lahmejune, after a fashion

There’s a fabulous little Ararat bakery near my home that I haven’t been to in years for no good reason. They sell, among other wonders, excellent flatbread and fantastic lahmejune. However, lahmejune really isn’t very hard to make, even if mine isn’t yet as good as theirs.

I was going to use this recipe, but for some reason I completely blanked on the fact that my tamarind paste is on the top shelf of the fridge door, all the way on the right. I don’t use it very often and I forgot it was there. And so I went with Plan B, which is more Turkish than Armenian, but still tasty. Of course, I had to make adjustments here, too, since I didn’t have any tomato and I was using beef and not lamb. I dug out some of the tomato paste I’d frozen a couple of days previous; there was nothing to be done about the provenance of the meat.

The results were quite tasty, although somewhat lacking in salt. I hate it when no amount is specified and taste-testing before cooking is unfeasible. I think I put maybe a teaspoon in, but maybe not. Or maybe that simply wasn’t enough.

The dough I followed to the letter ingredient-wise, but I did my own thing combinatorially and it came out fine. The key here is to get it rolled out very thinly. Ideally, it’s supposed to be a proper shape, too, but I was not being fussy.

This was the first pair; I was neater for the second.

Lahmejune, after a fashion

1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1.75 cups flour + more for kneading
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
7 ounces lean ground beef
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

For the dough: the recipe directions are for doing it by hand, but I just used the KitchenAid for the first step. You want the water to be ~110-120F, but after that it’s adding your wets to your drys.

Let rest 15 minutes, knead for 1-2 minutes, then let rest covered for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to as high as it gets.

The recipe suggests parchment paper for lining, but I didn’t bother; it’s not necessary if you’re using nonstick. If you’re not using nonstick, then parchment paper or a quick spritz of spray grease.

Combine all ingredients for the ‘filling.’ Use your hands to mix; it’s not only easier, it’s more fun.

Take your risen dough and divide it in quarters, letting the four balls rest covered for 15 minutes to make them easier to work with. (If they’re too elastic during the rolling-out, just let ’em sit for a little longer.)

Roll out each ball into a round or an ovoid (or not) as thinly as you can get while still being able to transfer it to the baking sheet. Thinner than pizza — 1/8th inch if you can swing it.

Slather one quarter of the meat mixture on to each dough base. I found a spatula immensely helpful here. You want to make sure the meat adheres to the dough — two becoming one, not resting on top.

Bake 15-20 minutes (depending on how hot your oven is) until the bread is nicely browned.

Let cool long enough so that you don’t burn your mouth and enjoy.


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