For 20 pies, you need half the recipe for Basic Lebanese Yeast Dough. (If you want to make 40 pies, use the full recipe of dough and double the filling amounts.) Ground beef can be substituted for the lamb. If serving fatayar as a meal, accompany with a green salad, a plate of olives, and a bowl of yogurt. Fatayar are especially delicious with a small spoonful of yogurt spooned onto them before each bite. Maureen likes Fage brand Greek yogurt.
Basic Lebanese Yeast Dough
1. In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1/3 cup of the warm water, and the sugar. Let stand for about 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy and bubbly. In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Make a large well in the center and add the yeast, oil, butter, and the remaining 2 cups warm water. Mix well with your hands, adding more water if necessary to make a soft, smooth cohesive dough. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface, turn the dough out, and knead for 5 to 8 minutes, adding small amounts of flour if necessary, until the dough is supple, elastic, and no longer sticky.
2. Lightly oil a large bowl or coat with cooking spray. Add the dough and turn the dough to coat all surfaces. Cover the bowl tightly with lightly oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has tripled in volume, about 2 hours. The dough is now ready to use in a recipe.
1. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it to deflate the bubbles. Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces (1-1/2 to 1-3/4 ounces each). Shape into balls and space them slightly apart on the countertop. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel.
2. To make the filling, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat, add the pine nuts, and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, until toasted a deep golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, just until translucent. Add the lamb and break it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cinnamon, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the lamb is just warm, about 20 minutes, then stir in the pine nuts and yogurt. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary.
4. To shape the pies, lightly coat two 18 x 12 x 1-inch baking sheets with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Dust a ball of dough (the dough will have risen a bit) with flour and pat it out to a 3- to 4-inch circle, then roll to a thin 5- to 6-inch oval, about 1/8 inch thick. Turn the oval if necessary so a narrow end is nearest you. Mound a scant 1/4 cup of filling in the center of the oval and pat the filling into an oval so that the filling comes to about 1/2 inch from the ends and 1 inch or so from the sides. Bring the sides of dough over the filling to meet in the center of the pie and pinch the center firmly to seal, then continue pinching the dough to the end of the pie farthest from you. Bring the end of dough closest to you up to meet the dough in the middle of the pie and pinch together, then pinch the remaining open edges of dough together firmly to seal. The pie will be the shape of an isosceles triangle with a triangular seam the shape of an inverted Y. Set it seam side up on a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling, arranging 10 pieces on each baking sheet, 1 to 2 inches apart. Cover the pans loosely with kitchen towels.
5. Adjust two oven racks so one is on the lowest shelf and one is in the center position and preheat the oven to 450 F.
6. Uncover one pan of fatayar (leave the remaining pan covered with the towel). If any of the seams are opening, repinch them closed. Put the pan on the lower oven shelf and bake for about 20 minutes, until the pies are nicely browned on their bottoms. Shift the pan to the center position and bake 8 to 10 minutes more, until the fatayar are a rich golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and brush the hot fatayar lightly with half of the melted butter. Repeat the repinching with the remaining pan of fatayar, bake, and brush with the remaining butter.
7. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with yogurt for spooning onto the fatayar.
Storing: Baked fatayar can be frozen when completely cool. Set the fatayar on baking sheets and freeze until solid. Pack the frozen pies into heavy-duty resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 2 weeks. To reheat, thaw the fatayar completely in their bags, then arrange them on a baking sheet and heat in a preheated 325 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until piping hot.
Excerpted from A Baker's Odyssey by Greg Patent (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007). Copyright 2007 by Greg Patent.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.