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Lahmajun (Armenian Flatbread With Spiced Lamb) Recipe

Why It Works

  • Mixing the dough gently helps hold the gluten relaxed, making it straightforward to roll and producing a crisp-tender texture. 
  • Shaping the dough balls earlier than cold-proofing lets the dough loosen up additional.
  • Processing the bell pepper and onion with just a little salt pulls out moisture, which prevents the meat topping from being excessively moist. 
  • Letting the meat topping heat up barely earlier than dolloping it on the dough makes it straightforward to unfold evenly with out deforming the form of the dough.
  • Whereas lahmajun is superb with little greater than a squirt of lemon juice, the optionally available onion-parsley salad—used as a garnish or a facet dish—takes it to the subsequent stage.

As a skinny, chewy-crisp flatbread with an fragrant, bright-red topping on it, lahmajun will get known as “Armenian pizza” by non-Armenians on a regular basis. That is high-quality, because it does give non-Armenians a stable level of reference for an in any other case unfamiliar dish, although the analogy actually solely goes to this point. The place pizza is topped with cheese and a tomato-based sauce, lahmajun is cheeseless and topped with a skinny layer of a lamb- or beef-based paste that’s intensely flavored with chiles, tomato, fragrant onion, garlic, pink bell pepper, parsley, and heat spices. The onion and bell pepper are finely floor and drained of extra water, so the topping emerges from the oven steaming and moist, however not moist. On this manner, lahmajun is much less like pizza and extra like a floor meat kofta—an Armenian “hamburger,” if you’ll—smooshed into a skinny layer onto the bread. However, lahmajun and pizza are each completely scrumptious, particularly when eaten sizzling from the oven, and each are straightforward to make at dwelling, offered you’ve the appropriate recipe (specifically, mine).

The Key Strategies for Correctly Formed, Tender Flatbreads

As with many flatbreads (together with pizza), the dough for lahmajun is rolled out thinly earlier than being topped. However this poses a technical problem. On the one hand, we need to roll out and form the flatbread correctly, however on the opposite, we need to stop extreme gluten formation from overworking the dough, which can lead to a tricky or chewy texture. So, how does one get the dough rolled out and formed correctly with out inflicting it to deform or get powerful within the course of? Through the years, I’ve provide you with a bunch of methods for flatbread success, a number of of which I make use of right here. 

First, I combine the dough gently, with out kneading of any variety, aside from a brief hand mixing within the bowl to get the elements absolutely mixed. This might sound counterintuitive, since breads usually require structure-building through kneading, however so long as you select the appropriate flour—bread flour, on this case, with its excessive share of gluten-forming proteins—you find yourself with greater than sufficient construction to yield a chewy-crisp flatbread with out calling for kneading. 

Secondly, I form the dough into balls after a short room-temperature fermentation—about 90 minutes, simply lengthy sufficient to let the yeast in it get up and the dough increase a bit—after which transfer them into the fridge. After that, they proceed to ferment slowly, for a minimum of eight hours (and as much as 24 hours). Shaping the dough balls early on in a protracted fermentation offers the dough ample time to loosen up, which makes rolling it out straightforward, whereas additionally constructing taste.

Chilly-proofing formed dough balls additionally builds a measure of comfort into the recipe, since you make the dough sooner or later and bake them the subsequent. Better of all, in contrast to many flatbreads, you roll out the lahmajun dough chilly, straight from the fridge, so you can begin baking as quickly because the oven and baking floor is sizzling, with out having to spend time letting the dough heat up earlier than use.

Apart from flour, water, salt, and yeast, my dough system comprises a contact of vegetable oil for added tenderness and to advertise crisping, together with just a little sugar, to advertise speedy browning. 

Methods to Make a Flavorful—Not Moist—Topping

To manage the water content material within the topping, I grind the onion and pink bell pepper in a meals processor together with a beneficiant quantity of salt; I then transfer the combination to a strainer to empty for 10 minutes. The salt attracts extra water from the greens, which drips by way of the strainer right into a bowl under. This helps scale back a watery topping later.

After that, I return the drained combination to the meals processor, together with the remaining seasonings: parsley, pink pepper paste (a.ok.a. biber salçasi in Turkish—most manufacturers are made there), tomato paste, a couple of garlic cloves, allspice, paprika, cumin, and black pepper. I course of the whole lot to a high-quality, even paste, then add the meat in small nuggets and pulse the whole lot collectively till it simply comes collectively, to retain some texture to the meat. 

As for what sort of meat to make use of, beef or lamb, that’s as much as you. I like lamb finest myself, however I’m Armenian, in order that’s a given. Regardless of which you select, attempt to discover meat that’s freshly floor with a coarse-but-even texture; normally this implies going to a butcher. Classically, the topping for lahmajun was hand-minced with a knife (or a pair of them), which divides it finely with out mashing it to an amorphous paste; utilizing freshly floor meat is the subsequent neatest thing to hand-mincing it. That mentioned, if all you could find is prepackaged meat, use it! I do typically, and it really works high-quality. 

As with the dough, the topping could be made as much as 24 hours forward of time and saved within the fridge. You do need to let it heat at room temperature for about half-hour earlier than baking, since that may make it simpler to unfold with out mashing or deforming the rolled-out dough.

Methods to Assemble and Bake Lahmajun

Historically, lahmajun is baked in blazing sizzling wood-fired ovens. The excellent news is that you could nonetheless make an ideal one in a house oven at a temperature of 500˚F (or 550˚F, if you’re fortunate sufficient to have an oven that goes that prime), so long as you employ a stable dwelling pizza baking strategy:

Cook dinner them on a preheated baking stone or, ideally for extra conductivity, a baking metal (heated at your most oven temperature a minimum of half-hour for a metal or an hour for a stone), and positioned excessive within the oven, which ensures speedy heating from each above and under, for even, fast cooking. Simply be sure to not set the oven rack so excessive that it’s a problem to get the lahmajun out and in; you need to give your self 4 to 5 inches of headroom, which implies both the highest or second from the highest rack place.

As soon as the floor is sweet and sizzling, you will get all the way down to baking. As a result of the dough needs to be good and relaxed by now, it received’t take a lot effort to pat and roll out. You’ll want to use loads of flour on the dough and the counter to stop sticking, to keep away from tearing or overworking it. It is best to roll from the middle out, rotating the dough often, to maintain the circle as spherical as potential. As soon as it’s between 11 and 12 inches, transfer it to a floured peel. 

Professional lahmajun bakers simply smoosh the topping with their fingertips across the dough in a matter of seconds, however this takes tons and plenty of follow to drag off with out manhandling the dough and/or making an unsanitary mess. I exploit a distinct strategy to reduce hand contact with the paste: You scoop the topping combination in a 1/2 cup dry measuring cup and use a small spoon to distribute dollops of it evenly across the disc. You then use the again of the spoon and a fingertip to flatten the dollops and canopy the dough fully, except for a 1/8-inch-wide border.

Then it goes into the oven to bake till the crust is browned across the edges and on the underside, which takes about 5 minutes. (The topping will probably be steaming sizzling at this level, however it mustn’t dry out or brown.) Whereas one bakes you may roll out the subsequent one, and all 4 flatbreads ought to take lower than half an hour to finish. 

Serving Lahmajun

Lahmajun is nice with little greater than a squirt of recent lemon juice as a foil for its richness. But it surely’s additionally usually served with a crisp, cool, and tart vegetable salad, both as a facet dish, or—higher but—as a filling to fold or wrap the flatbread round, burrito-style. One traditional Armenian salad I like to make use of right here is thinly-sliced pink onion and parsley, dressed with floor sumac, lemon juice, and olive oil. To mood the pungency of the onion, I first soak it in boiling water for five minutes to drag off many of the intense sulfur compounds that kind when it’s reduce.

When you strive it—it makes an ideal gentle lunch and is a welcome addition to a mezze unfold—I feel you’ll agree that whereas lahmajun and pizza usually are not the identical, each are price including to your flatbread repertoire.

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