Lagana is a type of flatbread that is traditionally baked in Greece only once a year, during the Clean Monday. Clean Monday is the first day of the Great Lent, a very important period for the Orthodox Church. Of course Clean Monday is part of the Greek customs and is celebrated by nearly everyone no matter if he or she is religious or not.
But let’s go back to our bread! Lagana was considered to be a symbol of self-restraint and it is said that many years ago it was prepared without any kind of yeast so as to remain flat after baking.
Nowadays, lagana is made with yeast –I don’t think that anyone would like to eat it otherwise- and its preparation together with other customs, signals the beginning of a fasting period which lasts 50 days, until Easter.
Every year, on Clean Monday, we bake our own lagana bread early in the morning and if the weather is sunny we go for a pic nic. The recipe is simple and it might remind you of the Italian focaccia.
(for one big loaf)
- 500 g bread flour
- 7g dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 200 ml lukewarm water (100 ml to activate the yeast and about 100 ml for kneading)
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp black-caraway seeds
- 60 ml (4 tbsp) olive oil
- Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl with your hands or with the mixer using the dough hook attachment.
- Put the yeast in a cup with 100 ml of lukewarm water and 1-2 tablespoons of flour, stir and let the mixture rest for 10-15 minutes. The water should be at a temperature of about 40 oC. After 15 minutes a thick foam will be formed on the surface of the mixture, which means that the yeast is active. Otherwise you should repeat the process with another package of yeast. Always make sure that the water is at the right temperature.
- Start kneading: Make a hole in the flour, pour in the yeast mixture and knead well. Gradually add the remaining water while kneading. Depending on the flour quality and the air humidity, you may need more or less water than indicated in the recipe. When a supple, smooth and soft dough that does not stick to hands has been formed stop adding water and knead for ten more minutes. If you are using a mixer 5 minutes are enough.
- Greaze the inner surface of a clean bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil. Form the dough into a ball and turn it in the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm spot until nearly doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead and fold for several minutes and form the dough into a ball. Sprinkle some more flour on the counter and on the dough and using a rolling pin roll out the dough into a flatbread 1 ½ -3 cm thick, depending on how thick you want it to be after baking. Just remember that the bread will rise and double in size.
- Transfer the lagana on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Dip your hands in olive oil and with the tips of our fingers form some small holes on the surface. Sprinkle with the remaining oil and then with 3-4 tbsp of water. Sprinkle with some salt, the black-caraway seeds and the sesame seeds.
- Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45-60 minutes.
- Bake at 220°C for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool.