Hot bread. Rarely does a food so simple entice us so intensely. For thousands of years, the art and craft of Lebanese flat bread making was shrouded in mystery. But when scientists discovered the Middle-East late in the 18th century, they were dumbfounded to see the locals filling a flat round disc with spreads and meats and using it to hold and consume their food. After close inspection, it was found that the disc was indeed, bread. This bread, however, was quite different to European bread in that it would not fit into a toaster. In fact, if this bread were to be sliced, it would loose all food holding ability and become totally useless. So, for years, science lost all interest in flat bread, and its practice remained restricted to the ritualistic baking sessions of the local tribes. But slowly, as with all things good, the potential of flat bread became apparent, and the western world took to it like ducks to water. This was a natural progression, as there is only so much filling you can put between two slices of toast.
In Australia, flat bread is called Lebanese bread (which is how I will refer to it from here on). Of course, in Lebanon, we simply call it “bread”, much the same as how the Chinese refer to Chinese food as “food”. To disambiguate, we sometimes refer to Lebanese bread as kumaj bread. Kumaj apparently, is a Turkish word for bread that is cooked on charcoal. This sets it apart from out other two popular breads: marquq or saj bread (large, circular and paper thin bread cooked on a convex grill), or tannour bread (cooked in a tandour-like oven). My generation’s encounter with Lebanese bread came after the industrialisation of the bread making process and as such, we’ve never had anything but mass produced Lebanese bread. It is not clear to me which came first. Whether the machines we bought encouraged the creation of this type of bread or whether we lost the traditional bread making process to the machines. The latter seems more probable. In any case, replicating the Lebanese bread making process at home is quite simple and extremely satisfying, as the result is bread with more substance and integrity than that of store bought bread. Seeing the disc puffing up and separating is a visual treat and I urge you to experience it, if only for that.
adapted from http://www.elook.org/recipes/entree/39624.html
Makes around 8 loaves/discs