Lahmacun- Pita topped with ground lamb mixture

First of all, let me inform you that this is not a regular post. This particular entry is to be categorized under “failed attempts” but the recipe is correct and did not have anything to do with this dough-y disaster.

I should start out by saying that one spring afternoon while I was shut-in due to weather an utterly bored, I decided to make lahmacun. Now this isn’t something you just whip up out of nowhere, but have to prepare ahead of time.

The dough needs to be made in advance, so that it has plenty of time to rest and rise. Plus it takes time to knead and roll it out flat enough.  I have neither the patience nor the skill when it comes to making dough-based recipes, i.e., homemade loaves of bread, pizza dough, etc. There is something about the combination of yeast, flour and a rolling pin that leaves me with all the dough stuck to my hands and calling for Chinese delivery. I must say that this particular recipe was difficult because it is hard to crisp up the bottom and cook the top in a regular oven. The top was cooked just fine when set on a rack in the center (no cookie sheet, just a metal cooling rack, but a pizza stone would work well) but the bottom was still pale and not browned. The other problem was that the dough was tough to roll out thin enough to get it crispy, but still have it thick enough to maneuver it around between table to pan and back.

This being said, my husband jumped in when he heard me cursing and dropping pans everywhere and managed to save half the batch. He has had some practice preparing lahmacun in one of the restaurants we used to own, and, as it seemed to me, effortlessly rolled the dough out thin and put just the right amount of filling to get them at least edible.

Showing me how it's done

When all was said and done, I had to agree with my husband when he said a phrase in Turkish that can be loosely translated to ” Leave it to the professionals.” That is, only get your pizza from a pizzeria, and your bread from a bakery. You wouldn’t ask a Ice cream shop for fried clams and expect to have the best. So, when I get a craving for lahmacun, it’s off to the nearest pide shop for me.

Dough:

Starter:

1 tbsp. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 3/4 c. warm water

4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, divided

2 tsp. salt

3 egg yolks

1/4 c. milk

In a small bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and 1/2 c. of warm water. Stir and dissolve then let it sit in a warm area for about 10 minutes, until it’s frothy.

Sift 1 cup of flour into a large bowl, and add the yeast mixture. Stir and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. The mixture should have the texture of a sponge. Sift the remaining flour into this mixture, then add the salt and remaining 1 1/4 c. warm water. Stir well.

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle it with flour. Dust your fingers with flour so that they won’t stick to the dough. Knead for 10 minutes until it’s firm and no longer sticky.  Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it loosely with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let it sit for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.

Meat topping:

1/2 lb. ground beef

1 small onion, finely diced (1/2 cup)

2 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced (1 cup)

1 c. fresh chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. paprika

1/2 c. cold water

Mix all the topping ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Heat the oven to 450 F.  Place a pizza stone in the middle rack of the oven.

Dust your fingers with flour and punch the air out of the pita dough, roll it into a cylinder and cut it into 8 equal pieces with a sharp knife. Shape each piece into a ball, then press each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten it.  Loosely cover the balls of dough with a damp cloth and let them rest in a warm place for about 20 minutes.

To assemble, flatten each pieces of dough with the palm of your hand once again. Using a rolling pin, roll each piece out into a 10-inch circle. Divide the spicy lamb mixture among the rounds of dough, spreading it thinly and leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.

Sprinkle cornmeal over the pizza stone and bake the lahmacun in batches for about 7 minutes each, until the meat is browned. remove the breads from the oven and brush the edge of each one with melted butter. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, tomatoes, red onions and a squeeze of lemon.

My first and last attempts at lahmacun

Aziz had a much easier time and much better-looking results

This recipe was taken from Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook by Ozcan Ozan. The ISBN is 962-593-944-x.

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