I really don’t get super gadget-happy in my kitchen. Gotta have sharp knives. Lots of dish towels. A lemon reamer, GOT TO. Anyone who’s ever made Lebanese dishes knows why. Lemon, lemon, lemon.
Of course, the best tools are the ones we were born with: the hands, and every one of the senses. Properly employed, these are our pals, our workhorses.
But when I make Lebanese talami bread, our tall, airy, soft, chewy bread that’s so good its face could launch a thousand ships, I take a stand mixer-only position. There are good reasons for this, including the fact that I adore a stand mixer—I want to get more of them just to enjoy the rainbow of glossy colors they come in.
If I could get Dan to look the other way for a minute, he’d find a big old Hobart on premises, without a doubt.
You can use your hands for the talami, yes Sitto you can, but this dough is so wet that hand-kneading can evoke stress, expletives, and bad baking juju so powerful they can be tasted in the bread.
I don’t want that for you. I don’t want that for me. And I certainly don’t want that for our talami.
I consider it a huge success that Geralyn went directly home from our recent talami-bake and ordered her first stand mixer. She was wooed by the ease with which the dough came together and smoothed out, and wooed by my new method for the talami: no more round loaves that are such a challenge, given the wetness of the dough. No more!
One fine day this past winter I put into play a recurring dream I’d been having, which was to find a way to barely touch the talami dough at all during its two rises. Preserve the air pockets, preserve your sanity.
Using the same recipe for the talami from in my cookbook, but adding a touch more sugar (please trust), I wanted the dough to rise twice in the bowl, then pour the dough into a hot small-ish pan (specifically, a quarter sheet pan with sides, 9×13, heavy duty. I’m not one for gadgets, but you’ve got to have it!). Air bubbles, undisturbed, hold their own this way because they get to stay put to rise the second time, rather than “shaped” into rounds. The dough is eternally grateful we’ve left it alone to do what it does best: rise tall full of a big wide open crumb, golden, soft, and aromatic.
Oh, and a word about the nonstick foil. There’s nothing sexy about a food blogger recommending aluminum foil, even on a nonstick pan. But truth: this is what I use for the talami. Use nothing, and bread removal from the pan gets ugly.
I believe Geralyn’s new mixer is candy apple red. This from a girl who looked at me as though I’d completely lost it when I said she needed to get the mixer if only for making this bread from an ultra-wet dough. You’ve got the same face right now?
All I can say is: No really! It’s a game-changer! Use your God-given senses of sight, taste, smell and mixer on the talami made with this method—not to mention a garlic butter glaze that puts the whole experience OVER THE TOP—and mark my words, another stand mixer believer will be born. A believer named You.
What color you gonna get?
Oh, and while you’re at it, pick up a flexible bench scraper. I’m not one for gadgets, but I do love my rubbery pastry brush too. The mortar and pestle for mincing the garlic, too.
No really! You’ve gotta have it!
- 1 packet or 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 2 ¼ cups warm water, divided
- 4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, very soft
- 1 large garlic clove, green sprout removed
- In a small bowl, combine the yeast, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and ¼ cup of the water. Set it aside until it is creamy and starting to bubble a bit, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, using the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the rest of the granulated sugar. Pour in the yeast mixture when it’s ready and moisten the flour using the paddle attachment with your hand (helps prevent the flour from exploding when you start the mixer).
- Attach the paddle and on low speed, start adding the remaining water slowly. Increase the speed to medium as the dough begins to form. Use all of the water, and run the mixer on medium-high until the dough is smooth and batter-like, about 5 minutes.
- Coat a medium sized bowl with a teaspoon of canola oil, and also coat a rubber spatula or rubber bench scraper, as well as your hands. Use the coated scraper and your hands to pour the dough into the bowl, scraping down the mixer bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (not against the dough), and cover that with a clean kitchen towel. Set it aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, 90 minutes to 2 hours.
- Slightly deflate the risen dough by gently scraping it down the sides of the bowl with the oiled spatula or bench scraper, folding it over on itself a bit. Cover the bowl again with the plastic and towel and set it aside in a warm place to rise again for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a 9 x 13 x 2-inch quarter sheet pan with nonstick foil. Place in the oven on the middle shelf and heat to 500°F for 30 minutes.
- When the dough is risen, remove the sheet pan from the oven and coat it with the remaining neutral oil. Use the oiled scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough from the bowl as you pour it into the hot sheet pan. Start at one short end of the sheet pan and fill it with the dough as you move the bowl along with the dough to the other end of the pan. Use your oiled fingers or the bench scraper to very gently push the dough into the corners of the pan. It won’t be perfect, and that’s fine. Less touching is better.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 425°F., or 400 convection. Bake the bread until it is deep golden brown, about 20 minutes or so.
- While the bread bakes, make the garlic butter glaze. Coarsely chop the garlic, then mince it to a paste with a pinch of the kosher salt. Stir the garlic into the softened butter.
- When the bread is done, set the hot pan on a rack. Glaze the top by generously coating it with the garlic butter using a small knife or spatula. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack until it is nearly room-temperature before slicing into pieces to serve.