A recipe for Lepinja (Balkan Flatbread)! This soft and fluffy yeast-based bread is perfect for pairing with ćevapi.
Lepinja is a type of flatbread popular throughout the Balkans in Southeastern Europe. While here in California, I really developed a love for it after visiting Aroma Cafe in Los Angeles and Sofra Urbana in Fountain Valley. The texture is light, yet still sturdy enough to hold meat and toppings together in sandwiches.
In preparation for our yet again cross country move, I have been working on recreating the bread at home so I can continue to hold on the flavors after we leave the area.
The Lepinje do take some time and steps to rise, but come together with just a handful of ingredients. Flour is combined with yeast, water, milk, sugar, salt, and a little oil to form a soft and smooth dough. It is set aside to rise once for about an hour, then punched down and allowed to rise again.
Each individual piece is formed into a ball, then pressed down (with hands, not a rolling pin) into a flattened disc. Immediately before placing in the oven, press lines across the tops of the discs to create a criss-cross pattern.
Bake in a hot oven (480˚F, 250˚C) until golden, then sprinkle with water and wrap in a towel. This traps in the steam to help keep the texture soft.
A Few Tips
Add just enough flour to handle the dough without sticking.
The first two rises took about 45 minutes to 1 hour each for the dough to double. In a cold kitchen, the time may be longer.
Press the balls of dough into discs using your hands. A rolling pin will make it too flat and push out too much air.
The bread is best the day it is baked, but will last for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Lepinje are particularly perfect as the base for Ćevapi (lepinje za ćevape) and Pljeskavica (a flat beef patty served in the bread).
To make a complete meal, I paired the Lepinja with Ćevapi, chopped onions, Ajvar, and kajmak. For those in the Los Angeles area, I was able to find ćevapi, Ajvar, and Kajmak at Jon’s Fresh Marketplace in Torrance.
Ćevapi/ćevapčići are Balkan elongated meatballs/skinless sausages. The exact mixture of meat and ingredients vary base on region. I actually used store-bought ćevapi, but Chasing the Donkey has a recipe that I can’t wait to try someday.
Ajvar is a spread made from roasted and mashed red peppers and eggplant. It can be mild or more spicy. I used store-bought, but 196 Flavors has a recipe for Ajvar.
Kajmak is a tangy spread similar to clotted cream. I haven’t personally tried it, but Food Perestroika has a recipe to recreate Kajmak at home.
Looking for more bread recipes?
- Hveteboller (Norwegian Cardamom Buns)
- Msemen (Moroccan Square Flatbread)
- Pan Amasado (Chilean Kneaded Bread)
Lepinja (Balkan Flatbread) Recipe
Adapted from Jernej Kitchen
Lepinja (Balkan Flatbread)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) active dry yeast
- 3/4 cup (180 milliliters) lukewarm water 105-115˚F (40-46˚C)
- 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (180 milliliters) lukewarm milk 105-115˚F (40-46˚C)
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) sunflower or vegetable oil
- In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm water. Stir briefly to combine, then allow to rest at room temperature until frothy, 5-10 minutes.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
- Slowly mix in the frothy yeast with water, milk, and oil to bring together a dough. If too wet, add a little more flour until just soft enough to handle (do not add too much). If too dry, add a little more water at a time.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until soft and elastic. Place in a bowl, cover, and allow to rest at room temperature until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough, then cover and allow to rest again for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 480˚F (250˚C). Grease 2 baking sheets lightly with oil.
- On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball, seam side down. Cover and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Using your hands, press each ball down into a flattened round disc. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and cover. Allow to rest for another 15 minutes.
- Using the spine (dull side) of a knife, press lines across the disc-shaped dough to form a square or diamond pattern on top.
- Bake in the preheated oven until golden, 8-12 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Immediately sprinkle the tops with water and wrap in a towel. This will keep the bread soft.
- The Lepinje are best the day they are baked, but will last a couple of days at room temperature in an airtight container (after cooling).