Last night I made my first batch of socca, a dense, pancake-like, appetizer made of garbanzo bean flour, water, olive oil, salt, pepper and preferred spices (cumin).
What is Socca?
It sort of falls into the bread category since one might eat it before dinner or alongside a dish where bread would typically be served. But rather than bread, I found it to be more like grilled polenta....but denser, sturdier, less grainy, and with a hummus-like flavor. It was quite different, but I'll reserve any real judgement until I make it to Southeastern France, where it's common. Based on David Lebovitz's description, it's a pretty casual starter meant to be eaten with hands, among friends.
I'd never heard of socca until this week, when my friend Lisa sent me two recipes for socca and and said it might be a fun way to use garbanzo flour. It was, but choosing which recipe was difficult. One was from David Lebovitz and the other was from David Rocco. Lebovitz's recipe sounded more practical for a family of three since it called for a cup of garbanzo flour, but I liked David Rocco's straightforward baking technique which didn't require putting a pan of hot oil in the oven due to potential spatters and smoke. I just haven't had good luck with putting hot fat in the oven lately, plus I was using extra-virgin olive oil.
Baking Socca in a Cake Pan
In the end I used David Lebovitz's recipe for the socca batter and baked it in a round cake pan at 450 for about 25 minutes. After baking it, I can see why David didn't give a precise baking time. Really, you have to go by how golden brown the edges are and the overall appearance. Mine only took about 25 minutes, and despite not preheating my pan with oil in it, I got crispy, golden edges. Oil is important for good texture and flavor, so make sure the bottom of the pan is generously coated. When I poured the batter into the pan, it floated on top of the oil and the oil came up around it, which is what David Rocco said would happen.
So the recipe I used was a combination of David Lebovitz's batter plus David Rocco's baking method. You could combine the two methods or follow one from start to finish. I liked Lebovitz's a lot, but (as mentioned) was hesitant to put a pan of hot extra virgin olive oil in the oven or anywhere near the broiler. I might try it once I get some oil with a higher smoking point.
However, things worked out well in the end because I did have the grill going for dinner. After I cut the soca, I threw some wedges on the hot grill and charred them a bit. The perfect finishing touch! You don't have to add the little bit of char flavor, but I really liked it.