to them, and that tastes even worse than it sounds.

If you're going to be trying crepes or anything that doesn't involve really high cooking temperatures, in order to bypass the potential uncooked grossness you might want to consider toasting the chickpea flour before you even add water to it. And as you know, toasting things requires a close eye on the stove so you don't f*ck it up, and I am bad at the close eye on the stove bit.


Why are we even cooking with it again? Because it's a very nutritious flour-like medium that tastes very nice when prepared carefully, which makes it appropriate for breading things you're frying, so you end up with a crunchy bhaji- or pakora-type device (why are all of the best-looking besan recipes coming from NZ and Australia?), or you can make kofta with it which are also tasty and nutritionally valorous. It's basically a good wheat flour substitute: better nutrition profile and more interesting taste.

Here's an Australian article that talks about how making socca (French/Italian chickpea flour pizzas. Well, socca in France, but farinata in Italy, and they're called something else in Tuscany which escapes me now, something to do with ceci...anyone?) is "foolproof." This makes me the perfect test subject.



1 cup besan/chickpea flour
1 tsp salt
lots of freshly cracked black pepper, at least 1 tsp, up to 2 tsp
1 cup lukewarm water
5-6 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped, optional
1 tsp, up to 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced, optional

Preheat oven to 230C. Put a non-stick pizza pan in the oven. Put chickpea flour in bowl, add salt and pepper, then slowly add 1 cup lukewarm water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Stir in 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Cover, and let sit while oven heats, or as long as 12 hours. Batter should be about the consistency of cream. If using onion and rosemary, stir them into batter. Pour 2 tbsp oil into the heated pan, and swirl to cover pan evenly. Pour in batter, and bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm and edges set. Heat broiler, and brush top of socca with 1 or 2 tbsp oil if it looks dry. Set socca just below broiler, just long enough to brown it in spots. Cut into wedges and serve hot, or at least warm.

UPDATE: I'm making it for breakfast the next day it turns out, as I do not have any other appropriate food in the house. I even went to the grocery store yesterday. Anyway, I'll let you know what happens. I forgot to highlight the article author's big tips: 1) use lots of freshly ground pepper. And 2) sift your chickpea flour. I did do number 1...50 grinds. I did not do number 2 (titter).

AND: Foolproof and awesome is the verdict. Make sure you add lots of pepper. Make sure you get it as brown as possible. And lots of olive oil. And salt. And turn up your oven as high as it will go (well, unless you've got a serious oven. mine only goes to 260C), the browner the better, think falafel brown. Really tasty. Yay! For those of you counting these things, chickpea flour has about 390 kcal per 100g, which is a little more than a cup. The problem in this recipe would be the olive oil, which is 120kcal per tbsp and I used 5. Which makes this socca 1000kcal, which means I should not eat the whole thing.

LASTLY: Tasty Bites, which is new to me, has a very nice socca post (or three) that links to socca recipes on four of my regular reads, TSOGB, Beyond Salmon, Traveler's Lunchbox, and In Praise of Sardines....I'll just let you follow her links to the socca posts.

ADDENDUM: Buy a non-stick pizza pan if you don't have one. My cheapo one has not been cutting it in the "successfully getting the socca off the pan" department.



Hande said...

in Toscana it is called cecina, you were close...

MEM said...

thanks Hande...actually, I'd remembered the word cecina recently, but completely forgotten that I'd done this socca post (until I saw mr. lebovitz's post)....in any event, nice one, thanks.

pretzel said...

How many cm thick do you pour the batter in the pan before baking?

MEM said...

hey pretzel...it's just a flat round pizza pan, and the lip on it is i don't know maybe 1cm high at the most. so i just try to coat the pan with enough batter to where there are no see-through spots but i can still get it into the oven without any spilling over the sides. hope that makes sense!