Today, it was Clean Monday or as we say it in Greece Kathara Deutera. It is the first day of the Great Lent and the beginning of the 40 day fast that lasts until Easter. Clean Monday in Greece is a public holiday and people usually go out on picnics and fly kites. The traditional food for this day is: taramosalata (a delicious dip made from fish roe), shellfish, beans and other legumes, vegetables, olives, halvas and of course lagana. Lagana is a flatbread consumed on Clean Monday that looks a bit like foccacia. You cannot celebrate Clean Monday without this on your table. You usually eat it with taramosalata, olives or with tahini halva or well with anything you like. It is a bread after all. This recipe that I used was enough to make 2 breads so I made one lagana with the half and with the other half I made koulouri which is a circular bread with sesame, similar to bagel in appearance just thinner. Something very similar to it is the Turkish simit. Anyway koulouri is something very nice and healthy to accompany your coffee or eat for breakfast on its own or with cheese or jam or whatever you like. It is very common in Greece and it exists in every bakery. So, here is the recipe:
Lagana and Koulouri
350 g (2 1/2 cups) strong white flour
150 g (1 cup & 1 tablespoon) whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon tahini (if you don't have use olive oil)
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon salt
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water (about 37°C)
¼ teaspoon anise seeds (optional)
The night before you make the bread place the yeast in a bowl along with the ¼ cup of lukewarm water and a little of the flour, cover with plastic wrap and let it stay overnight.
The next day, in the stand mixer bowl or another bowl if you are going to knead the dough by hand, place the flours, salt and anise and stir them. Make a well in the middle and place the oil, tahini, sugar, yeast mixture and the 1 cup of lukewarm water and stir. Knead the dough with your hand or with the hook attachment if you are using the mixer. Put it on the lowest in the beginning and after it has come together put it in medium until you have a soft and smooth dough. It usually takes about 5-6 minutes. If you see that your dough is very dry, you can add a little more water while you knead it. When it is ready divide it in half and make 2 balls with it. Grease lightly your bowl with olive oil, place the dough inside, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to proof until it becomes double in size. Mine took about an hour.
When it is ready punch it and turn it on a lightly floured surface. Preheat your oven to 200°C/ 400°F. To make the bread take the one of the two dough balls and roll it out into a rectangular with round corners about 1 cm high, place it on a baker sheet lined with parchment paper and cover with a towel. Let it rise like this for about 30 more minutes.
To make the koulouri (”bagels”),place your other ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and divide it in 8 if you want mini koulouri or 4 if you want bigger size ones. I made smaller ones so I divided it in 8.
Form each piece of dough into a string and make it a circle, putting together the edges with a little water on your fingers. Place them on a baking sheet with parchment paper, cover with a towel and let them proof for 30 more minutes also.
When your bread is ready for the oven, poke the dough with your fingertips to make indentations but be careful not to pierce the dough, then brush it with water and cover it with sesame. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes.
When your ”bagels” are ready, brush them with water and cover with sesame seeds. Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 10 minutes, 15 maybe if you make them bigger. They should be crunchy outside and soft inside.
This type of bread gets dry easily so, if you want to eat it another day it would be better if you freeze it.