Are you ready guys to make with me an extra ordinary Lebanese crowd-pleaser? I am guessing most of you have an idea about these Lebanese meat pies which we call in Lebanon sfeeha. They are served as part of the Lebanese mezze or as a main dish accompanied with plain yogurt, whether eaten alone as a snack or a main, sfeeha always satisfy and eating them all day long would be great if only my waist would allow it. Their crispy exterior with their steamy soft meat interior take them to the top list of comfort food! You will find sfeeha at all bakeries in Lebanon – these hand-pies are portable and delicious!!
The best place to go for sfeeha is the city of Baalbek, also called the city of the sun, where the large archeological ruins of the Roman temples and monuments are surrounded, and a major touristic destination! If you visit Lebanon, keep Baalbek on your agenda and don’t miss these insanely decadent treats!
About the dough!
The recipe may sound laborious since you will be making the dough from scratch!! I think the biggest obstacle for people is a fear of making yeast dough recipes like sfeeha, especially beginner bakers as they find working with yeast intimidating, but I guess the dough here is a good start even for beginners! Don’t be afraid to work with yeast!! It is a straightforward recipe for a foolproof dough.
This is such a versatile dough, it can be used to make mini manakish, spinach fatayer, calzones, mini pizzas, and turnovers, so I guess it is pretty good to learn it and keep it in your repertoire.
Use whole milk to make the dough and never use the skimmed stuff.
When making the dough, milk should be lukewarm and never use hot milk. The hot milk will kill the yeast which guarantees your dough will never rise.
Kneading the dough by hand is pretty simple; I love kneading all yeast dough by hand – I am an old school, but you can use a stand mixer fitted with a hook if you prefer! Slam the dough on a floured countertop a couple of times this will strengthen the gluten in the flour, resulting in a very light and fluffy dough. Watch the video!
About the filling!
Traditionally sfeeha pies are made with lamb meat, but if you are worried about lamb meat being too strong for you, beef can be used instead – though my personal preference is lamb!! Fatty meat is advisable and not the lean stuff.
A quick word about the filling: tomatoes and onions can be hand chopped, but I would prefer to throw them both (onions and tomatoes) in a food processor and blitz to a smooth blend – do not add the minced meat to the food processor!
Some people add pomegranate molasses and tahini to the filling, I simply don’t! I need nothing to overpower the flavor of the lamb meat, I would only spice it up with a very small pinch of seven spice, cinnamon powder and chili powder.
Strain the filling before shaping the sfeeha, to get rid of the excess liquid and to avoid unravelling the sfeeha while baking.
Can you freeze sfeeha?
– The sfeeha freeze well which make them a quick dinner with some yogurt on a busy weeknight. They even make a great solution for unexpected guests or even parties and gatherings. Once the sfeeha is baked and cooled, wrap any leftover individually in with plastic wrap. They freeze beautifully for up to three months.
How to reheat frozen baked sfeeha?
– I find reheating baked sfeeha, in the oven, far better than a microwave here, because microwave convert moisture to steam, softening them as they heat producing a soggy sfeeha. Lay the sfeeha on the grate in the oven at 200°C/400°F and warm a couple of minutes.
– But let’s be honest and say that sfeeha are at their best when fresh out of the oven!! Your house will smell warm and welcoming. My family invade the kitchen as soon as I pull them from the oven, and I would all the time warn them “allow them to cool down a few minutes, so you don’t get burnt!”
– Most get eaten right away and rarely anything get in the freezer! They are easy to make, don’t shy away from making sfeeha, it is a fun project! Happy eating!!
For the dough:
1 kg. / 2lb 4 oz. all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup sunflower oil
2 + 1/4 cups whole milk
For the meat filling:
500 g. / 1 lb 2 oz, minced lamb meat
2 small onions, diced
4 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped, no need to peel the tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder, optional
½ teaspoon seven spice or allspice
Chili flakes, optional
Canola or sunflower oil to grease your baking sheets
1. Start making the dough: In a large bowl, mix the flour, active dry yeast, sugar, salt and oil. Add the lukewarm milk and mix well.
2. Knead the dough until it is of one texture. Slam it a couple of times on a countertop before you cover it with cling film, this will strengthen the gluten in the flour, resulting in a very light and fluffy dough. Watch the video! Set aside for one hour or until it doubles in bulk.
3. In the meantime, prepare the meat filling: Place the tomatoes and onions in a blender and blend until smooth, you may even use an immersion blender.
4. Transfer the pureed tomatoes to bowl, add the minced meat, salt, spices and chili flakes if used. Stir well to homogenize the mixture.
5. Strain the filling to get rid of the excess liquid, this is a crucial step to avoid unravelling the sfeeha while baking.
6. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Place the rack in the center of the oven
7. When the dough has doubled in size, flour a counter top and break off the dough into equal balls roughly the size of a ping pong ball.
8. Stretch each dough with a rolling pin to a round circle ½ cm. thick, making sure to flour the countertop and the rolling pin every now and then to avoid sticking the dough.
9. Place a tablespoon of the meat filling in the center of each circle dough. Watch the video above to learn how to shape the dough; I have provided you with two ways to shape the sfeeha, choose your preferable way! The classic way is to pinch the two opposing ends of the round dough, creating a square shape sfeeha. The other way to shape sfeeha is to crimp the edges around the filling, creating pleats as you go! Watch the video to make it easier to understand.
10. Lightly grease two large baking sheets with oil and place the sfeeha on the greased baking sheets, don’t crowd the sheets.
11. Bake each sheet for about 12 minutes to a golden color. Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon juice for an extra kick or some plain yogurt on the side. Total joy!!
Recipe By Hadias Cuisine