This traditional Greek sesame flatbread (lagana) is baked on the first day of Lent, or, “Clean Monday”. Lagana is soft, chewy, and irresistibly delicious!
“Clean Monday” (Kathara Deftera, in Greek) is the equivalent of “Ash Wednesday” in the Greek Orthodox church as it marks the beginning of the long, fasting period of Lent called “Sarakosti”, or, the period between “Clean Monday” and Orthodox Easter Sunday (Pascha). Like Ash Wednesday, it marks the end of Carnival and the beginning of a spiritual and physical purification period that comes with a long fasting period.
Celebrating “Clean Monday”
Even though not everybody can fast for 40 days, just about everybody observes a type of fast on Clean Monday. This day is a public holiday in Greece, so people traditionally go to the countryside with their families and friends to have a picnic and to also engage in the custom of paper kite flying. The skies will fill with hundreds of them. As is the case with all holidays in Greece, this day also revolves around food.
How to enjoy lagana
The traditional fare for this day (which is this coming Monday), excludes all dairy and meat products and the only fish that is allowed is shellfish. So, a typical spread will include marinated Greek olives, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), taramosalata (a delicious carp roe spread), vegetable and olive oil-based dishes (called lathera), dried legume dishes, shrimp, calamari, octopus (all cooked in olive oil only), and, a tahini-based Lenten sweet called “Macedonian halva”.
The center of all this food–and its perfect accompaniment–is this traditional Greek sesame flatbread. Lagana, with its flat, elongated shape topped with sesame seeds, looks something like Italian focaccia, but it has a much lighter texture and it also uses less olive oil. Since this bread is only baked once a year, it is highly anticipated and people buy it at their local bakeries in great quantities to enjoy for days to come. This homemade version is super easy to make, well worth the effort, and absolutely impossible to resist!
This is how to make it:
5.0 from 1 reviews Traditional Greek Sesame Flatbread (Lagana) Save Print Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 25 mins
Total time 40 mins
Author: Marilena Leavitt
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 1 loaf
1 cup warm water (105°F - 110°F) 2 TBSP. sugar 2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast (or 1 envelope) 4 TBSP. extra virgin olive oil ¼ cup warm water 2 tsp. sea salt 3 cups AP flour 1 TBSP. sesame seeds for sprinkling on top
Add the first three ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the whisk (or in a large bowl). Whisk well to dissolve the yeast and let stand for 15 minutes or until frothy. Switch to the dough hook and add the olive oil, the rest of the warm water, and the salt. Process briefly on the lowest speed and then add the flour, ½ cup at a time. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl and is moist, smooth, and elastic. (Note: all flours are not the same, so you might need to adjust the flour or water if necessary, so the dough comes together in the bowl of the mixer). It should feel moist and just a little sticky to the touch. You want the dough to be moist because this will result in a bread with soft and airy crumb. Shape the dough into a small ball, dusting your hands with some flour as needed. Lightly grease the bowl of your stand mixer (or use a large bowl) as well as the dough ball with olive oil and place the dough inside the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and place it in a warm place to proof and double in size; about one hour to an hour and a half. After this resting time, uncover the bowl and poke it with your finger to test if the dough is well proofed. It should feel pliable and soft. If the dough springs back halfway, it is ready for shaping. Punch the dough down to deflate it. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough on the parchment paper. Pressing lightly with your fingertips, gently stretch the dough to an elongated rectangular shape with rounded edges, about 9”x13”. Stretch it as much as possible and, when the dough resists, wait for a few minutes and try stretching it again until the dough has relaxed a bit (you can also roll the dough out with a rolling pin.). Let it proof in a warm place, this time for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 375°F. Once the bread is proofed, brush it lightly with a little olive oil, using a pastry brush. Then, poke the tops of the bread with your fingertips to make several indentations, being careful not to deflate it. This will give the lagana its characteristic appearance. Sprinkle liberally with the sesame seeds. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bread is a golden-brown color. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and place the bread on a wire rack to cool slightly before cutting it in small square pieces to serve.
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The post Traditional Greek Sesame Flatbread (Lagana) appeared first on Marilena's Kitchen.
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