Lahma bi Ajeen or “Arab Pizza”

This is the best dough I’ve ever made. I’ve really only tried to make challah when it comes to bread dough and it lately hasn’t been working. But this dough was thin, crisp and delicious. Imagine a crisp pita with savory lamb and eggplant topping. Are you hungry yet?

'arab pizza'
'arab pizza'

Ingredients

Recipe courtesy of The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

the dough

    1 tsp. active dry yeast
    pinch of sugar
    1 cup warm water (110-115 degrees), divided
    3 cups bread or all purpose flour
    1 tsp. salt
    1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1 egg white

the topping

    1 eggplant, chopped into cubes
    1 onion, grated or finely chopped in a food processor and drained of juices
    2 tsp. chili powder
    2 tsp. dried parsley
    12-16 oz. ground lamb
    4 oz. tomato paste (3/4 of small can)
    2 ts. sugar
    2 T. lemon juice
    salt and pepper to taste

Directions
the dough

    1. Dissolve yeast with sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water. Leave in warm place and let sit for about 10 minutes, or until mixture begins to froth.
    2. Sift together flour and salt in large bowl. Add oil and combine.
    3. Add yeast mixture to flour. Then a little at a time, add rest of warm water until dough holds together.
    4. Knead for about 10 minutes on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.
    5. To prevent a dry crust, pour 1/2 tsp. olive oil in bottom of the bowl and roll the dough around so it’s greased all over. Cover bowl with a dish towel and leave in warm place for about 1-1 1/2 hours.
    NOTE: If your house isn’t warm enough (mine usually isn’t), preheat your oven to 150 degrees then turn it off. Place bowl of dough in there and it works like magic!

the topping
While the dough is rising, get to work on the topping.

    6. Toss eggplant with 1 tsp. salt and spread out on large dinner plate. Place in microwave, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Eggplant will come out dry and a bit shriveled looking. Place eggplant in medium size bowl and coat with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet on medium heat. Cook eggplant for about 10 minutes until eggplant is cooked through. When done, remove from heat, return to bowl.
    7. In same skillet, add more olive oil then cook lamb. Drain fat, return meat to pan and season with a little bit of chili pepper, salt and pepper.
    8. Add lamb, onion, chili powder, parsley, sugar and lemon juice to eggplant and combine well. Add tomato paste and mix thoroughly until paste is evenly distributed and everything is mixed together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

final prep
Preheat oven to 450

    9. When dough finishes rising, cut into 4 smaller balls of dough. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin, into 5-7 inch diameter circles. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
    10. Brush the tops with half of the egg white. Bake, without topping, for 10 minutes or so, until they’re puffy and golden. Remove from oven, flip them over and brush the other sides with the rest of the egg white. Put back in oven for another 6-8 minutes until that side is crisp and lightly colored.
    11. Remove dough from oven, let cool for a few minutes. When ready, spread topping evenly over each piece of dough.
    12. Cook in oven for about 7-12 minutes or until mixture is heated up. Remove form oven, let cool for a minute or two and serve!

Voila!

**

Post-baking thoughts: Even though this is “Arab Pizza,” no cheese needed! Also, I think this dough could be used if you wanted to make Italian style pizza. I’ll let you know when and if that happens and how it turned out.

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