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Food

Traditional Lagana to Enjoy on Clean Monday and during Great Lent

February 20, 2023

There are a variety of foods that are typically consumed during the fasting period of Great Lent that leads up to the celebration of Easter. Lagana is traditionally eaten on Kathara Deftera (‘Clean Monday’), the first day of Great Lent, and is cooked on a hearthstone over hot coals, but baking in the oven works just as well for home cooks today. A relatively simple bread dough, laganes (plural of lagana) are topped with sesame seeds, though they pair well with practically any topping of your choice throughout Lent or any time of the year. Laganes are traditionally made without oil for strict fasting days, but oil can be used on the days when oil is allowed during Great Lent. It should be noted that in Greece and Cyprus, Clean Monday is a public holiday, celebrated with outdoor excursions, kite-flying, and eating Lenten foods such as octopus, shellfish, squid, bean soups, greens, and pickled vegetables along with lagana.

 

Lagana

 

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups warm water about 115 degrees

1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup fine semolina

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup barley flour

1 teaspoon Greek sea salt,

1/4 teaspoon ground mahlepi (optional)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Greek extra virgin olive oil, for brushing (optional)

Greek honey, for topping, if preferred

Water

Sesame seeds, for topping (optional)

Lagana. (Photo by Haley Truong, via Unsplash)

In a large bowl, stir together yeast and the 1 3/4 cups warm water at about 115 degrees F, and set aside until foamy for about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, semolina, whole wheat and barley flours, salt, mahlepi, and pepper. Add the yeast mixture and stir until the dough forms. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, if using oil; cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Uncover the dough and divide into 16 portions to make individual laganes. Roll each piece into a ball. Transfer the dough balls to a floured baking sheet and cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Working with one dough ball at a time, transfer to a lightly floured work surface and shape the dough with your hands into an 8-inch disk about a half-inch thick for the individual laganes. Transfer the disk to a parchment paper-lined, floured baking sheet, sprinkle with more flour, and repeat with remaining dough, placing a piece of parchment paper between each disk. Cover the disks with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the laganes on a baking sheet and brush with

Greek honey thinned out with a little water. Bake the individual size laganes for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If preferred, shape into a larger rectangular-shaped lagana, pressing into the dough to form the characteristic look of the bread, top with sesame seeds, if using, and bake in a preheated 425 degree F oven until golden brown.

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