Walking down the street one day in Barbir in Beirut, I saw a baker carrying a wooden board filled with delicious pies. One of his customers shared his wife’s recipe.
Spreading the toppings evenly across the dough takes practice. Too much or too little of the topping makes a big difference. I found that the best way to spread the toppings on different pies is with your hands. Quite elementary, but very efficient. Instructions for preparing the dough can be found below with this recipe.
In a bowl, mix tomatoes, onion, hot peppers, thyme, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
If you are using a cast-iron crepe pan, griddle or convex disc (saj): Preheat over high heat. Heat the dough until small bubbles form, then lower the heat and spread on the topping. Cook until the bottom is slightly golden and the edges are crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the heat source. Lightly spray the cooking surface with water between pies and wipe away any debris.
If you are using a conventional oven: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit). Using the back of a spoon, spread the mixture over the prepared dough, leaving about 1 centimeter (½ inch) of exposed dough at the edges. For more even distribution, use your fingertips. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes on the bottom shelf until the edges are slightly golden, watching carefully so they don’t burn.
Serve the pies hot.
Measure the flours. Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for a couple of minutes. Sift flour and salt together into a bowl and stir in the sugar (it is important to mix the dry ingredients first).
Gradually pour the yeast water and the oil into the dry ingredients and mix. Knead the mixture to make soft dough. Then tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. (If you are using a food processor or stand mixer, add the dry ingredients first, then gradually add the liquids. Start at low speed, and gradually turn up the speed, running the machine for 1 minute. Always stand close to the machine while it is running.)
Place the dough in a large bowl dusted with extra flour or greased with olive oil (this will prevent the dough from sticking to the surface of the bowl). Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel and leave to rise in a warm place, free of drafts for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. I usually place my dough in an unheated over to rise.
Punch down the dough. On a floured surface, form the dough into a log. Pinch off the dough to form 4 equal-sized balls. Flour or grease the bowl again and leave to rise for an additional half-hour.
Flatten each ball with your palm. Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough into a dish of about 25 centimeters (10 inches) and a thickness of 6 millimeters (¼ inches).
If you are using a conventional oven, spread the circles onto a baking or crisping pan or place your baking stone on the bottom shelf of the oven before preheating.
Reprinted with permission from
Man’oushé: Inside the Lebanese Street Corner Bakery
Barbara Abdeni Massaad
2020, Interlink Books, 978-1-62371-932-6, $30 hb, www.interlinkbooks.com
Barbara Abdeni Massaad is a food writer, TV host, cookbook author and a regular contributor to international cooking magazines. She won the Gourmand Cookbook Award and the International Academy of Gastronomy for Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry (Interlink Books, 2018). Born in Beirut, Lebanon, she moved to Florida at a young age and gained her real culinary experience helping her father in the family-owned Lebanese restaurant, Kebabs and Things. After moving back to Lebanon in 1988 and completing university there, she decided to pursue her passion for cooking. Determined to gain proper experience within the culinary world, Massaad trained with several renowned chefs at Lebanese, Italian and French restaurants. She is also a founding member of Slow Food Beirut and an active participant in the International Slow Food movement. She lives in Beirut with her husband and three children.