Ma’aneesh or One Way to Get My Za’atar Fix


Oh my. I love za’atar. You know that, right? And I love baking bread, but I don’t get to do that often enough. My fault, totally. I love flour and sugar and yeast. And I almost forgot the butter. But I think what I really love is the smell. There is nothing like the aroma of fresh bread baking. Think about it. It is one of those smells that says, “I know you want me. So come and get me.” Well, at least that’s what I hear.

My Grandma Fanny always said she’d prefer bread over a piece of cake. Now, I can’t say I would go that far, but I do love bread. Except for rye. I don’t like caraway, no, no no! I think I never really knew what bread was until I started baking it myself. Growing up in Kankakee we really never had real bread. I mean we had Wonder and we had Pepperidge Farm and we had toast. As I got older the Jewel came to town and we had French bread. And every now and then when my parents drove to Chicago I remember them coming home with brown bags of Kaiser rolls and bagels. I loved the Kaiser rolls.

But it wasn’t until my step aunt made real bread with me that I would have ever thought to try yeast. I mean when someone said yeast, I thought infection, not bread. But well, that’s the other kind. Since then, there was no turning back. I love yeast and baking bread. It makes me feel content. And I never found it hard to work with. It just takes a little planning and a little time. Really, shouldn’t we all relax a bit and bake some bread?

In Israel they must have had a bakery on every corner. I loved the smell of the flour, the yeast and the heat that flowed through the doorways. It was a most welcoming smell. It was like our homes should smell. They baked delectable pastries and hearty breads. Gorgeous challahs and babkas.  The Arab bakeries also baked incredible pitas and bageles and these za’atar breads. Not to mention kadaifs and baklavas. This is where I became hooked on ma’aneesh. You must make them. And if you don’t have za’atar, just make your own. I admit to smuggling some home and now I have a source here, too!

At the Middle Eastern grocery I discovered on Parker Road, they sell these round za’atar breads. They are the size of pitas but with no pocket, fluffier and covered with olive oil and za’atar. They sell 5 of them for $5.99. That’s no deal to me. But I must admit they are good. But mine are better. Really. They satisfy my craving. I love to eat them plain or drizzled with more olive oil. But I also buy labneh (which I should also make myself) and eat that on the side.

These keep for awhile as long as they are wrapped tightly. I rewarm them by wrapping them in foil and heating them at 350 for about 3 minutes. Then when I unwrap them it is like they are fresh from the oven. Steamy and soft and savory. I like that savory part. They are also called Lebanese pizza. You can find them with cheese or lamb. They all look good, but I love the za’atar. I’m a simple soul, I think.

Now if someone could come over and take away my fear of candy thermometers, that would be appreciated. I also am a bit fearful of canning and don’t even mention a pressure cooker to me. Or boiling jars. But yeast? We are old pals!

Here are some links if you want to know more:
Ma’aneesh from Fine Cooking 
Za’atar Farm in Lebanon
Za’atar Recipe

Za’atar Ma’aneesh (Chef Mireille’s Global Creations)
Makes 8

1 c warm water
1/2 t sugar
2 1/4 t active dry yeast (Don’t forget to check your dates)

3 c flour (I used all purpose, unbleached)
1 t salt
3 T olive oil

3/4 c olive oil
3/4 c za’atar

Combine water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside to let proof for about 10 minutes until foamy.

Combine flour, salt and olive oil. Stir well. Make a well and add yeast mixture. Knead 5 minutes. It may seem dry but it will come together. Dough should spring back when pressed with the tip of your index finger. Put in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Make za’atar topping by combining the two ingredients.

When risen, punch down dough and knead a minute or so. Divide into eight balls. Place on parchment covered sheet to rest for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 with oven rack in center of oven. Use a baking tile if you have one. I just used a  turned over black cookie sheet that I preheated in the oven and then placed three rounds of dough on to bake at a time. Roll dough into 7″ rounds and spoon a tablespoon on of za’atar topping. Spread to edges.

Bake at 400 for about 9 minutes. You don’t want to over bake them as they will become too crispy. You want them with slightly browned bottoms. Serve with feta or labneh or olives or everything. I love this bread with soup!

More to Try:
Cranberry Chipotle Wonton Cups
Roasted Za’atar Chickpeas
Two Latkes
Spinach Salad with Za’atar, Dates and Almonds
Chocolate Krantz Cake or Babka
Kadaif or Middle Eastern Cheesecake

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  • Biz
    November 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Abbe, I about spit my coffee out when you thought infection with the word yeast – hahahah!!

    This weekend? I am going to attempt a sourdough starter. I've tried it a few times, to no avail…

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm

      What can i say, Biz? I've always wanted to do sourdough. I'm going to check this out. Thanks!

  • Guru Uru
    November 8, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Fresh and delicious bread, lovely job 😀

    Choc Chip Uru

  • Laura Dembowski
    November 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    There are few things better than homemade bread. I mean I'll always pick dessert over bread, but there's something about homemade bread that is awesome. This is unlike any bread I've made and looks delicious. Oh, and I swear, I have more trouble with yeast than I've ever had with my candy thermometer. I LOVE making candy. If you take your time, watch is carefully, and follow the recipe exactly, you won't have any issues! Promise!

  • kumars kitchen
    November 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    wow,can feel the magical aroma of spicy yeasty bread being baked…can never have enough of these delicious baked treats,thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks Kumars. I can't get enough!

  • Tricia Buice
    November 8, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I'm with you Abbe – sometimes there's nothing better than the smell of baking bread. This is a beautiful recipe!

  • Liz Berg
    November 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    You grew up in Kankakee???? Two of my college friends (circa early 80's) were from Kankakee, too. I had Za'atar on my Penzey's shopping list, but by the time I got there, the recipe was long gone, so I didn't make the purchase. I better put it back on!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      OK Liz. I graduated in 79 so you are a bit younger than me. But where did you go to school and what were there names? Kankakee is not that big! You best put za'atar back on. It is great mixed into dips and rubbed on chicken and stirred into rice. You can do a lot with it. Penzey's is pretty good. Some spice shops want to add cumin and that isn't the traditional way. Penzey's doesn't have it. Just smell it though. Sometimes the sesame seeds in it can go rancid if kept to long.

  • Nazneen Hamilton
    November 8, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Love zaatar on bread, on olive oil on hummus……
    Do you go to Arash on Parker?
    I love baking bread and I think I prefer bread to cake too! It's the European in me, we British love our toast, but we like our cake too though….

    Did you ever go to Phoenicia in Houston? You'd have loved that place, they had bread on rollers coming off the oven. SO good.


    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      Nazneen, see above about Arash. I like that store a lot! Call me when you come this way and we can have a field trip. You probably know more than me about some ingredients. Never really have spent much time in Houston even though my in laws live there. I'm now out of za'atar!

  • Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch)
    November 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I don't like caraway either! Where is Kankakee? And where is that bakery on Parker Road? Is it by the Har-mart?

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Kankakee is 60 miles South of Chicago off of I 57 on the way to Champaign! Mainly farming and factories-at least when I was growing up. There are several good Middle Eastern markets off of Parker. One is Arash which is a great little grocery store off of Parker, not far from HMart. The other is a bit further North where they bake their own lavosh and a baguette type thing. It is fun to watch them bake! That one is Diyar which is at Parker and Emporia in a little strip center. Great fresh bread. The ma'aneesh I buy in a package at Arash. It isn't made here but it really tastes just like the one I make. There are lots of great groceries tucked in but those two are my faves. It is a really fun field trip!

  • Shelley @ Two Healthy Kitchens
    November 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Mmmmm … this sounds so good! I love baking bread, too, and just like you I absolutely don't slow down and make the time to do it nearly as often as I should. Thanks for the inspiration! 😀

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Plan a day and do it Shelly. Just takes a bit of timing!

  • dentistvschef
    November 8, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Love zatar bread, especially with the fragrance canola oil that swirled right after the bread out of the oven….
    the glorious herbs of za'atar topping made it even better!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Totally agree! Very poetic you are, dentist chef!

  • Denise [email protected] Brazil To You
    November 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I love zatar…It is so full of flavor and addictive!!!!

  • Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl
    November 7, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Boiling jars used to frighten me, especially canning with a pressure cooker, but one day me and my husband did it together and even though I crouched on the floor in fear, it worked out!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Well, Pamela! Sounds like you found a great husband!

  • Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes
    November 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I used to have some fear of boiling jars too. It all changed after I did it for the first time. I completely agree about the smell of baked yeast things, it's the best! I love these little flatbreads, especially since I use my za'atar so randomly. Must make them soon Abbe!

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      Thanks, Paula! Just the thought of boiling jars sounds like so much trouble. I have heard you can run them through the dishwasher cycle.

  • Angie Schneider
    November 7, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Me too, me too. I love the yeast bread..the aroma of a freshly baked bread right out of the oven is unbeatable. Those flatbread look super!

  • Kitchen Riffs
    November 7, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Is it the candy thermometer you're afraid of of the hot stuff it's measuring? 😉 You can burn yourself real easily, as it sounds like you know! Terrific looking bread – we should make this. Mrs K R has been baking tons of beer bread lately (another loaf today) so we haven't done much with yeast in the last month or two. But we need to. Fun stuff – thanks.

    • Abbe Odenwalder
      November 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Actually, I'm not really afraid of burning myself. In colorado you have to check the boiling point on the thermometer and then figure out all the new temps. I'm really bad at math! But I have made great fudge and caramels with a candy thermometer. They just don't come out right all the time. THAT drives me crazy! That beer bread sounds great!