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Ajin
all-purpose yeasted bread dough
RECIPE BY JULIE ANN SAGEER (JULIE TABOULIE)

Photo Credit: Alexandra Grablewski

When I think of ajin, which means dough in Arabic, I immediately think of my mother. Every Sunday for as long as I can remember, I’ve seen my Mama making this dough in the biggest stainless steel mixing bowl you can imagine. In one sitting, she’ll make up to fifteen pounds of ajin for use in all of our family’s favorite bread dishes like Manoush (thyme-topped breakfast pies), Fatayer (triangular spinach and meat pies, Lahmeh b Ajin (open-faced meat pies), and, of course, Khebez Arabi (Arabic pocket bread). There are just so many things you can make with ajin, and lucky for you, I’ve got a lot of ideas!

Once baked, the dough is delicate and satisfying, soft on the inside and just a bit crispy outside.

 

MAKES 2 POUNDS DOUGH

1 teaspoon yeast, dry powder or solid

1 teaspoon sugar

4 cups plus 1 teaspoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the flour, and 1⁄4 cup of lukewarm water. Thoroughly mix the ingredients with a fork to dissolve any clumps and set aside at room temperature to rise. Once the yeast begins to foam and form small bubbles at the surface, 3 to 5 minutes, it is ready.

While you are waiting for the yeast to foam, place the remaining 4 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Working in a circular motion, thoroughly mix in the salt with your fingers and break up any lumps of flour. Now, create a deep hole in the center of the flour and pour the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 11⁄2 cups of room-temperature water, and the yeast mixture into the well. First, mix all the ingredients loosely together with your hands starting from the outside of the bowl and working your way into the center so that the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

 

Then begin to knead the dough by punching and rolling into it with your fists, then flipping the dough over and repeating the process. The dough should be moist but not too sticky. If it is too dry add more lukewarm water by the teaspoon, and if it is too wet, add a bit more flour by the teaspoon. Once it is soft and bounces back when you press into the dough, it is ready. Pour the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil in the bottom of the bowl and roll the dough in the oil until it is completely coated.

 

If you are using the dough that day, securely seal it in plastic wrap and cover with a large clean kitchen towel. Set aside at room temperature for 2 to 21⁄2 hours to rest and rise. Once the dough has doubled in volume, it is ready to use.

 

If you plan on using the dough more than 21⁄2 hours later, cut the dough into halves (1 lb each), seal in a plastic bag, and refrigerate. Once you are ready to use your dough, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

 

NOTE: The temperature of your kitchen is an important factor in this recipe, as is the time of year. If it is colder, it will take longer for the dough to rise, and if warmer, it will take less time. The time can vary between 1 hour and 2 1⁄2 hours.

NOTE: This recipe can be doubled, but allow for additional preparation and resting time.

TABOUIE TIP! Use bottled springwater for best results.

Copyright 2017 by Julie Ann Sageer in Julie Taboulie’s Lebanese Kitchen, St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin. All Rights Reserved.

From the cookbook

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RECIPE BY JULIE ANN SAGEER (JULIE TABOULIE)

 

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