It was 1980, and I remember visiting my Grandma Molly Sutton in her two-family home on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Gathering all of her strenth, she proceeded to pull out a familiar piece of pita bread (or Syrian bread as we call it), and slice it legnthwise into two large rounds.
She then carefully mixed some olive oil into the home-made zaatar, spooned the mixture onto the pita circles, and slid the two rounds into her toaster oven.
This was a typical mid-day meal of hers.
She began to tell me how, as a 15 year old girl, she arrived in this country with her older sister Selma on a freighter vessel from Syria.
They did not have much food , but the one thing that they were able to find, was the comforting “Zet ou Zaatar” sold in the Arab quarters on the lower East Side. The zaatar spice was dark in color, so passer- bys who could not comprehend this middle eastern spice, called it “dirty bread”. Nevertheless, it brought them back to memories of home.
Now, 30 years later, memories of my grandmother toasting her zet ou zaatar come to mind as I attempt to gather ingredients for my own whole wheat version of zaatar bread this Shavuot, 2010.
Even if you are lucky enough to live near a middle Eastern supermarket and can buy this delicacy
any weekday morning, there is nothing like the taste or aroma of your own home baked bread .
Perfect with a slice of cheese and tomato, or dipped into greek yogurt or lebne.
Recipe adapted from HERE.
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups whole wheat wheat flour
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add honey and stir until dissolved. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until water is frothy.
Combine white flour, wheat flour, and salt in large bowl.
Make a small depression in the middle of flour and pour yeast water in depression.
Slowly add warm yeast water, and stir with wooden spoon or rubber spatula until dough becomes elastic.
Place dough on floured surface and knead for 10-15 minutes. When the dough is no longer sticky and is smooth and elastic, it has been successfully kneaded.
Coat large bowl with vegetable oil and place dough in bowl. Turn dough upside down so all of the dough is coated with oil. Allow to sit, covered, in a warm place for about 3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Once doubled, roll out in a rope, and pinch off 10-12 small pieces. Place balls on floured surface. Let sit covered for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 deg F. and make sure rack is at the very bottom of oven. Be sure to preheat your baking sheet also.
Roll out each ball of dough with a rolling pin into circles. Each should be about 5-6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick.
Lightly brush the rounds with some olive oil and sorinkle generously with the zaatar spice.
Bake each circle for 4 minutes until the bread puffs up. Turn over and bake for 2 minutes.
Remove each pita with a spatula from the baking sheet and add additional pitas for baking.
Take spatula and gently push down puff. Immediately place in storage bags.
Storing Pita Bread:
Pita bread can be stored for up to a week in a pantry or bread box, and up to a month in the freezer. Be sure to use freezer bags when storing in the freezer.
Pita bread dough can also be refrigerated for up to one week in the refrigerator.
Buy Kosher Zaatar Here:
Or You Can Make it from scratch:
Two Zaatar spice mix recipes to choose from:
Combine salt,thyme , marjoram, oregano leaves, sumac and sesame seeds in a medium mixing bowl. Sumac is a dark red berry that grows on bushes throughout the Middle East and some parts of Italy. Sumac is sold ground or in dried seed form and can be found at most Middle Eastern markets, or can be ordered from an online specialty company. Store in a dry container until use.
When ready to serve, add the olive oil to the mixture to form a paste. This paste is the zaatar mixture.
- 1/4 cup sumac
- 2 tablespoons thyme
- 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons marjoram
- 2 tablespoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 3 parts toasted sesame seeds
- - some recipes call for one part toasted sesame seeds. -it really depends on your tastebuds!
- 2 parts dried thyme
- 2 part dried marjoram
- 2 part oregano
- 1/2 – 1 part powdered sumac salt, optional
- coarse salt to taste
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