The Traditional Flatbread Used For Serbian Burgers

If you aren't familiar with the many wonders of Serbian cuisine (or don't live near a Serbian restaurant), you may not start drooling when we mention pljeskavica, a grilled meat patty that is often served with bread like a hamburger — especially in a fast food place. If you've been wanting to expand the culinary horizons of your outdoor cooking, grilling up a delectable pljeskavica is well within your grasp. The first thing to do is learn how to make the perfect Serbian bun, a traditional leavened Balkan flatbread known as lepinja.

Lepinja is a simple, high-heat flatbread that belongs in the same family as Mediterranean pita or Indian naan, more closely resembling the latter in terms of its prized fluffy nature. For this reason, it's also been compared to focaccia. In Serbian street food, lepinja traditionally accompanies grilled sausages called cevapi (a classic Balkan food), so it's easy to see why it has become the default bread to serve with pljeskavica to make a meal on the go. Best of all, the recipe is simple enough for even a beginning baker to tackle with confidence.

Lepinja: Easy to make, hard to resist

There are many different recipes for lepinja, but they're all pretty similar at heart: Activate the yeast by putting it in warm milk, then add a little sugar. Combine flour and salt and add it to the yeast mixture. Let that proof, covered, in a warm place. To maximize your lepinja's softness, we recommend using milk (instead of the water that some recipes call for), and letting the dough rise more than once (lepinja is known as a "triple rise" bread). In a pinch, allowing the dough to double in size once is more than adequate. Roll out individual rounds of dough, allow for another half-hour rise, and bake in a hot oven (400 degrees Fahrenheit), until the bread is browned. Alternatively, you can grill them, not unlike the tandoori method for cooking naan.

If you're lucky, the lepinja will have formed an air pocket like pita bread; a perfect destination for your pljeskavica. Those patties will be more authentic if they're made with a combination of seasoned ground beef and pork and served with its two traditional Serbian accompaniments: a roasted red pepper sauce called ajvar and kajmak, a soft cheese not unlike clotted cream. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to go fire up the grill.