Penny de los Santos
A friend and I happened upon Hazar, in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, by accident one day. After ordering an eggplant salad and some acili ezme, a spicy red pepper salad, we tore into the basket of flatbreads and were impressed with all. We also ordered lahmacou, a thin individual flatbread with a ground lamb topping, and I asked for lemon and parsley, the traditional accompaniments. The man at the oven brought them, and when I told him how good the bread was, he told me that he makes it fresh three times a day. Two weeks later I was in the basement prep room with Ramazan, the owner, making his bread. Since he makes it so often, it’s fairly simple and quick to prepare. Once the dough is risen it’s divided, rounded, shaped into dimpled disks, and baked right away.
Line 1 large or 2 smaller jelly-roll pans with parchment paper.
Whisk the water and yeast together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Wait 30 seconds and whisk in the sugar. Use a rubber spatula to stir the flour into the liquid.
Attach the dough hook and beat for 2 minutes on lowest speed. Stop the mixer and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Start the mixer again on medium speed and sprinkle in the salt. Mix until the dough is smoother and elastic, about 2 minutes longer. Cover the bowl with oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and let the dough ferment until it doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.
Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface and divide it into 6 pieces, each about 50 grams. To round each piece of dough, move 1 to a flour-free place in front of you. Cup your right hand over the piece of dough so that the top of your palm just beyond your fingers is touching the dough. Press the piece of dough and move your hand in a circular motion at the same time. If you’re pressing hard enough you’ll be able to feel the dough turning into a sphere. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
When you’re ready to bake, make the egg wash by combining the ingredients and lightly brush the top of each piece of dough. One at a time, form the breads by pressing down on the rounds of dough with the joined fingertips of each hand meeting in the middle making a line across the dough. Mark 4 lines equidistant from each other on the dough, then turn the flatbread 90 degrees and repeat, making a grid pattern on the dough. Place on 1 large or 2 smaller jelly-roll pans lined with parchment paper and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
After all the flatbreads have been formed, pick one up by the edge and let it stretch a little downward, moving along the outside edge of each. Return to the pan after the stretching and repeat with the remaining flatbreads. Spray with water and place in the oven. Wait 2 minutes, then spray again.
Lower the temperature to 425 degrees and bake the flatbreads until golden, a total of about 15 minutes. Halfway through, move the bottom pan to the top rack and vice versa, turning the pans back to front. Cool the flatbreads on a rack and serve them soon after baking. At Hazar they always reheat the breads in a hot oven for a couple of minutes before serving.