Chewy flatbread, inspired by the Balkans and wanderlust.
Back in June and July while traveling around Eastern Europe, I had the chance to try a lot of new foods. Some of the things I had were totally new (veal, yes, I had never eaten it before because baby cow), some were variations of things I was familiar with (like this bread).
There’s this children’s book called Everybody Bakes Bread, a companion to Everybody Cooks Rice. In the book, a girl is sent out to borrow something from a neighbor and ends up visiting many houses to find it. At each house she visits, bread is being baked. Her neighbors are a multi-ethnic bunch, so she learns about challah and chapatis and pita, among other things. While my explorations in June weren’t quite as varied as that, seeing as I was traveling through one region, I did get to sample many different types of bread.
You know those people who post photographs to Facebook months after an event? Well, I have a friend like that. She was also in Croatia this summer–at a different time than I was–and she finally shared some of her photos. Looking at them made me want to return to Europe.
Since that wasn’t (and unfortunately still isn’t) an option, I did the next best thing: whipped up one of the many things I tried while traveling.
I mentioned somun in this post about Sarajevo’s old town. It’s a soft, chewy flatbread served with cevapi. Somun resembles pita bread, in some ways, but the crust and the interior have two different textures whereas with pita it’s all basically the same. Traditional somun is covered with little blisters from being baked in a brick oven at high heat, and has a hatched pattern. I tried to create this pattern on mine as you will see, Reader, in the instructions below, but they disappeared during baking.
While I had this bread in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is also a staple in Serbia, where it is known as lepinje.
Somun or Lepinje
- 1 1/2 T active dry yeast
- 7 oz warm water (7/8 cup)
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 T salt
- 2 more cups warm water
In bowl of your stand mixer*, mix together yeast, 7 oz warm water, sugar, and 1 T flour. Set aside to let the yeast activates and become very foamy, about 10 minutes. Add in flour, salt, and water and mix to incorporate. Using your dough hook knead briefly, about 5 minutes. You will have a very soft, sticky dough. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise in a draft-free place until doubled, about 1 hour – 1 hour 15 minutes.
After the first rise, punch down the dough and knead a few times in the bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled again, about another hour.
After the second rise, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into eight equal pieces. Cover and let rest 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 450ºF.
Roll each ball of dough into a circle about 1/2 an inch thick. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Immediately before placing in the oven, brush each with water and use the back of a knife to draw a cross-hatched pattern on the somun.
Bake until the bread starts to turn golden brown, then reduce heat and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
*Note: This is a really sticky dough. I’m sure there is a way to do it without a stand mixer, but I don’t how to best go about it.