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How to Make Lahmacun

Why this recipe works Lahmacun is a meat pie found in Armenian and Turkish cuisines and is unlike any other flatbread we’ve tasted. The base is very thin and delightfully doughy—it flops over when picked up—with a crisp, spottily charred edge; the topping features ground lamb (and sometimes beef), warm spices, hot pepper paste, and aromatics. Lahmacun is typically served alongside a yogurt soda that’s popular across the Middle East and that’s called tan in Armenia and ayran in Turkey, but we love it served with a dollop of Greek yogurt, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. You can cut the flatbreads into wedges and serve them as an appetizer or use them as the wrap for a grilled vegetable roll-up. Lahmacun is traditionally cooked on a saj, a metal domed cooking surface, which achieves the perfect harmony of a doughy middle and crisp edges, all while simultaneously cooking the meat topping. To replicate this, we started by cooking ours in a castiron skillet over low heat. The bottom of the dough cooked perfectly, but the meat topping remained raw and steamed the dough directly beneath it. Next we tried putting the flatbreads on a hot baking stone in a 500-degree oven. The resulting pies were crisp and crunchy from edge to center, rather than supple and malleable, so we ditched the stone, dropped the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and placed the flatbreads on baking sheets. Baked this way, the flatbreads remained soft while the lamb cooked 90 percent of the way through. To crisp the edges and finish cooking the topping, we ran the flatbreads under the broiler. You can find Turkish hot pepper paste in the international foods section of your supermarket or at Middle Eastern markets. If you cannot fit two flatbreads on a single baking sheet, bake and broil the flatbreads in batches.

  • makes four 9-inch flatbreads
  • resting time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • rising time 24 hours
  • cooking time 14 minutes
  • total time 26½ hours, plus 5 minutes cooling time
  • key equipment food processor, 2 rimmed baking sheets, rolling pin

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dough

  • 1¾ cups (9⅔ ounces) bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) ice water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

topping

  • 3 tablespoons Turkish hot pepper paste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ teaspoon smoked hot paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 4 ounces ground lamb
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1). For the dough Pulse flour, sugar, and yeast in food processor until combined, about 5 pulses. With processor running, slowly add ice water and process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

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2). Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of bowl, 30 to 60 seconds. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.

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3). Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, divide into quarters, and cover loosely with greased plastic. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Space balls 3 inches apart, cover loosely with greased plastic, and let rest for 1 hour.

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4). For the topping Process pepper paste, tomato paste, garlic, paprika, allspice, and salt in clean, dry workbowl until well combined, about 20 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed. Add bell pepper and onion and pulse until finely ground, about 10 pulses. Add lamb and parsley and pulse until well combined, about 8 pulses.

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5). Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 rimmed baking sheets. Generously coat 1 dough ball with flour and place on well-floured counter. Press and roll into 9-inch round. Arrange round on prepared sheet, with edges fit snugly into 1 corner of sheet, and reshape as needed. (If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 10 to 20 minutes before trying to stretch it again.) Repeat with remaining dough balls, arranging 2 rounds on each sheet in opposite corners.

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6). Using back of spoon, spread one-quarter of topping in thin layer over surface of each dough round, leaving ¼-inch border around edge.

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7). Bake until edges of flatbreads are set but still pale, 10 to 12 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Remove flatbreads from oven and heat broiler.

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8). Return 1 sheet to upper rack and broil until edges of flatbreads are crisp and spotty brown and filling is set, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer flatbreads to wire rack with metal spatula and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Repeat broiling with remaining flatbreads.

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problem Turkish hot pepper paste isn’t available.

solution Use common ingredients to make your own paste.

Turkish hot pepper paste is worth seeking out; it has an acidic heat that makes recipes distinctly Middle Eastern. But if you can’t find the real thing, you can approximate a version for the flavorful lamb topping for lahmacun by using ingredients that are probably already in your pantry. This simply involves upping the amounts of some of the ingredients in the recipe: Increase the tomato paste to 3 tablespoons, the smoked hot paprika to 1 teaspoon, and the salt to ¾ teaspoon in the topping.

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