I had never heard of za’atar until I went to culinary school and a classmate of mine from Israel brought in a little packet of homemade za’atar to share with me. It contained sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, hyssop and a little salt, it instantly became one of my favorite spice blends. The first time I had za’atar bread was from a vendor at a farmers market. He was from Palestine and owned a local restaurant and was selling homemade za’atar, as well as this huge pile of soft flatbread with a generous topping of za’atar and olive oil baked onto the bread. Yet again, I became an instant fan. The word za’atar means thyme in Arabic, as well as referring to a general family of herbs such as thyme, hyssop, marjoram and oregano, among others. A popular spice blend in the Middle East, there are slight variations to the spice combo depending on the region.
Since that first delicious bite of za’atar bread years and years ago, I have tasted many versions. Some have been flat like pita bread, with no fat in the dough. Some have been slightly puffy with a little golden tinge to the bread like a flatbread, and some have been flat, soft and white, like store-bought naan. My favorite is the slightly fluffy flatbread kind, and I have done my best to re-create it. Although mine isn’t as good as Ibrahim’s at the farmers market, it is pretty close.
The dough is very straightforward. First the liquids, then slowly add in the dry ingredients, and knead.
Next up, proof time/rise time.
Since there is a fair amount of olive oil in the dough, it is very easy to shape without any extra flour. I like a rustic look for this bread, so I don’t use the scale to make sure each portion is exactly the same size, just guesstimate. And then fingers and hands work perfectly for shape the dough. No rolling pin needed.
One important note about za’atar. All blends are not the same! I buy one that has a minimal amount of salt in it, but there are some with a lot of salt in the spice blend. Please taste before using. If it is fairly salty, then you will want to greatly reduce the amount you use on top.
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We hope you enjoy this unique bread from the Middle East. Happy baking!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Inactive Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
165 g. (3/4 cup) olive oil
300 g. (1 1/4 cup) warm water
8 g. (2 tsp.) instant dry yeast
570 g. (4 3/4 cup) bread flour
6 g. (1 tsp.) kosher salt
See above note in step by step photos about za’atar
25 – 100 g. (1/4 cup – 1 cup) za’atar
14 – 55 g. (1 Tbsp. – 1/4 cup) olive oil
In the stainless steel bowl with the roller/scraper attachment, add the olive oil, water and yeast. Turn machine on low (1 o’clock) and gradually add in flour, and then salt. Lock arm in place about 1 inch from the side of the bowl. Once flour has mixed in, set timer to knead for 10 minutes.
After kneading, shape into a ball, cover and let rise until doubled in size, 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400º F. Place baking stone/pizza stone in oven to preheat. Alternately, line two baking sheet pans with parchment paper.
Taste za’atar. If there is a lot of small in the mixture, use the least amount of za’atar and olive oil called for. If minimal salt, use the full amount called for. In a small bowl, mix together the za’atar and olive oil.
Turn out risen dough onto a clean surface and divide into 6 equal pieces. Use your hands to shape into circles approximately 6 1/2 inches in diameter. If using a pizza stone, place dough rounds onto parchment paper to easily transfer to oven when ready. If using parchment lined baking sheet pans, place 3 dough rounds on each pan, slightly spaced out.
Divide za’atar and olive oil mixture evenly among the 6 circles of dough. Spread out evenly, leaving about 1 inch border around the edge. Pat mixture firmly down onto dough. Loosely cover with wax paper and let rest 10 minutes.
Uncover and bake for 12-15 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden on that 1 inch border around the edge.
Cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 6 small flatbreads
Whole Wheat Version
-Replace bread flour with 540 g. (4 3/4 cup) whole wheat flour. If milling at home, use a hard wheat.
-Follow instructions above.
-Can shape into long ovals instead of circles if desired.