Lagana is a traditional Greek bread that is only baked once a year for Kathari Deftera, or Clean Monday, the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church.
This period of time lasts 40 days up until Easter day, where we dedicate ourselves to both fasting and spiritually cleansing ourselves and our bodies. We refrain from eating meat/fish, eggs, and dairy products, and some also abstain from oil.
Clean Monday is a national holiday in Greece, where many families picnic outdoors, welcome spring, and become one with nature. It is customary to fly kites with your family members, a long-standing tradition symbolizing prayers sent high up to reach Heaven.
The culinary fasting begins with the Lagana to start this cleansing season both physically and spiritually. The bread is shaped into an oval and pressed with your fingertips or with a fork throughout and traditionally topped with sesame seeds.
1 cup of warm water
1 packet of fast-rising yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp of sugar
3-4 cups of flour (as needed)
4 oz of sesame seeds
(Makes 4 Laganes)
- In a large mug or bowl, mix the warm water and yeast packet for 3-5 minutes. Add the salt and then the oil.
- In a medium-large bowl, add 2 1/2 cups of flour. Then, mix the sugar with the flour.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, until soft and smooth, adding the last ½ cup of flour as needed.
- Place the dough in a clean, greased bowl and cover it with a towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, 40 minutes to an hour.
- Once the dough has risen, cut it into 4 pieces and use your rolling pin to shape it into an oval.
- Gently press your fingers all over the top, or press with a fork creating small indents. Brush the dough with a little olive oil and sprinkle it generously with the sesame seeds.
- Place the shaped dough onto a greased baking sheet.
- Preheat your oven to 385°F.
- Bake the Lagana for 30-40 min, until golden brown.
- Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.