Middle East Manakeesh (Spice Tart) with Za'Tar





Spice Tart

1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup warm water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. za'tar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Za'tar Sumac and Thyme Seasoning

1 cup dried thyme, pulverized
1 cup sumac
1/4 cup cooked, roasted unsalted chickpeas (qadaama), finely pulverized
3 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp. marjoram
2 tbsp. salt


FOR THE SPICE TART: In a small bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until it dissolves. Let the yeast mixture stand for 5 minutes, until a layer of foam forms on the surface.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour the olive oil and the yeast mixture. Stir the flour into the wet ingredients, until all the flour is incorporated. If its too dry, add more water. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 15 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball and put in in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with a moist towel and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).

ONE HOUR before baking the pizzas, start preheating the oven with pizza stones inside at 500 degrees F.

Roll out 6 equal circles of dough.

FOR THE ZA'TAR: Combine all ingredients together and store in a jar to use as needed. Makes about 2 2/3 cups.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, mix za'tar mix with the olive oil and lemon juice. Pour the za'tar mixture equally on the dough circles and smooth it over the dough surface. Place on pizza stones and bake until dough is done (8-10 minutes). Eat warm.

Author's Comments

Manakeesh are a "spice tart" that many bakeries in the Middle East start cranking out early in the morning, just in time for breakfast. Za'tar is an herb mixture composed of savory, thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. A prepared mixture of this herb mixture can be found at most Middle Eastern groceries. However, be aware that the quality of za'tar can differ greatly. Considering that the dough is only topped with za'tar, you want to make sure you buy a quality product. One final note, in different parts of the Middle East, the thickness of the dough varies greatly. Feel free to adjust it to personal preference.

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