It’s January (or limbo month as I like to call it), the start of a brand new year, a time for diets, resolutions & setting expectations for the year ahead. Personally I don’t believe in the resolution side of things & certainly don’t believe in the new year diets (I still have mince pies that need eating).
It’s also the most depressing month of the year (does anyone really like January??), so like most people it’s when I set my sights on all things travel & set about booking holidays, trips, getaways & weekends away.
My inner organisation geek comes into its own as I trawl Easyjet & Booking.com looking for inspiration, creating detailed spreadsheets of costs, transportation & timings (yes, I am THAT person). It’s almost a need for me to fill my calendar to give myself something to look forward to, the time away from the mundane day-to-day (yes, again like most people I hate my job).
Looking back on 2018, I was lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit, checking off places like Cornwall, Barcelona, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Edinburgh, Prague & Santorini (2018 was a good year for travel), taking a shocking amount of photographs & eating an even more shocking amount of food!
One thing I like to do when I travel is to make notes of all of the weird & wonderful foods I eat, trying to establish what ingredients & flavours were used to create whatever delight is it that I’m devouring. Then when I arrive home (or when I have the time to get around to it), I can attempt to recreate those memories.
One such treat I noted down last year was coca de forner (meaning bakers cake) in Barcelona. A traditional Catalan bakers flatbread, coca de forner is a sweet bread glazed with anise liqueur & is eaten for breakfast or as a snack. Bread is s crucial to the Catalan diet that Catalans have a word for someone who loves to eat bread: panarra (aka my new favourite word).
Me & my partner in crime ate many delicious breads & pastries whilst in Barcelona but coca de forner was a firm favourite for both of us. We first tried it for breakfast in a fantastic little bakery right around the corner from where we were staying in El Clot. With a huge array of golden, glazed or iced breads, pastries & biscuits on offer, we frequented here a few times (plus it was ridiculously cheap!) but it was this pine nut topped little flatbread that had me intrigued.
With no clue as to what I had ordered (it was a point & mime kind of situation so asking just what it was I was actually pointing at was out of the question) I was pleasantly surprised to find that what I had ordered was a light, sweet & flavourful bread. The anise glaze is just sweet enough to add flavour without overpowering the bread itself. This glaze combined with the addition of pine nuts adds a wonderful contrast in texture to the light & fluffy dough.
Relatively simple to make, I’ve made a glaze using whole star anise ground & combined with sugar & oil as opposed to a liqueur but I think it works & tastes just the same as the ones I devoured. I’ve made 4 coca de forners out of my dough but by all means, if you haven’t got gluttonous eyes like me, then divide the dough into 8 smaller coca’s & reduce the baking time by around 5 minutes.
For the dough:
- 500g strong white flour
- 7g fast acting dried yeast
- 5g salt
- 30g caster sugar
- 60ml olive oil
- 240ml water
For the topping:
- 50g olive oil
- 20g caster sugar
- 3 star anise, ground
- 10g pine nuts
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt & sugar
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture & pour in the olive oil & enough of the water to form a dough (you may not need all of the water or may need a little more, start with two-thirds & keep adding more until the dough comes together, adding more if your dough seems a bit dry)
- Empty the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface & knead for 10 minutes (or 5 minutes if using a stand mixer with a dough hook) until it is smooth & elastic when stretched
- Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm & leave to rise for about an hour, until it has doubled in size
- Whilst the dough is rising, place all of the topping ingredients into a small saucepan & gently heat
- Once all of the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat & set aside to cool
- When your dough has risen, tip it out onto a floured work surface & knock back the dough(knead out the air pockets)
- Divide the dough into 4 evenly sized pieces
- Use your hands or a rolling pin to shape the dough into four oval-shaped flatbreads
- Cover with a tea towel, or (my preference) place inside a large plastic bag & leave to prove for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size & the dough springs back when gently pressed with a finger
Use your fingered to poke the dough, creating little crevices
- Brush the bread with the topping & drop pine nuts into each of the little crevices
Bake the bread at 220C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown
- Optional: Heat up 4 tbsp or apricot jam in a small saucepan & brush this over the breads whilst still warm to add a tempting glaze