Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Armenian Kitchen's first 'Reader Feature': Mike Minassian and his Perfect Lahmajoun Dough Experiment #3

Our first Reader Feature of 2015 is a person whose name you should recognize - Mike Minassian, from Cordoba, Argentina.

After a hiatus of several months, Mike has resumed his search for the perfect lahmajoun dough recipe.

Here’s what Mike has to say on this subject:

“I'm happy to announce I'm back on the road with the ‘Perfect Lahmajoun Dough Experiment’ - # 3
For my girlfriend's birthday I offered to prepare a meal for her and her family. I saw an opportunity to cook lahmajoun once again! I actually prepared a whole Armenian meal including Sarma, Kufthe meatballs, madzoon, hummus, baba-ganoush and of course Lahmajoun!

I think I'm getting closer. This time I used a variation of #4 dough recipe you sent me (see recipe below) a while ago.
I used self-rising flour (it works great and it costs the same than the regular flour) about 700 grams (approximately 3 cups), 1 cup lukewarm whole milk, 3 tbsp. milk cream, olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and (this is something new) 1 tbsp. malt extract. Now I used malt extract because I know it is used in baking to preserve moisture in the products.
Malt Extract
Lahmajoun dough

In the last experiment my lahmajoun dough was flexible enough but still when I rolled it up to eat, you could see some cracks in the sides, meaning that some moisture control needed to be done.
I used same topping as the previous (experiment).

Topping recipe:
I used 500 gr. (a bit more than 1 lb.) ground beef, 2 onions and 2 tomatoes finely chopped, actually I rather like to process them. Some parsley also chopped. Also added 1/4 of a roasted red bell pepper (I made this some weeks ago). At this point I should mention that the Armenians here in Argentina, at least in Cordoba, use tomatoes for the topping instead of peppers, though I like to add some to my recipe. The spices I used include salt, paprika, ground chili, tricolor pepper, chemen (or fenugreek), and hot chili powder. I mixed everything with my hands, and then processed all. I do this because I like the topping to stick together after I cook it. For this I also add a tbsp. of white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar). After everything is processed I added the juice of one lemon and let it stand for an hour in the fridge. This amount of topping is enough for making a bit more than 2 dozens, so I just used half of it this time, and saved the rest for next time.

Stacked Lahmajoun
After I took the (lahmajoun) out of the (very hot) oven, as usual I (stacked) them one on another. Instead of covering the pile with a kitchen (towel), this time I (covered them) with a plastic  bag. Why? Well, I wanted to preserve moisture, and with the (towel) I couldn't achieve that because of the porosity of the (towel).

The result: A very tender and flexible dough. I could roll it and, see, no cracks at all! I really don't know if this is the way the elderly woman I told you about makes them, but they are close enough. I will continue with this recipe and with time improve it.” 
Lahmajoun Dough Experiment #3 Final Product
Mike’s final thoughts on the perfect lahmajoun dough recipe:

I don't know if this last recipe is the way the woman I told you at the beginning does it, but I think it's pretty close and for now I'm satisfied with it. So yes, this would be "perfect" enough. I'm sure with time and practice I will refine even more the art of making lahmajoun, so I'll keep sending you improvements eventually.

Here is the recipe Mike modified for this dough experiment.

Dough recipe #4: This recipe is from the cookbook, ’Armenian Cuisine – Preserving Our Heritage’ – St. John’s Armenian Church cookbook, in Michigan

This recipe differs in that it uses whole milk, canned evaporated milk in addition to vegetable shortening. This makes 80 to 90 lahmajouns!

3 packages (or 7 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water (about 105°F to 110° F)
1 ½ Tablespoon sugar
12 ounce can evaporated milk
2 cups whole milk
1 cup water
1 ½ cups shortening, melted
½ teaspoon salt
5 pounds flour, for medium-soft dough

1. In a 4-cup measuring cup, add the yeast, 2 cups warm water and sugar. Stir to dissolve well. Set aside and allow to activate (proof).
2. In a large bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer, combine the evaporated milk, whole milk, 1 cup water, melted shortening and salt.
3. Begin adding flour and the proofed yeast to the liquid ingredients. Mix well. Continue to add flour until you have a medium-soft dough. Place dough on a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
4. Place dough in a clean bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or kitchen towel until double in size. Dough should be soft.
5. Punch down dough and form into 2 ounce balls. Keep balls covered in plastic wrap. Roll out each ball into a circle.

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