At Forn Mistral, an award-winning bakery near the University of Barcelona, customers line up for chocolate-filled croissants, cream puff pastries and ensaimadas, a fluffy swirl of a confection dusted in powdered sugar. But if you skip the savory coca tucked in among all the sweets, you will be missing out.
The long, rectangular flatbreads come covered in smartly arranged rounds of tomato and zucchini, full links of country sausage, or parallel strips of anchovies, roasted peppers and eggplant. Each is a variety of coca de recapte, a pizza-like, cheese- free snack typically cut into 6-inch sections and sold by weight. It’s meant to be eaten on the go, and it is delicious in its simplicity—as well as its versatility.
A holdover from less prosperous times, recapte means “re-collection” in Catalan, or gathering up leftovers or whatever vegetables might be in season (coca derives from the Dutch word kok, for cake, from when the Carolingians briefly ruled this corner of Spain in the 8th century). For that reason, this dish isn’t so much a recipe as it is a broad template.
Any vegetables usually are cooked first, sometimes sautéed in olive oil or even charred on hot coals and peeled. Then they’re arranged on yeasted bread dough that’s been stretched over an oiled baking sheet. In the oven, the edges crisp and puff slightly, while the dough beneath the toppings retains a slight chew. The bottom stays tender but sturdy enough to handle any moisture released by the vegetables.
Some tinned fish or a bit of meat adds a savoriness that also turns the snack into more of a meal. The result is filling and unfussy, with plenty of possibilities.
To ease prep for our version, we opted for store-bought pizza dough, a good stand-in for the crispy-chewy coca bread, and turned to pantry ingredients for convenience without sacrificing flavor. We liked the sweetness of roasted peppers balanced by the brininess of jarred artichokes and capers. A sprinkling of fresh thyme offered herbal notes.
Our coca baked in a high-heat oven for a golden crust with crispy edges. On top of that, we draped sliced prosciutto for added depth and savoriness. The result was a quick, yet deeply savory treat.