What are they? I guess the simple answer is small personal Pizzas. They run by many names, but are a â€˜street foodâ€™ staple in the middle east. A couple of weeks ago I got it into my mind that I just had to have one. It is possible that I was on the rebound from the failed Steak and Kidney adventure. You can read that saga here.
Not wanting to be foiled again, I was careful in my research. I had a high confidence level that all of the ingredients could be found in the local Megamart.
The key to Lahmajun is the bread. Research showed that there were two shortcuts, some recipes suggested using store bought Pita Bread, a couple even suggested flour tortillas! I was not willing to walk that line. The only Pita Bread and Tortillas available in this neck of the woods are older than the average Redwood in Northern California.
Nope, I was going to make my own darn bread. I guess I should confess that baking is not my strong suit, but I launched into it anyway. I checked a number of recipes for the bread, and they were all basically the same. All you needed was warm water, yeast, some sugar, salt and flour.
What could possibly go wrong?
Baking alas seems to be one of those areas of cooking that seems to require exact amounts. The recipe called for one cup of warm water. It took a little battle with the kitchen sink to achieve this. We have one of those funky faucets with a Joy Stick thing. It doesnâ€™t matter if I want hot or cold, I always seem to get what I donâ€™t want. After a brutal power of will battle with the darn thing I got a cup (yup I actually found a measuring device) of warm water. Following the recipe to a â€˜Tâ€™, I put the warm water in a bowl and added a pack of dried yeast and a spoon (or so) of what I am guessing was sugar (it looked like sugar, it tasted like sugar, so I am sure it was sugar).
I donâ€™t often follow recipes, but this one made sense. Leave the evil brew alone for 15 minutes and let it foam up. Apparently this is a good sign that the yeast has woken up. The recipe then suggested that I add another Â½ cup of water. I am guessing that whoever wrote the recipe was too damn inept to simply edit the water requirement from 1 cup to a cup and a half. Instead they decided to throw in the extra half cup as an afterthought!
Next came the flour and salt. 5 cups of plain flour and a teaspoon of salt.
A bit of ferretingÂ around in the cupboard later I found what appeared to be a recycled plastic Ice cream container full of a white powdery substance, I was sure it was flour. Someone had used a black marker and written Self Rising on the lid. Wow, high-tech ice cream container! So I put it on the counter and in an authoritative voice commanded â€œOpen Lidâ€. Nothing happened! Obviously I was not using the correct phrase. I went to the back-up plan and did it the old manual way.
I needed 5 cups, my â€˜cupâ€™ measure was of course still wet from all of that messing around with warm water, however the Ice Cream bucket came with a plastic scoop that looked like it was a pretty good size. I have been around the kitchen block a few times, and know that recipes call for table spoons or cups of flour. Obviously this scoop was way bigger than a tablespoon, so logically the scoop had to be a cup?
The recipe actually suggested that the flour should be sieved first to remove any lumps. This seemed like pointless step (right up there with the Â½ cup of warm water), besides which, I wouldnâ€™t have a clue if we have the hardware, or where it might live in the kitchen!
So I put 5 scoops of flour in a large bowl, and go to add a teaspoon of salt. My wife has one of those sets of plastic measuring devices, so this part should have been easy. It was not! Salt shakers and little plastic spoons are not a marriage made in heaven!
The salt shaker wants to maximize the target area, and the spoon is a very small target.
Always on the search for a deal I found a great deal on plastic tea spoons. I’ll bet you didn’t know that you can get 100 of them for $3.17 (shipped via UPS). Well that is what this site claims.Â
A couple of â€˜shakesâ€™ and it was clear that 95% of the salt was missing the spoon. So I abandoned that technique and just shook the shaker over the flour. I have no clue how much I added. I am sure it was less than the fabled teaspoon, but it looked like a bunch.
I gave the whole thing a stir with a wooden spoon. And followed the recipeâ€™s suggestion that you make a little crater in the middle to pour the foaming and evil looking water mixture into.
It was about now that it was clear this was not going according to plan. I ended up with a nasty looking sludge. Kneading was out of the question, even I could see the potential of pouring this on my â€˜lightly flouredâ€™ board. While the floor damage would likely be less than the Roast Duck adventure, I was sure that my wife would take a dim view!
Just as I was contemplating my options Jan asks if I need some help. I take her up on the offer as I am covered from head to toe with flour, and my hands are covered in sludge. I explain my dilemma, and after she stops laughing she explains that the scoop in the Ice Cream bucket is not a cup.
We (well she) adds a bunch more flour and I am back on track.
I have a ball of sticky icky stuff that I abuse for the recommended 10 minutes. By this time both the Dough and I need to rest. So I follow the recipe, I slap the ball of grief back into the bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. The recipe says leave it in a warm place for 90 minutes and it will double in size.
Actually I think they are wrong, it more than doubled in size! I looked at it and wondered if I should call the landlord and add it to the lease!
More in part twoâ€¦â€¦