Herbed Za’atar Bread
Herbed Za’atar Bread is a personal favorite and classic Middle Eastern bread. Many cuisines have an herb or spice topped bread. Italians have Bruschetta. You also have French or Italian bread topped with herbs, garlic butter and/or cheeses. And you have countries, like India, North African countries and the Caribbean which make various flat breads, which they top with spice and herb blends. In the Middle East, you have pita bread used as the base for Za’atar and other herb toppings. If you want to try making your own Pita Bread, try our recipe. Click HERE.
We blended our Lebanese Za’atar as we are used to eating in Michigan and the Detroit area. Za’atar is the Arabic word for thyme, which is the key ingredient of our blend. You find many Za’atar blends ground into a coarse or fine powder, but we prefer not to grind ours. Personal choice and more “home made” as we would find in the restaurants.
This recipe uses the Pita Bread dough from our Pita Bread recipe and takes you from baking it with the Za’atar blend to eating it nice and warm. If you want to cheat and take a short cut, you can use pre-made pita from the store or maybe some you previously made and froze. This way, mix the Za’atar and Olive Oil into the paste as we describe below. Spread the mixture onto the pita breads, then broil until the mixture starts to bubble. Don’t let it burn.
Shape the dough into an even rectangle and cut it in half lengthwise. Divide the dough into 12 portions. Shape each portion into a smooth ball. Place the balls on a floured surface and cover them with slightly damp towels to keep the surface of the dough supple and moist. Let the balls rise in a warm, draft-free place 30 to 45 minutes.
Fifteen minutes before the loaves have finished rising, preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
Blend the Za’atar and the olive oil in a small bowl to make a thin paste. Set aside.
Working on 2 balls at a time and using your fingertips, gently press 2 balls flat, keeping them well rounded. Flour a work surface and rolling pin. Roll each round from the center to the outer edge to form a 7 inch circle. The thinner you roll the breads, the more it will be like restaurant-style pita, and not as thick and doughy as Greek-style pita.
Place 2 or 3 rounds on the baking sheet. Spread the Za’atar paste evenly over the top of each round (1 tablespoon per round) pressing down with your fingertips to make the mixture stick.
Bake until the loaves are golden-brown and the seeds are toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. The bread should be soft not crisp. It will bake best if you bake 1 sheet at a time on an oven rack placed in the center or lower third of your oven. However, since this bread does not puff, if you wish to bake 2 sheets at a time, add another rack in the oven close to the first rack. Place 1 sheet on each rack, staggering 1 on the right and 1 on the left, and reverse the sheets from the top to bottom racks halfway through baking for even heat distribution.
Transfer to wire racks and let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
Repeat with the remaining dough, baking one batch before rolling and preparing the next.
Makes 12 loaves or 96 triangles.