Flatbread with Zatar

If you have not had the pleasure of being introduced to zatar, allow me the honor.  Meet zatar, sometimes called za’atar.  It is a spice blend found all over the middle east and is a mixture of herbs, salt, and sesame seed.  Usually based on rubbed thyme it can also include oregano, marjoram, sumac, savory, lemon.  It is traditionally used sprinkled on pita and hummus or to season meat or vegetables.  Recently I was given a gift of zatar from the shuk in Jerusalem and have been finding wonderful things to do with it.  Here is a fabulous recipe for a flatbread that has zatar in the dough and sprinkled on top.  It smells great cooking, is a gorgeous color, tastes fantastic and is a very easy special treat.  We are eating it with lentil barley soup made with coconut milk and pumpkin tonight – just right for a very cold evening.

Flatbread with Zatar

for the dough:

  • 1 cup hot water (1/2 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup cold mixed together)
  • 2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 3-4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 Tbs zatar
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

for the topping:

  • 1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbs zatar
  • ~4 oz crumbled salty cheese; Mexican, Greek, or feta

Put the hot water into a bowl or the bowl of the food processor if you are using it.  Sprinkle the yeast over the water.  Add in the honey and 1 cup flour, stir and allow to sit for a few minutes.  Then stir in the oil, salt, zatar, and turmeric and another cup of flour.  Mix in another half cup of flour and start to knead the dough.  Add flour, by the quarter cupful, as needed to get a good bread dough – not sticky but not dry.  Knead the dough another few minutes until it is smooth and you can form it into a ball.  Put a little olive oil in the bottom of a clean bowl then turn the ball of dough in it so the dough is oiled on all sides.  Cover the bowl with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and set aside to rise.  (The place you put the dough should be warmish but not hot – like the top of the stove but not in a hot oven or on a hot burner.)  Allow the dough to rise for 3-4 hours.  Every 30-45 minutes punch the dough down and knead for a minute or two.  All this extra kneading will make the dough have a great texture.  When you are ready to cook the flatbread, heat the oven to 425.  If you have a pizza stone heat it at the same time the oven is heating up.  If you don’t have one you can just use cookie sheets or even glass baking dishes.  Split the dough into 5-7 equal sized pieces.  Flatten each one using a combination of a rolling-pin, poking with your fingers, pinching around the edges, tossing like pizza – whatever works best for you.  It doesn’t have to be a symmetrical shape, in fact it is more appealing if it is imperfect.  When it is flat put on a cutting board with a little flour underneath (this will allow it to slide off and not stick).  Rub enough olive oil on the dough to wet it but not so much to leave pools.  Sprinkle with some zatar then sprinkle with the cheese.  Slide off the board either onto the pizza stone or the baking sheet.  Bake until the dough starts to brown lightly around the edges and the cheese starts to toast a little and brown.  Remove from oven, cut into wedges, and eat hot.  Or eat cold.  This is good as an appetizer, served to dip into hummus, as a side bread with soup, as the base of a sandwich, with pepper spread, or by itself.  You can make these smaller and serve one per person or bigger and cut them smaller.  Whatever suits you.

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