Socca, v1.0…v1.6…v1.9…

socca1.jpg

A reader recently inquired that her and her husband were planning to visit France and since he couldn’t tolerate any gluten, is there anything that I could recommend? She had attached a list of words in French for acceptable grains, like oatmeal and barley,

So I flipped through my French dictionary and looked under Special Dietary Needs, but there was a blank space. I didn’t know what to tell them. I was (almost) defeated. I finally recommended that they rent an apartment so they could do much of their own cooking and more importantly, they should frequent the same restaurants over and over so that staff got to know them.

Not many people, no matter where they’re from, are aware of which products have gluten. Even me.

Socca in Pan

For example, I didn’t know that most soy sauces had gluten, as well as many bottled salad dressings, malt vinegar, various mustards, processed meats, and even some toothpastes and lipstick. (I could certainly give up one, but not the other.) And apparently I’m not the only one unaware gluten-free lifestyles: Even my local health food store stocks their gluten-free bread, unwrapped, on the same shelves with the regular bread, crumbs mingling and all.


I began leafing through Gluten-Free Girl
by blogger Shauna James Ahern a few weeks back, but I had a bit of free time on my hands last week, I finally sat down and really to read it cover-to-cover. It surprised me since it wasn’t at all the story of someone who framed her life around what she could or couldn’t eat.

Instead, it was how a self-professed junk food eater learned to love fresh foods by discovering buttery olive oils, chewy whole grains, farm-fresh produce and savory, aromatic herbs. And by cooking with them, she found contentment, satisfaction, and hot sex.

Uh…I mean love.

But if that’s one of the rewards of going gluten-free, where does one sign up?

Socca Slices

So to celebrate her book, I thought I’d discover something new and delicious myself, using a flour that I’ve never worked with in the spirit of Shauna.

Socca are ‘cakes’ made with chick-pea flour and are commonly sold as street-food in the south of France, most notably in Nice and along the Côte d’Azur. Socca are either cooked in a skillet on an open flame, or in the oven, and this gave me the perfect excuse to head to my Arab market, pick up some farine de pois chiche, and attempt Socca.

Olive Oil/Socca

When I scanned the shelves, they had both jeaune (yellow) and chick pea flour cru (raw). They looked pretty similar but I bought both. And when I got them home and ripped open the bags, one whiff of the cru chick pea flour and there was no question which would be my preference.
My first delicious discovery!

If anyone out there knows the actual difference between them, I’m curious to know.

soccaboard.jpg

Since I’m not from Nice, which may explain why I’m not so nice, I had to play around a bit with the various recipes I found, and had my fair share of disasters.

Going gluten-free...

Although some of the versions I came up with were really delicious, they weren’t exactly traditional, so I’m working on the release of v2.0 that’s thinner and crispier since I’m scared of getting busted by the socca-police.

Like Shauna and her cooking, mine’s also a work in progress, and I’m going to continue to play around with this delicious-tasting chickpea flour that I’m now regularly keeping in stock chez moi. And I’m certain to be pulling quite a few more warm socca from my oven in the near future.

As you can see from the photos here, I tried various recipes which are linked below, futzing with the combinations of ingredients and cooking techniques. I’m still working on a recipe that’s easy to replicate at home, tastes delicious, and is authentically thin and crackly, which was lacking in most of the recipes I found out there. Once I finish, I hope to share it with you all. Unfortunately this week has been less-than-optimal, with Mercury in retrograde and all*, so I’m using my Time Out card, à la Dismissed.

But how wonderful that someone could turn what many would consider a restriction into something so positive and be so inspiring to me and other cooks out there—gluten-free or not.

Merci Shauna!

Socca in Pan

Links

Visit Shauna at Gluten-Free Girl.com

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

Read other food blogs that have written-up Shauna’s book.

Buy chickpea flour online.

Mark Bittman’s recipe for Socca.

Deb makes chocolate financiers.

Rosa Jackson came to my rescue, who lives in Nice.

My advice for dining gluten-free in Paris.

Farinata recipe, the Italian cousin of socca.

Shauna’s gluten-free pantry at ChefShop.com

Check out Shauna’s book: Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found The Foods That Love Me Back…and How You Can Too

*For those of you wondering, the digital box that controls the internet, cable television, and telephones in my entire neighborhood is in the basement of my building. When the repairman came a week later, he discovered it had brûléed, or exploded—and burnt to a crisp.

Luckily, as you can see, none of my experiments with socca were that frightening…

25 comments

  • It’s interesting, here in Argentina we have faina, which is much like socca, though more likely coming via the local Italian influence (farinata from Liguria is “generally” considered it’s direct antecedent). I get asked all the time about gluten free alternatives, and for some reason, this one never occured to me, despite it being available all over the place here. Thanks for an extra tidbit to add to my recommendations!

    Of course, here, the usual way of eating it is using it as a top crust on a slice of regular pizza, which would defeat the point…

  • Looks like my face after my mud mask hardens.

  • I’ve now read several bloggers reflection on Gluten-Free Girl’s book, and what caches my attention is the creative ways of avoiding plain ol’ flour. I mean, chick-pea flour? Never heard of it. Never thought of it. Will I use it? Don’t know … Your experimenting sounds quite frustrating.

  • In an Indian grocer’s it’s called gram, chana or besan flour, and it’s the basis of deep-fried things like pakora and bhajji. So Indian cooks think it responds well to lots of hot oil, or at least high heat, if that helps you in recipe development.

    Garbanzo flour (yet another name) is also an excellent main ingredient for a thin, crispy gluten-free pizza crust; Carol Fenster’s recipe is a good start for people.

  • David,
    Since you’re on a chickpea flour kick, you should also try a few Indian dishes with it (in Indian recipes, it is called besan or gram flour). Pakoras are probably the best know dish made with besan, but there are many more, including desserts.

  • Thanks for bringing this topic up. Our daughter (7 years old) has Celiac Disease and we have had her on a gluten-free diet for 3 years now. Fortunately, she has responded remarkably well and is thriving on the diet. Finding alternatives to wheat flour has been both a challenge and a joy for us. It is possible to create wonderful, delicious meals (including great desserts) without a single crumb of wheat flour. Thank you for commenting on it and helping to raise people’s awareness on this matter.

  • Great post! Anticipating more info on chickpea flour or foods for Celiac sufferers from your marvelous kitchen.

    Your rare talent for combining extremely informative topics with entertaining (almost titillating) food writing is fantastic. On the other hand, “Mercury in retrograde” really. Dear David… how could you? Oh, but you did! funniest thing i read today…

  • These look really interesting (in a good way!) To add to the other person who suggested trying Indian desserts, there is a delicious Indian sweet that uses chickpea flour called besan barfee (or barfi, or burfi). Not only is it really tasty, you can have the added juvenile pleasure of telling your friends they’re eating barfee (which may not be as effective with your non-English speaking friends, come to think of it).

    Anyway, here are two recipe links, in case you’re curious:
    Besan Barfi
    Besan Coconut Barfi

  • David

    I’ve loved reading your blog for a long time now – and figuring out some gluten-free twists to your fantastic recipes.

    Your latest posts have been FABULOUS! I am thankful for your travel tips – and cultural distinguishing restuarant tips for those of us on a gluten-free diet (very helpful! I wish had had similar tips for every country in which we travel!).

    This post is fantastic! I haven’t tried socca yet, but Seamaiden (BookofYum.com) has several socca recipes that are GF. I just haven’t gotten over the beany-taste of my first few batches of breads with garfava flour (chickpea + other bean four blend).

    What is the aroma of the raw flour compared to the “yellow” flour? I’d be interseted in knowing.

    Thanks for the great posts, sharing your wry sense of humor, and wonderful recipes!

  • Oh David, I’m blushing here in this coffee shop here in Seattle, reading this. (And it’s not the reference to hot sex. yes.) Instead, it’s the way you wrote about the book.

    This is all a process of discovery. And in that way, we should all go gluten-free for a week, just to see how many foods we have been missing.

    (By the way, you mentioned at the top that your reader had mentioned barley as an acceptable grain, but it’s actually forbidden. Full of gluten. oats in the US are predominately contaminated with gluten, although there are a few certified gluten-free ones out there now.)

    On the socca, I’m still playing too. But one of the tricks seems to be to let it sit, for a long time, best overnight, before cooking it. Also, the dough needs to look much, much wetter than you think would make sense. Hope that helps. I have no doubt you’ll get it!

    Merci, David.

  • I think the socca, and Indian dishes are made with the raw flour.
    The roasted flour seems to be used as spice in Egypt.
    Recently I got this Egyptian recipe from my friend Ian, it s from Dukka “The Complete Book Of Spices”.
    I retranslated back from French quickly.
    Ian uses this way : He takes a slice of good bread, pours good olive oil on it and then pass this into the spice mix. I have not tried yet but will certainly.

    Spice mix

    125 gm sesame
    75 gm hazelnuts; =-or=-
    75 gm chick peas; roasted
    50 gm coriander seeds
    25 gm cumin;
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon. dried wild thym ; -=or=-
    1 teaspoon dried mint

    NB teaspoon = 5 ml.

    In a pan, roast the sesame till golden, then careful roast the hazelnuts while gently stirring during 5 minutes. Put them in a cloth to take off the peel.
    If the chick peas are already roasted no need to do it again.
    Roast separately the coriander and the cumin.
    Let everything is cool and make it a powder.
    You can keep it 3 months in a jar in a cool dark place.
    [Ian says there is too much salt for his own taste]

  • I’ve been experimenting with socca recipes too. Unfortunately last time I brûléed my oven…I’m now looking for variations that require less time under the broiler and a little more time in the (safer) oven.

  • Looking forward to a fool-proof socca recipe. I have been a huge socca fan, ever since I tried some in Nice way back when. I recently had some fine socca on our last trip to Paris: here
    Have you visited the socca vendor at Le Marche des Enfants Rouges? He could probably give you some tips!

  • Soif, a wonderful wine bar in Santa Cruz, California, serves a sublime farinata–more tender than crisp, but utterly delicious. My approximation of the recipe along with a tip from the chef there is on my blog.

  • Casey: Well, Nice is a bit closer than Santa Cruz…but thanks for the tip & photo on your site : )

    izzy’s mama: I’ve never looked for socca at les Marché des Enfants Rouges—but the Japanese place in there is one of my favorites. Will check it out.

    Although I think I’ve made so many socca, I could give him some tips…
    ; )

    Music pb, cookworm, and kuri: Thanks for the encouragement to experiment with other cuisines. It’s interesting that Shauna’s book made me want to play around with some new ingredients. Next I want to try teff. I even made the Autumn Millet Bake Recipe on Heidi’s site this weekend.

    I love trying new grains!

  • I have been using a pretty foolproof socca recipe for ages. The trick is to make sure that the oven is nice and hot. It also doesn’t matter how long you leave it standing for – I’ve left mine in the fridge for a week and it still turned out fantastic!! Recipe Link

  • I’ve made a lot of socca in the past year or so, and have to heartily second Donna’s comment: a hot, hot oven is the secret for great socca every time. The second trick is lots of black pepper (i do 50 grinds). Here‘s “my” foolproof recipe.

  • David, I have eaten socca and farinata, yes, they are very similar. I know how to make farinata, so I guess socca is same/similar: Mix the raw chickpea flour (the other one is obtained by grinding roasted chickpeas, raw is better for farinata) with water to a thick-ish/pancake batter consistency, add some salt and let sit for at least 4 hours, better overnight. Get your pan really hot (originally, farinata is cooked in a wood burning oven, but I guess you don’t have that in your Parisian flat), pour olive oil (more than you think is necessary) and the batter, 3-4 mm thick. Flip it once, serve hot with freshly grinded blackpepper. Actually, I will go and make some now!

  • David, I thought the first picture was actually of the Chez Panisse gingersnaps! Anyway, bravo for continuing the experiments. Think of it not as a cake but a PANcake. I’m sorry, Mark Bittman but although you can make it easily in a domestic oven it does taste incredibly better from a wood burning oven.
    I ate it yesterday in Nice – as Theresa cuts it up she demands “bien cuit ou cremeux”, basically crispy or creamy.I like the pepper much better sprinkled over after rather than incorporated in the batter.
    I’ll bring some chickpea flour (cru) from Nice to Kate’s Camp cassoulet and we can go at it!

  • A couple years ago my cousin and I made socca. I thought it was really easy to make and we didn’t encounter any problems, so don’t get discouraged! I wish I could remember what we did, but it was so long ago. I’ve been meaning to make it again ever since, but never got around to it.

  • DL, check out my socca recipe from a couple years back. It’s formulated to work with Indian chickpea flour, which is called besan and is available at Indian grocers in the US. In my experience, the key to getting it thin and crisp is cooking it in a hot cast iron pan.

  • yowza…there’s so many versions out there, from thick to the thin.

    I’ve almost nailed it, and once I do, expect me to appear with a pushcart, on a sidewalk near you!

  • I cheat with a little truc I tried- I make my socca the size of silver dollar pancakes (ok, blini-sized)and serve them hot as they come off the smoking hot iron crepe griddle. Tastes wonderful with a bit of creme fraiche tarted up with anything like black pepper, toasted seeds, caramelized shallots.

  • Hi!

    Guess what?! There was a socca place right next door to Chez Panisse last year! I went there August 2006 and met the charming Chef Gregoire Jacquet. I think the secret lies in not only the hot oven, but the copper pans used. They were delicious and I haven’t been able to recreate them at home. I guess I’ll have to buy a $200 copper crepe pan.

    I never was able to write about it since they closed two months later. Thought you might enjoy the photos and the strange co-winkidink: Link

  • Chickpea flour is miraculous. The other ingredient that I have found to be a great boon to gluten-free cooking is hemp seeds. These zucchini latkes have both, if I may offer just one example.