Coca de Sant Joan: kicking off summer the Catalan way
Bon dia a tothom!
Today I am greeting you in Catalan to keep up with the recipe’s origins. Last week I felt a bit nostalgic because it took place one of my favourite celebrations ever: Saint John’s day. For the Catalans, it is such a special day because it marks the beginning of the summer. Wherever you go all over the region, there are loads of celebrations during night of the 23rd to 24th June. People usually head to the beach and party all night long while some others remain at their towns and gather to the community verbenas, which are the celebrations organised by the neighbours. In one way or another, you can see fireworks and bonfires in absolutely every corner. It is understood that this tradition existed in the past in order to burn all the bad and worse vibes of the year.
Saint John’s in Catalunya is also linked with the delicious Coca de Sant Joan (Saint John’s cake). Apparently, ancient Mediterranean civilizations already ate a flatbread to commemorate the summer solstice. This tradition has survived through the ages and landed to our days in multiple forms: fruity, nutty, creamy… Although the most famous (and my favourite) is the pine nuts and custard cream. This is what I am featuring today-and I am very proud because there is nothing, absolutely nothing in the UK, that ressembles it.
Before you get your hands on the process let me tell you a few important facts. People doesn’t bake it at home, but purchase it from the bakery instead. It is time consuming and not easy to do at home. In fact, it is the most challenging recipe I have come across so far-although I have done it twice already! Like every brioche, it demands an extreme care and respect the raising times to achieve that particular fluffy texture. If you are a bread making expert, do not shy away of this challenge.
INGREDIENTS (MAKES A 800 g COCA)
For the sourdough:
Strong white flour (140 g)
Lukewarm water (80 ml)
Dried yeast (7 g)
For the coca:
Strong white flour (500 g)
Custard cream (500 g)
Dried yeast (7 g)
Milk (75 ml)
Sugar (90 g)
Salt (a pinch)
Unsalted butter at room temperature (90 g)
Zest of half lemon
Pine nuts (handful)
DIRECTIONS FOR COOKING
Firstly, we need to make the sourdough. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until you form a uniform, elastic ball (it doesn’t need much kneading). Cover the recipient and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
2. In the same bowl, add all the coca ingredients except the flour, the yeast and the butter. Blend everything with the sourdough.
3. Sift the flour over the mixture, add the yeast and combine to form the coca dough. Finally, add the butter and knead until it sticks off the bowl.
4. Tip the dough on an oiled surface and knead until it turns smooth and elastic. Shape a ball, cover with a cloth and let it rest for five minutes. After that, repeat the process and give it a second rest of 10 minutes this time.
5. Grease the surface again and extend the dough with a rolling pin. After that, transfer it to an oven tray covered with baking paper (you must help yourself with the pin). Place the tray into the oven (switched off) for one hour to allow the coca raising again.
6. Apply some oil to your hand edge and draw a mesh on the coca. Fill the lanes with custard cream using a piping bag. Put it again into the oven for a final 30 minutes rest.
7. Preheat the oven at 200 Celsius. Sprinkle some caster sugar and the pine nuts evenly over the coca. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. If necessary, cover with kitchen foil minutes before finishing to avoid the pine nuts burning.