Making lahmajoun is a bit of a megillah (see the post of February 11, 2010 on megillahs), almost a relic of when home cooks (women) were in the kitchen daily turning out family and/or festive fare. The good news is: basically, it’s pizza. The dough and the topping can be prepared separately a day or two in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. So, even though it’s a megillah, I offer this recipe in honor of my Armenian American heritage and my enthusiasm over the re-release of my Armenian Table Cookbook, from Clairview Press, available in October.
Makes ten to sixteen 6-inch pizzas, depending on the thickness
For the dough:
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons warm water
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the dough ball
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Extra flour, as necessary
Traditional Lamb Topping (see the sidebar)
Melted butter or lemon wedges, for serving
1. Stir together the yeast and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until bubbly, about 15 minutes.
2. Stir the lukewarm water, sugar, salt, and oil into the yeast mixture. Sift in the flour and blend to make a dough you can gather into a ball. Transfer the dough ball to a floured surface and knead until it is elastic and smooth but still soft, about 8 minutes. Lightly coat the dough ball with olive oil and return it to the bowl. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
3. Punch down the dough and use right away, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days (Bring to room temperature before rolling out.)
4. Make the topping.
5. When ready to make the lahmajouns, place the dough on a floured surface and cut it into 10 to 16 portions, depending on how thick you would like the pizzas to be. Roll each portion between your palms to form a small ball. Roll the balls in flour to coat all around and cover them with a barely damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, up to 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 475 F.
7. Roll out each dough ball into a 6-inch round, placing them side by side without touching on baking sheets as you go. With your fingers, spread a thin layer of the topping over the surface of each all the way to the edges.
8. Bake the lahmajouns until beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 6 minutes. Reposition the baking pans to insure even cooking all around and bake until the crusts are lightly brown on the bottoms, 4 to 6 minutes.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with melted butter or lemon wedges to squeeze on just before eating. The lahmajouns may be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or frozen longer.