Damascus-Style Meat Pies
adapted from Taste of Beruit
5 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/4 cup of plain yogurt
4 teaspoons of instant yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 cup of olive oil
Oil, as needed to stretch the dough into pies
1 pound of fatty lamb (I used lean ground beef)
1 tablespoon of red pepper paste or tomato paste
1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses or glaze
1/2 cup of pine nuts; can substitute other nuts
1-2 medium yellow onions
Spices: 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper; 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, 1 teaspoon of hot Aleppo pepper (can substitute hot paprika or chili powder)
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of butter (to fry the pine nuts)
1. Warm the yogurt one minute in the microwave; in the meantime, dilute the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water and let it bubble up. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl with the salt and mix for a couple of minutes. Add the warm yogurt, active yeast, and olive oil and mix until the dough is compact and still moist but not too sticky. (I kneaded in my Kitchenaid). Dampen your hands with oil and transfer the dough to a bowl to rise, all covered in a thin film of oil, for about two hours or overnight in the fridge (covered in plastic wrap).
2. Prepare the filling: place the onions, cut in quarters, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the onions are chopped fine. Add the meat, pepper or tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, spices and sugar and process for a minute until all the ingredients are well combined. Stir in the pine nuts (which have been previously fried in butter till caramel-colored).
3. To make the pies: pour about 1/4 cup of oil in a small bowl and keep it nearby; dip your fingertips in the oil and take each small ball of dough and pat it to form a small pie; do this on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place two generous tablespoons of filling on each pie and pat with the back of a spoon or your fingertips to make sure it gets incrusted in the dough.
4. Bake the pies in a 400F oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the edges of the dough are golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature with a side bowl of plain yogurt if desired and (or) some lemons, quartered.
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