The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Simple Cooking: Farinata Flatbread As A Gluten Free Pizza Crust

By Samantha Abernethy in Food on May 16, 2013 8:30PM

It's called socca in France, farinata in Italy, and fainá in South America. It's a pancake-esque flatbread made from chickpea flour. Today let's just call it gluten free thin-crust pizza.

To me the key to making cooking "simple" is the ability to eyeball the recipe after the third time I've made it. That doesn't happen so often with baked goods, especially gluten free ones where half a teaspoon means the difference between a cracker and a soggy mess. When I start to line up the measuring cups and spoons, I get bored and make something else. With near-equal parts flour and water, I'm confident this recipe will keep my interest.

The most difficult part of this recipe is finding the flour. Look for garbanzo bean flour or chickpea flour or gram flour or besan. It all means the same thing. I purchased a 2-lb. bag from an Indian market on Devon Avenue. Or you could go to Whole Foods and get a bag half that size for twice as much money. The choice is yours.

In gluten free cooking, you will always be disappointed if you want to make things taste and feel exactly like a gluten-y goodie like pizza crust or bread. You have to steer into the skid to take back control. This won't taste like the cracker-like crust of pizzas you may miss, but it's a whole new taste that stands up on its own and won't embarrass you in front of your friends. And speaking of your friends, feel free act like a snob by calling it socca or farinata and brag about how it's from the French Riviera instead of calling it gluten free pizza crust. That'll help you avoid awkward health conversations about what embarrassing things happen to your body when you eat gluten.

For our first batch, we made it straight up, no add-ins. It worked as a pizza crust, texturally, but it tasted a bit too bean-y. It was pretty tasty, so stop there if you want. Maybe just smear on some pesto. But it just didn't quite taste like a pizza crust with the toppings. In the second batch, we added in about a tablespoon each of fresh basil and thyme, plus a dash of cumin and a handful of grated parmesan. That made it taste like a pizza crust (especially the parmesan), but it also somehow brought out the chickpea taste in a really good way. Just give it a shot.


Makes one round flatbread. Adapted from here, here, here and here; inspired by Mark Bittman.

1 cup flour
1 cup water, plus 1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper

Optional add-ins
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
handful of grated parmesan

medium (we used 9-inch) round cake pan, pie tin or cast iron skillet
Enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom

Whatever the hell you want.

1. Sift the flour with the salt and black pepper. If you think you've put in too much black pepper, put in more black pepper. Seriously, you won't regret it. Whisk in the water and olive oil slowly. Bittman recommends the batter be the texture of heavy cream, but we liked it a little thinner and added a tablespoon more water.

2. Set the batter aside and cover it. Some recommend leaving it for half an hour, some recommend putting it in the fridge overnight, but everyone agrees that it's best if the batter has a little time to breathe before you toss it in the oven.

3. While that happens, preheat your oven to 450 degrees, with the pan inside. Once it's heated, take the pan out and add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Put the pan back in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the oil is shimmering.

4. Stir the add-in ingredients, i.e. herbs and parmesan, into the batter. Then slowly pour the batter into the center of the pan, and keep it thin. Give the pan a little swirl to make sure the batter is evenly covering the bottom. Don't just dump the whole bowl in there if it doesn't look right. Then put the pan back in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, until it's slightly firm in the middle and brown around the edges.

5. Then, put it in the broiler for a couple of minutes (keep an eye on it!) just until the top starts to brown. Take it out and let it set for a minute or two.

6. If you're going the pizza route, dab the oil off the top, then flip the farinata out of the cake pan and onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone. Dab the oil off the other side, too. Then add your sauce, cheese, toppings, etc., and pop the cookie sheet back in the oven until the cheese melts.

7. Eat it. Did I have to tell you that part?

Our Toppings
As you'll see in the photos above, we caramelized onions in olive oil with some salt, then sautéed in some chopped mushrooms with them. We used tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and grated parmesan, then put the onions and mushrooms on with some shredded prosciutto.

Scott Flynn also contributed to this post.