Old Spices, New Traditions – Flatbreads with Za’atar
Lately Dustin and I have been really getting into making bread at home. As we are young, childless, and new to this city, we have a lot of time on our hands during the weekends. Baking bread is a great way to constructively (and inexpensively) fill up our Sunday mornings. But there is more too it than that, making bread by hand is a truly soul satisfying endeavor. Perhaps it is the smell of yeasty bread rising or the feel of elasticy dough but we cannot seem to get enough of it! We have posted a couple of bread recipes on this site before, but these rolls are by far our new favorite – I caution that they may be habit forming!
The breads are based off of a flat bread (as in not so risen – not to be confused with pizza style flat bread) recipe from one of my most recent cookbook purchases, “Bake!”by Nick Malgieri. The dough was one of the oddest and stickiest I have ever worked with but the petite loaves were very simple to make and the relatively short rising time makes this bread easier to pull off in a time crunch than traditional breads which often take 2 (or more) days to create at home.
We topped these little gems with Za’atar – a savory middle eastern spice blend that typically includes Sumac, Thyme, Sesame Seeds, and Salt. It is commonly used in the Middle East as a topping for breads but also makes a great seasoning for hummus and can be used as a rub for poultry. But as the bread does not have an overpowering flavor of its own it would make a great palate for experimentation! Feel free to create a topping of your own. These would taste great with a simple sprinkling of salt, sesame, or poppy seeds and, I imagine, would be fantastic topped with garlic and rosemary as well! Just don’t expect them to stick around too long – these guys have a tendency to disappear quickly!
Flatbreads with Za’atar
3 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 TSP Salt
2 ¼ TSP Active Dry Yeast
1 1/3 Cup Warm Water
2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 TBSP Za’atar
2 TBSP Sesame Seeds
Add the yeast to the water in a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, and stir to dissolve yeast. Stir in the olive oil.
Mix the flour and salt together. Slowly add to the water mixture while stirring until smooth. Mix for 3 additional minutes to form the gluten in the dough. Let it rest for about 10 minutes.
Stir another 3 minutes, adding a touch more flour if needed. Dough should be able to form a smooth, elastic, if somewhat sticky ball. Move the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, making sure to coat both the top and bottom of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
Remove the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Stretch the dough into a wide rectangle, then fold in the left and right third in on top of each other. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat stretching and folding. Return to oiled bowl, coating both sides of dough. Let rest for about 30 minutes, until dough has doubled in size.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or sprinkle with cornmeal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and round them out by pulling the edges up and pressing them down into the center. Flip the rounds over and rest on cookie sheet covered for 5-10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Shape the rounds into 6-inch circles or ovals; allow to puff for 5-10 minutes.
Mix Za’atar and sesame seeds together. Using your finger, gently dimple the loaves at 1-inch intervals. Spray with olive oil or water and dust each loaf with toppings.
Place the loaves in the oven, adding ice cubes to a tray in the bottom for steam if desired. After 5 minutes reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Turn the loaves 180 degrees for even baking after another 5 minutes. Continue baking for another 10 minutes or until the bread is risen and a light golden brown. Place flat breads on a cooling rack and enjoy!