Manakish. A slightly crispy, chewy, and soft olive-oil infused flatbread topped with the romantic flavors of the Levant. There are various ways to make this delectable baked good, but my favorite involves zaa’tar. And lots of it. If you have never enjoyed this dreamy blend, now is the time. “Zaa’tar,” which translates to thyme, is used to refer to a rich spice mix made of dried wild thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, oregano, and a few other spices and herbs depending on which region it comes from. You should be able to pick up a batch from your local Middle Eastern or international foods store. If that isn’t an option, there are various online sources you can look to.
I love a generous dollop of zaa’tar and extra-virgin oil on my bread. You can also add a crumbling cheese such as feta or queso fresco to the mix for a most delicious combination of flavors.
I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I do. And if you give it a try, do let me know how you liked it in the comments below or tag your photo using the hashtag #hanadykitchen on Instagram. It is always lovely learning about what you enjoy.
INGREDIENTS/ MAKES 12 BREADS
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup (150 gr.) whole wheat flour
2 cups (320 gr.) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk or non-dairy substitute*
2/3 cups (160 ml.) olive oil, divided
2/3 cups (90 gr.) zaa’tar (thyme) spice mix, see notes
1. Prove your yeast. Do this by combining the yeast, sugar, and 1/2 cup (118 ml.) of warm water in a small bowl or cup. Lightly mix together the ingredients and leave to sit for 5-10 minutes or until foamy and bubbly. If the mixture foams up, the yeast is active and is good to use in the bread.*
2. Combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, milk, and 1/3 cup (80 ml.) of olive oil in a large bowl. Add the yeast and water mixture and use your hands to knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for at least 10 minutes or until tight and firm. If the mixture does not hold together, add 1 tablespoon of water and alternatively, if it is too sticky, add 1 tablespoon of flour until the mixture is smooth. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl greased with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rest in a warm place for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
3. After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, divide it into 12 pieces plum-sized balls, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to rest for an additional 15 minutes.
4. In the meantime, prepare your zaa’tar topping and preheat your oven to 200 C (400 F). Simply combine 1/3 cup (80 ml.) of olive oil with 2/3 cups (90 gr.) of zaa’tar in a small bowl, and stir together.
5. Flatten one piece of dough at a time with a rolling pin to form a circle that is about 1/4 in. thick. You can make it thinner or thicker if you prefer. Be sure to keep the other pieces of dough covered with a kitchen towel while you roll. Transfer the flattened pieces of dough to a floured baking pan, and spoon 1 tablespoon of the zaa’tar mix onto the center of each piece. Use a pastry brush to carefully spread the zaa’tar outwards so that it is covering most of the circle. Don’t worry if some of the mix drips towards the sides.
6. Finishing touches. Now, you have a few options with regards to the look of the flatbread before you bake. You can simply bake the dough as is, which is what I do when in a rush, or you can add a few finishing touches. For example, use a fork to press down the edges of the dough for patterned look. Alternatively, use your thumb to press down the sides. The pictures below will demonstrate what each looks like. You can also brush some egg wash onto the edges for a rich golden finish. The last photo on this post shows this. For the egg wash, simply whisk together 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water.
6. Bake the dough for about 10-15 minutes or just until lightly golden. The color will be deeper if you use egg wash. Serve right away for best results.
*If the yeast and water mixture does not foam up, try again with warmer water, or replace your yeast with a new one for best results.
*Feel free to use almond milk as a substitute for regular milk if you need this to be dairy-free.