Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Za'tar and Aleppo

Doesn't that sound like the name of a fable or a fairy tale? They are actually an herb and a spice featured in two recipes I recently tried. Za'tar is a kind of thyme that grows wild in Lebanon, and in more recent years has been cultivated. It is also the name of a spice blend featuring that herb, as well as crushed red sumac, sesame seeds and salt. The one time I had it was at a place in Brooklyn where it is slathered thickly onto flatbread before baking. It was absolutely delicious and the memory of it remained strong in my mind. I got a bag of the spice blend as part of a gift box filled with herbs and spices at Christmas so decided I would try to recreate that bread. This dough is a pleasure to work with — loose yet not sticky. Lots of fun to knead.

Flat Bread Baked with Za'tar
Adapted from Saveur

Makes three 8" breads.

For the dough:
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more
for greasing sheet pan

For the topping:
1/4 cup za'tar blend
5 Tb. olive oil

1. For the dough: Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in a small bowl and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, 1/2 cup of the oil, 2 Tb warm water, and yeast mixture and stir until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 10-15 minutes. Shape dough into a ball, dust with flour, then transfer to a large clean bowl. Cover bowl with a clean damp kitchen towel and set aside in a warm spot to rest until dough has doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

2. For the topping: Mix za'tar and oil together in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly grease a sheet pan with some olive oil and set aside. Turn dough out onto a clean surface, divide into thirds, and shape each piece of dough into a ball. Roll 1 dough ball out on a lightly floured surface into an 8" round and transfer to prepared sheet pan. Using your fingertips, make indentations all over the surface fo the dough, then brush with generous amount of topping. Bake flat bread until lightly browned and crisp around the edge, about 10 minutes. Repeat rolling out , indenting, topping, baking process with remaining dough balls and topping mixture, greasing baking sheet with more oil as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The gift of herbs and spices also included a bag of Aleppo pepper and I made Muhammara — a spicy roasted red pepper and walnut spread to go with it.

1 comment:

  1. it looks amazing, i am sure it tastes delicious. We call it man'ouche (the flatbread baked with za'tar :)