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Lahmajun

<em>Lahmajun</em> Related:   appetizers, bread & savory pastries, Israel & Middle East, meat, Shabbat

Prep time: 30 minutes + 2 hours rising

Cook time: 20–25 minutes

Yield: 4–6 servings

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Jews hailing from Syria, Turkey, Lebanon and surrounding countries took the lead from their neighbors and fell in love with these small flatbreads topped with ground lamb or beef. The name is quite literal, stemming from a contraction of the Arabic words laham b’ajin or “meat with dough.” The yeasted dough is rolled quite thin and crisps around the edges while baking. The topping, meanwhile, is enriched with fragrant spices and pine nuts that add subtle flavor and crunch. Drizzle the lahmajun with good-quality tahini and shower it with fresh parsley and lemon juice, then slice into wedges and serve as a decadent party or dinner appetizer.

Ingredients

  • Dough
  • 1¼ ounce package active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¾ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Filling
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ pound ground lamb or beef
  • ½ small onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • Chopped fresh leaf parsley, tahini and lemon wedges for serving

Preparation

  • To make the dough: Stir together the yeast, sugar and warm water in a medium bowl. Let sit until foaming, 5 to 10 minutes. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the yeast mixture, then pour into the flour. Stir until the dough starts to come together, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding a little more flour, if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky, 7 to 8 minutes. (You can also knead the dough in a standing mixer fit with the dough hook on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes.)
  • Pour the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil into a large bowl, add the dough and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dishtowel and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 hour. Gently deflate the dough with the palm of your hand and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into four equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. Transfer the dough balls to a floured baking sheet. Cover with a damp dishtowel and let rest in a warm place until soft and pliable, 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic, tomato and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Stir together the lamb, onion, paprika, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, cumin, za’atar, 1 teaspoon salt, tomato paste, pine nuts and cooled tomatoes in a large bowl. Mix together with your hands until well combined.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Lay another piece of parchment on a flat surface. Working with one ball of dough at a time, place the ball on top of the parchment. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 8-inch circle. Lay the dough on the prepared baking sheet, top with one quarter of the topping (the meat should still be raw), and use your fingers to press it evenly to the edges. Sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat with remaining dough and topping.
  • Bake until the dough is golden brown and topping is cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Slice into wedges and sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with tahini. Serve warm, with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing.
  • Reprinted with permission from Little Book of Jewish Appetizers by Leah Koenig (Chronicle Books, 2017). 

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