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Lebanese bread is a special flatbread baked so that it develops an air pocket in the center. When it first comes out of the oven, Lebanese bread is round and fluffy, but it quickly deflates into flat circles. Some like to slice this bread in half and stuff the resulting pockets with sandwich ingredients. Others prefer to top Lebanese flatbread with meat, veggies, or cheese. It can be tricky to make, but many cooks find it endlessly versatile.
Most Lebanese bread recipes start with about 1/16 part yeast and 1 part warm water. The yeast must sit in the water for about five minutes, until it begins to foam. This indicates that the yeast is active and will cause the bread to rise. It is crucial that the yeast in Lebanese bread be active. Without yeast, the bread will not form a gas pocket in the center and will merely be a thick round of flatbread.
The water and yeast are generally combined with about 3 parts flour, either white or wheat. This is mostly up to the cook, and some prefer one kind of flour over the other while others like to combine them. The kind of flour the cook chooses for this recipe usually only affects how the bread tastes, not how well it bakes or rises.
Typically, the baker must allow the Lebanese bread dough to rise for about an hour and then punch it down. At this point, he should gently pinch the large dough ball into six to 10 palm-sized balls of dough. These balls should be rolled into .25 inch (about .5 cm) thick discs. The discs should be allowed to rise for about 30 minutes, then baked until they’re golden brown. The rolling and rising is usually what creates the air pocket inside each disc.
When the Lebanese bread comes out of the oven, the cook can use it for a very wide range of recipes. Some cooks might use it to replace ordinary sandwich bread, while others might use it as the base for miniature pizzas. Traditional fillings include lamb curries, roasted vegetables, and falafel mixtures. Other ideas include lining them with hummus and stuffing them with cheese and olives for a savory, satisfying snack.
Many bakers love Lebanese bread because it is portable. Those with busy mornings could fill one half of a piece of Lebanese bread with scrambled eggs and salsa for a breakfast on the go. The other half of the bread could become a hand-held salad. When fried, this bread often adds crunch and nuttiness to soups and curries.