The Vuelta a Espana is dipping its toe into Andorra, home to many a professional cyclist on account of its favourable tax regime. I understand Andorran cooking is similar to Catalan but with influences from both France and, surprisingly, Italy.
I looked around for a traditional Andorran recipe and found coques, a flat cake made from a thick pancake-type mixture and stale bread. I’m not sure whether it’s a household staple but it sounds like the type of recipe where everyone probably has their own version. So, in the interests of research, I though I’d give it a go. I have to be honest, the first batch was a complete disaster so I played around with the recipe and my second attempt was delicious.
Ingredients (serves eight as a dessert)
- 150g (2 cups) fresh white bread cut into small cubes (I used brioche)
- 120g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 150ml (⅔ cup) almond milk
- 4 large preferably organic eggs, each weighing approx. 45g (1⅔oz) without the shell
- 200g (1⅔ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 100g (1 cup) freshly ground almonds
- 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/gas mark 5 (375°F/350°F fan) and line two baking trays with greaseproof (parchment) paper.
2. Beat the eggs in a bowl with the sugar until light and fluffy, then fold in the sifted flour, ground almonds, lemon zest and almond milk in batches, starting and ending with the flour and almonds. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for an hour in the fridge.
3. Once the batter has rested, gently incorporate the bread cubes. Divide the mixture roughly into four and dollop onto the tins and spread to make two similarly-sized rectangles on both sheets. I trace two rectangles on the paper and then turn them over – to prevent getting pencil on the baked coques – with the outlines visible from the reverse side.
4. Place them in the oven and bake until nicely golden brown and cooked through (about 20 minutes).
6. Cut the coques into triangles and serve warm, dusted with a little icing (confectioners’) sugar.
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.
2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the coques in the oven, put the timer on for 3-5 minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.
3. If you think the coques are browning too quickly, particularly at the edges, cover them with an aluminium foil tent.
4. In devising my version, I reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe by a third and substituted equal quantities of vegetable oil and hot water with almond milk. I also substituted one-third of the flour with ground almonds and added the lemon zest. So, not too much in common with the original recipe!
5. I’ve also made this recipe into one large coque, covered with really thin slices – use a mandolin and mind your fingers – of eating apples with a few pieces of unsalted butter and soft brown sugar scattered on the top. Then, when it’s cooked, I glazed it with thinned down apricot jam to give a nice shiny finish.
6. Otherwise, I suggest serving them with some seasonal fresh fruit, such as apricots or peaches which will go well with the almond flavour in the coques.