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Methods of Cooking by Barbara Abdeni Massaad
(Order the book: book Manoushé - Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery)

Conventional oven

All the recipes included in this book have been tested in a conventional oven. The most important factor to take into consideration is to pre-heat the oven for at least 15 to 20 minutes before baking the pies. This is imperative for best results. It is also important to use the bottom rack of the oven. If you wish, you can use a baking stone or a baking sheet to cook directly on a hot surface. I personally use crisping pans with holes and get very good results every time.

Convex metal disc

The traditional way to cook is on the convex metal disc (saj). I highly recommend it, not only for added flavor, but to live through the ritual itself. The first time may be a bit difficult, but with practice it becomes quite simple. In the past, the convex disc was set on stones and dry branches were burnt under the disc. Today, you can find an apparatus where a gas burner can control the intensity of the heat.

Griddle

My mother once gave me a pan that is made of heavy cast iron. She bakes her bread on the griddle on the stovetop instead of using a large convex disc (saj). She had the griddle made by a skilled craftsman. I use it all the time. You can substitute the griddle with a pan especially designed for cooking pancakes.

Cook's Tip: The convex disc and the griddle need to be pre-heated before use. This will disinfect the surface and make crispier dough. Spray water when surface is hot and in between the cooking of different pies. The water will evaporate immediately. Don't ever wash the convex disc or the griddle with heavy soap and water. When not in use, coat the surface with a pastry brush dipped in vegetable oil to prevent rusting.

Baker's oven

In Lebanon, it is common to make one's mixture and take it to the neighborhood baker to have him/her bake it in his/her oven. The baker spreads the mixture on the prepared dough, lays the pies on wooden paddles, and bakes them in the hot burning oven. The baker's oven is special because it preserves the heat inside. It has a very hot floor, thus the pie cooks quickly and evenly. The scorching air causes the dough to form bubbles, a typical characteristic of the man'oushé. In the past, burning wood or fuel oil was used to feed the fire. Today, flames are ignited on both sides of the oven by gas fuel.

Clay oven

The clay oven (tannur) is in the form of a large barrel. It is another traditional way of cooking bread. The clay oven is built in a hole in the ground. The inner sides of the barrel are covered with clay. The core of the oven is left unpolished. It is heated with dry wooden branches. In the past, baking bread in the clay oven was a collective activity done amongst women of the village. The dough is stuck on the inner sides of the clay oven with the help of a cushion (Kara). One minute later, deliciously scented bread comes out steaming with flavor. Today, baking in a clay oven is a rarity, but one very much appreciated.

 

 


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