Monday, September 21, 2015

Jeffrey Hamelman: Lebanese flatbread with savory filling (Grain Gathering 2015)

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Jeff drew the inspiration for this bread from Man'oushé: Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery, a book by Barbara Abdeni Massaad with gorgeous photography by Raymond Yazbeck. The man'oushé is Lebanon's favorite flatbread and Massaad travelled all over the country to collect every recipe she could find. The book is an eloquent portrait of a people through its bread (and its tastebuds). Sit down with it if you can and allow yourself to be carried away to the land of milk and honey...

The dough
Yield: 30 little breads (or turnovers as Massaad calls them in the book)
(Jeffrey Hamelman used King Arthur flours: Sir Galahad all-purpose and Round Table pastry.)
  1. The day before the bake, mix the dough to moderate gluten development (desired dough temperature: 75°F)
  2.  Bulk ferment for one hour, then divide in 75 g pieces
  3. Round the rolls strongly and refrigerate overnight, covered
  4. Next day, roll the dough pieces into circles about 5" in diameter
  5. Place spinach filling in the center of each dough piece, being careful to leave a rim of dough about ½" wide all around
  6. Lightly brush or spritz water onto the rim
  7. Gather the dough into 3 equal segments, making a tight seam with each segment
  8. Make sure the edges are well-pinched together
  9. Let the dough relax for about 30 minutes
  10. Brush each piece lightly with olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes
  11. The dough should be pliable after the bake; take precautions not to overbake it.

The filling 

Ingredients (for  approximately 30 pies)
  • 1035 g spinach leaves
  • 45 g salt
  • 260 g onion, minced
  • 40 g sumac
  • 70 kg lemon juice
  • 207 g olive oil
  • 175 g feta cheese
  1. Add the salt to the spinach leaves and rub thoroughly together. Let sit for 1 hour
  2. Rinse well under cold water
  3. Squeeze out as much water as possible (the spinach must be dry)
  4. Chop it coarsely
  5. Mix together all the filling ingredients
  6. Put approximately 85 g into the center of each disc of Lebanese flatbread dough and finish as detailed in the recipe.

  • The dough might fight you when you try to roll it out, so do it in stages: flatten it some, let it rest 30 seconds while you flatten another one, pick it up again. It will have slackened.
  • The triangle-shaping is a bit difficult to master. Once you have put some filling at the center of the dough disc and brushed the perimeter with water, the important thing to remember is to pick-up the edges of the dough at NE and NW (not E and W), so that you can bring the two northern edges together at the center then bring up the bottom part.
  • Make sure the edges are well sealed.
I made the recipe yesterday here at my house and had no problem with the shaping. Of course the breads (Assaad calls them turnovers in her book and I guess they look more like turnovers than they do flatbreads) didn't turn out as pretty as Jeff's but then I didn't expect them to, especially on the first try and probably not ever! I did adapt the formula a bit. In the book Assaad says you can replace half of the flour with whole-wheat flour. I used about 70% whole-wheat flour. Here is my revised formula (for 12 turnovers):
Jeff also mentioned that the author was coming out with a new book. I looked online. The book is called Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity and it will be published in the United States in October this year. According to the website, all profits from the sales will go to non-profit organizations to help fund food-relief efforts for displaced populations.
Now you probably don't need another soup recipe (not even from contributing celebrity chefs and/or cookbook authors such as Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, Anthony Bourdain, Alice Waters, Paula Wolfert, Claudia Roden, Chef Greg Malouf, etc.) and even less another cookbook, but this is about feeding people who have been displaced from their home by horrific events and find themselves powerless to meet their family's most basic needs just as winter is coming.
Ordering Soup for Syria for yourself and/or as a present to the cooks in your life is an easy way to extend a helping hand. A hand holding a steaming bowl of soup. Imagine thousands of bakers' hands reaching out, holding bowls of steaming soup. With flatbreads on the side of course...

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