February 28, 2024

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Pascale’s Kitchen: The joy of tabun baking

After many years of baking in all sorts of ovens, nothing had prepared me for the exhilaration I would feel when our new tabun oven was recently installed in our backyard. 

For some time, we had wanted an oven that could reach extremely high temperatures, that wasn’t too big or too small, that would have a nice outdoorsy look, and that would enable us to prepare incredibly tasty food. Finally, the day our new oven was being delivered had arrived. Heavy rain welcomed our new tenant as the huge crane lowered it down gently into our yard. 

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We placed it right next to our outdoor kitchen and tore off the plastic wrapping like little kids attacking their birthday presents. We went through all the instructions to learn how to use it properly, and organized all the new tools that came with the tabun, such as special gloves that can withstand high temperatures, a digital thermometer, tongs, a spatula and a cloth cover. Boy, was I excited to try out my new toy!

For months now, I’ve been engaging in trial and error with this new oven so that I can understand exactly how to make bread and pastries that come out with perfect crispiness on the outside, while remaining soft and tender on the inside. Just like using any new device, it takes time to get used to it. We had a few setbacks along the way, such as the time I burned the pizza, and the time we discovered that the tabun had filled up with soot, and it took us hours to clean it out. Slowly, with lots of patience, we overcame all the stumbling blocks, and now we are proudly baking pizza, bread and pastries like pros. One week, I even managed to bake my challot in the tabun. 

And yet, I still felt like a novice, so I reached out to Ruben Maislos, who is Instagram famous and specializes in cooking meat dishes in tabun ovens. When I explained to him that I was eager to learn more about cooking in a tabun, he was kind enough to agree to come to my home one day so that he could do a tutorial with me on my new oven. 

THE WRITER with Ruben Maislos, who specializes in cooking meat dishes in tabun ovens. (credit: NETA MAISLOS, PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Maislos, 48, who grew up in Argentina and now lives in Or Yehuda, is not a chef by trade. He’s actually a computer programmer who worked for more than 20 years in hi-tech. Then, during COVID, he started a blog on Instagram called meatcurator, which instantly became a worldwide sensation, with more than half a million followers. 

Maislos uploads videos of himself preparing meals for his family and friends, showing viewers each step along the way so that they can see the proper way to cook meat. He also served as a judge in the first grill reality show in Israel called Grill Star, which he also created and produced. The show will soon be broadcast on the Food Channel and on Keshet. 

Maislos prepared with me three recipes in my tabun. The first was beef empanadas, which Ruben grew up with. The second was Savta Isabel’s lahmajoun. And the third was calzones filled with bittersweet chocolate, strawberries, kiwi and marshmallow, which are popular in Italian cuisine. Everything we made that day was delicious, interesting and surprising.

Empanadas

Makes 15-20 empanadas.

Filling:

  • 4-5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • ½ Tbsp. paprika
  • ½ kg. ground beef, 20% fat
  • 6 hardboiled eggs, chopped
  • ½ can sliced, pitted olives

Dough:

  • ½ kg. flour, sifted
  • 100 gr. margarine, cut into cubes
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 170-180 ml. water

Egg wash:

To prepare the filling: Heat the olive oil in a large pan, then add the onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Add the spices and continue sautéing until the onion turns golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. 

Add the ground beef to the frying pan and use a wooden spoon to fry, breaking up the beef. Sauté until the beef has turned gray. Transfer to the bowl with the onion. Add the olives and eggs and mix well. 

To prepare the dough: Add the flour, margarine, salt and water to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix for 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and stretchy. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 hour. 

Separate the dough into 15-20 sections of even size. Form balls, and then cover them and let them rise for 10 more minutes. 

Turn on the tabun and heat it to at least 300°.

Flour your work surface and flatten a dough ball until it is ½ cm thick. Take a little filling and place it in the center of the circle. Take the dough from the side closest to you, and fold it over to make a half moon shape. Pinch down the edge to seal. Make the rest of the empanadas in the same fashion. Place a few empanadas on a pizza peel [paddle/shovel], dusted with semolina, and insert them into the oven. Bake the empanadas for 4-5 minutes or until they turn golden brown and crispy.

Level of difficulty: MediumTime: 1.5 hoursStatus: Meat 

Savta Isabel’s Lahmajoun  (credit: NETA MAISLOS, PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Savta Isabel’s Lahmajoun 

Makes 10-15 servings.

Dough:

  • ½ kg. flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 250 ml. water

Filling:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic
  • 100 gr. dried apricots
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2-3 heaping Tbsp. tomato paste
  • ½ kg. ground beef 

Serving suggestion:

  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • 6-8 Tbsp. raw tahini
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 bottle of Tabasco sriracha sauce

To prepare the dough: Add the flour, sugar, yeast, olive oil and salt to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. While mixing, gradually add the water. Mix for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and stretchy. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 hour. 

To prepare the filling: Chop the onion and garlic and transfer them to a bowl. Chop the apricots and add them to the bowl. Add the salt and pepper and mix well. Add the ground beef and tomato paste and mix well. 

Separate the dough into 10-15 even sections. Form each one into a ball and place them on a floured work surface. Roll out each ball into a flat circle that is 1 cm. thick. Place a spoonful or two of filling on each circle and spread it around, leaving a ring of dough around the edge. 

Heat the tabun oven to its maximum temperature (at least 300°). Place a few of the lahmajoun on a pizza peel [paddle/shovel] dusted with semolina. Place them in the oven and bake them for 3-4 minutes, or until they turn golden and crispy. Just before serving, top them with chopped parsley, a slice or two of lemon, a drizzle of raw tahini and a little Tabasco sriracha sauce. 

Level of difficulty: MediumTime: 1 hourStatus: Meat 

Sweet Calzones  (credit: NETA MAISLOS, PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Sweet Calzones 

Makes 8-10 calzones.

  • ½ kg. flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ Tbsp. dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 280 ml. water

Filling:

  • 150 gr. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1-2 cups marshmallows
  • 2 cups cut-up fruit (bananas, strawberries and kiwi)

To prepare the dough: Place the flour, salt, olive oil, yeast and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. While mixing, gradually add the water. Mix for 10 minutes until the dough is soft and stretchy. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 hour.

Separate the dough into 8-10 sections of equal size. Place them on a floured surface and let them rise another 30 minutes. 

Flour your work surface and roll out each piece into a circle that is ½ cm. – 1 cm. thick. Place some bittersweet chocolate, a marshmallow and some fruit in the center. Take the dough from the side closest to you, and fold it over and press the edge to close. Prepare the rest of the calzones in the same fashion. Bake in a tabun oven that has been heated to 300° for 5 minutes, or until they have turned golden brown. Flip them over and bake for 1 more minute. Remove and serve hot. 

Level of difficulty: EasyTime: 1 hourStatus: Parve

Translated by Hannah Hochner. 


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