I've shared how much more likely I am to eat breakfast when it's a meze style – I just love being able to sample from a spread of olives, cheese, fresh vegetables, bread. Pita is nice, but when I have a little extra time, I make up a batch of manakish zaatar to eat over a few days. Topped with a fragrant, zingy blend of spices, these Lebanese flatbreads make lovely snacks and appetizers, too.
In Lebanon, manakish (also known as manakeesh and manaqish; singular manousheh) are frequently eaten for breakfast and may be topped with herbs, cheese, or meat. I especially like the versions with zataar, a balanced mix of herbs and spices like thyme, oregano, lemony sumac, and toasted sesame seeds. Blended with olive oil, zaatar makes an excellent topping for bread.
In a pinch, you could use store-bought pita bread to make this, but it's really worth the effort to make your own dough. I love the touch of olive oil in it, and kneading the soft dough is a therapeutic experience in itself. Baked briefly in the oven, the manakish turn chewy and crispy. They may be served warm (my favorite) or cooled and are especially delicious alongside creamy labneh cheese, salty olives, and a few fresh bites of cucumber.
1 cup lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 (1/4-ounce package) active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
1/4 cup ground sumac
3 tablespoons dried thyme
3 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
*Can substitute 3/4 cup pre-made zaatar blend for the sumac, thyme, oregano, and sesame seeds.
Combine the water, sugar, and yeast, and let it stand for about 10 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and work it in with your fingers. Make a well in the center, add the yeast and water mixture, and stir to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Form it into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and leave the dough to rise in a warm, draught-free place for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a baking stone or baking sheet in the oven as it heats.
Knead the dough briefly and divide it into 8 balls. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and let stand for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the zaatar topping ingredients in a small bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, flatten each ball of dough and roll it into a circle 1/8-inch thick and about 7-8 inches in diameter.
Press each circlele with your fingertips to make little indentations for the topping to rest in. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of zaatar topping over each round, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.
Bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Depending on the size of your oven and baking stone or baking sheet(s), you may need to do several batches.
Serve warm right away or else cool on racks.
(Images: Emily Ho)