Manaeesh bi Zaatar is our national breakfast. Suitable for everybody, more specifically for vegans and vegetarians as well as that, it freezes well.
The topping that we call Zaatar is basically a mixture of dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. You can buy it ready prepared from Middle Eastern or Lebanese grocers, it comes usually packaged.
Some cooks use the same bread dough for making the Flat Bread with the various toppings, others prefer the following one where the only difference is the addition of more oil. Both work well.
Makes about 8 medium ones
For the dough:
- 400g /14oz strong white flour, slightly warmed plus a little extra for dusting
- 1tsp salt
- 1 tsp easy blend yeast or its equivalent of fresh or dried yeast
- About 200ml / 7fl oz lukewarm water
- 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil plus a little extra for greasing
You also need baking parchment paper cut to fit the baking sheets.
For the topping
- 4 tbsp Zaatar
- 100ml / 3½ fl oz extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped (optional)
- Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl then mix in the yeast. Add the oil into the water. Make a well in the centre of the bowl and gradually tip in the water-oil mixture. Using your fingertips, combine all the ingredients, depending on the flour, you may need to add some more water, the dough should feel elastic and come away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8-10 minutes. Alternatively, you could do the whole process in an electric mixer using the dough hook, thus reducing the kneading time by half (for about 5 minutes). In the end, the dough should feel spongy and elastic.
- Shape the dough into a ball then transfer to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a polythene bag or cling film, but make sure that they are lightly oiled to prevent the dough from sticking. Leave it in a warm place until it has doubled in size. The rising time usually takes one and a half to two hours.
- Meanwhile, mix the topping ingredients and set aside.
- When the rising time is up, take the dough and put it on a lightly floured surface. Punch it to get rid of the excess air, then knead again for about 3-4 minutes, alternatively, let the mixer do the kneading for 2 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 8-9 equal balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each ball with a lightly dusted rolling pin to 16cm/ 6½ inches circle, 3-4mm / 1/8 inch thick. Alternatively, you can make nicely shaped circles by using large cutters. Place the dough circles on the prepared baking parchment papers, cover and let them rest for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 230ºC / 450ºF, heating up at the same time the baking sheets.
- When the resting time is up and ready to bake, uncover the dough circles and dimple the surface of each one with your fingertips to prevent it from puffing up during baking. Put 1 heaped tbsp of the prepared Zaatar mixture in the middle and spread it all over, leaving about 1cm / ½inch gap around the edges. Slide the dough circles with their baking parchment onto the hot baking sheets, you may need to do them in batches. You have to be quick when you open the oven, as it is very important to maintain the same temperature all the time.
- Bake for 4-8 minutes, the edges should be slightly golden and the top bubbling hot. Transfer to a wire rack and serve while still hot or warm.
Another variation which is vey nice. Omit the onion if using. Finely chop one juicy medium tomato and add it with 2 tsp of tomato puree to the ingredients for the toping, mix thoroughly, if it becomes too thick loosen it with some olive oil. Put one tbsp in the middle of the rolled out dough and spread it all over. Continue as above.