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Green Zatar Sourdough Bread

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BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Green Zatar Sourdough Bread

I’ve been using recipes in Jim Lahey’s My Bread book and decided to try something new today with two batches of his basic recipe: a new bread altogether called Green Zatar (Zataar or Zatahr) Bread and a sourdough cheddar-basil loaf.  The former was the more interesting to make and my recipe is pretty straight forward:


ingredients:



  • 325 g. bread flour

  • 75 g. green zatar (a middle eastern spice, will discuss later)

  • 2 large tablespoons of sourdough starter (say 1/3 cup) [note: I do not use commercial yeast and opt for sourdough leavening.  Lahey calls for 1/2 tsp of instant active yeast in all of his recipes in the My Bread book.]

  • 1 1/2 sea salt

  • 300 g. water


The Cheese Bread recipe is just like Lahey's basic loaf w/ the exception that I use sourdough starter and add the cheese chunks after the dough has been put on a floured board and dusted, then I add the cheese:


ingredients:


400 g. bread flour
300 g. water
1 1/2 sea salt
2 large tsp of sourdough starter
4 oz. firm to semi-firm cheese cut into cubes about 1/2 to 3/4″ square


[If you are familiar with this text, which TFL has links to, you will note that Lahey's basic formula is 400 g. bread flour, 300 g. water, 1 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp active yeast. I do not use commercial yeast in my bread and opt for the sourdough starter which I made using  Brother Peter's (Rinehart) basic formula with pineapple juice.]


Mix the sourdough starter into 1/2 of the water and mix it up so that it is not sitting in two big lumps, just break it up a bit; then mix the flour, salt, and 1/2 the water into the flour and after mixed well, pour in the sourdough starter mix and continue stirring [note: the Beligian whip or whatever it is called is a really handy tool for this purpose, it beats using a large spoon for ease of use and cleanliness.] Regardless of whether you use commercial yeast or sourdough starter let the dough mix sit on your counter for between 12 and 20 hours [Lahey = 18 hours], but I have used the fermented dough, which will be a tad on the wet side, at both 12 and even 22 hours [e.g. the cheese bread I did today]. Note: I got the best rise by putting it in a warmed oven–about 100 degrees and let it sit until the oven cooled and left the dough to rise in the oven for the remaining time. I keep my home around 67 degrees so it took a little longer to rise and ferment, just be patient if you have a cooler home. Also I know one baker who wraps his fermenting dough in a heating pad turned on low to obtain a warmer temp and then covers the bowl and pad with a towel.



Next,



Put about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of flour on your work area and dust it around because the dough is going to be wet and sticky when scraped from the bowl. Scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Set the bowl and scraper in the sink, you will not use it again. Sprinkle some flour or bran flour over the dough and pull  or shape it into a circle. Pull the dough from the 10 o’clock position and fold it back toward the center of the circle; next do the 1 o’clock position and finally the 12:00 o’clock position; do the same thing on the bottom of the circle nearest to you and then pull the right side out and fold it into the center; next pull the left side out and fold it over the dough flap you just pulled over from the right. Knead down a couple of times and feel if the dough is still wet; I usually just pick up the dough ball and roll it over the flour on the board with my palms and if I feel a lot of wetness, I’ll give a very slight dusting of flour or bran. If you have a grain mill, think about buying a pound or two of toasted wheat bran and running it through the mill–the resultant flour is nutty tasting and delicious and, it’s whole grain, too! The idea on adding the flour is not to put a lot of flour on the dough ball, just enough so that it’s not sticking to you or your work surface.  If you don't know, Lahey's book is about, among other things, the no-knead method of bread making.  This method requires a wet dough so you don't want to use up the hydration properties of the water in the recipe by adding a lot of flour--just enough to make a workable mass with your hands.  That water will help contribute greatly to the "oven spriing" that occurs with the no knead method.


Here is a pix of the Green Zatar dough after fermenting for about 20 hours:


1_BPI_0025.JPG


I then shaped the dough into a ball and put it in a proofing basket in a loosely folded towel dusted w/ a combo of bran flour and corn meal and let the dough sit for a full 2 hours before putting it in to a cast iron dutch oven which had been dusted w/ more corn meal and bran flour.  The dutch oven had been warming at 475 for 30 minutes while the oven was preheating. 


The clay pot, a Le Clouche, had also been warming and would accomodate the pane di fromagio.


A word about the cheese bread.  Lahey suggests adding the cheese in chunks to the flour, salt, yeast and water mix.  I preferred to add it during the slight knead after the dough's first rise.  Simply spread the dough out into a circle after its been dusted to make the dough workable. Then, press the cheese chunks into the dough as many as you can, roll up the dough and shape it into a ball then spread it out again and finish putting the remainder of the cheese into the dough.  I shaped the roll into an oval and put it in a proofing basket dusted with cornmeal and wheat bran flour, covered with a towel and let rise for 2 full hours.


If you decide to make both of these loafs at the same time, as I did, don't expect the Zatar bread to rise either as fast or as much as the cheese bread.  One very obvious reason for this is that 75 g. of flour has been substituted for the Zatar herb mixture; another is that Zatar contains salt (the saltiness here is akin to a saltine cracker or about 1/2 of a salted, soft pretzel) and the salt will impede the growth of the yeast somewhat .  Also, this points up one area that I think I would change in my recipe in the future, I would probably keep the 75 g. of flour and add the 75 g. of Zatar mix to the full complement of flour.  Also, because of the dryness of the Zatar I would add 2 or 3 extra TBS of water to the amount water required in Lahey's recipe (300 g.).


Both doughs cook at 475 for 30 minutes covered and for another 10 to 30 minutes uncovered until the interiour of the loaf registers at least 200 degrees.  Don't be alarmed if it registers as high as 230, it will still be fine.


CAUTION:  Let the bread cool for one full hour for both of these.  The herbed cheese is still runny when brought out of the oven and needs time to set up and the herbs in the cheese ( I used a cheddar/basil cheese) and the herbs in the Zatar bread, need a time to infuse the cooked bread which it will do while cooling.  In fact, the fragrance you smell are these herbs infusing the air and bread with their essential oils as they cool.  So please don't cut the bread till it cools for at least an hour.  You'll be glad you waited.


Here's how I learned of Green Zatar:  I was introduced to Green Zatar by a petroleum engineering student from Saudi Arabia who was spending his senior year in my home in the hope of learning to speak better English, especially as it related to law and business. One morning, he presented me at breakfast  a clear bag of green powdery looking stuff that had sesame seeds and other things which I couldn’t identify and said "...sprinkle this on your English muffin..." explaining that it was an herb mix widely used in the Middle East and besides tastng good had the added attribute of being very good for your health. Of the nearly two hundred Middle Eastern students I met, all confirmed Hussain's statement about being quite good for your health and that it was eaten daily in their part of the world, mainly on Pita bread drizzled with olive oil or dressed with cheese, onion, tomato and olive oil and then toasted under a broiler for 3 minutes--this is the traditional way to eat Green Zatar. The green is made up of wild thyme, hyssop and other herbs. Get the best green zatar you can buy in a middle eastern market or on-line if you decide to make the Green Zatar Bread.  It definitely has a salty flavor and the mix of flavors is really quite good, especially if you like stronger flours, such as rye. The dough looks like fermenting buckwheat due to its color and has a most definite green gray cast. As cooked, it had a very chewy, moist crumb with a sourdough finish which I think totally compliments the taste of the Zatar. If you are in doubt about this bread, you can preview it by obtaining a small 4 oz. pkg and toasting an English muffin and sprinkling about a 1 1/2 tsp of zatar over the buttered or olive oil muffin.  This evening after the raves I received,  I bought  2--one pound bags of it to keep my neighbors and I happy in the months to come. If you have friends from the Middle East or an exchange student, I guarantee this bread will put smiles on their face. Enjoy. Happy Flour trails. Bernie Piel


1_BPI_0063.jpgBPI_0074.JPGBPI_0073.JPGBPI_0069.jpg


 

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I found a really good reference in Wikipedia about zaatar. I was confused as to what it was but now I understand it can be very different depending on the region it was obtained from! So what herbs are in the Green Zaatar you used?  About what volume is 75 g of zaatar?It is must be very light and your bread looks pretty green so I'm assuming,volume-wise- it may be a cup (8 fluid ounce) or so.Would that be about right?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Za%27atar


Thank you!

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

You are absolutely right that the ingredients vary from country to country and region to region.  The Zatar I have is the Diana brand which is imported and packed for John's Import Foods, Inc. in Chicago.  The package has no statement whatsoever as to contents and was given to me by my Saudi student who lived in my home for his last year at the University of Tulsa and who was an excellent cook.  When he was cooking, I shared meals with anywhere from 5 to as many as 30 fellow students and friends in the traditional style of sitting on the floor or outside--this was a mean task since at 65, I'm not as limber as these young men in their late teens or early 20's.  But, I'm sad to say we never translated the English names of spices into their Arabic names.  The bulk spices he bought I could pretty much discern from their smell or taste, but mixed spices alluded me, as is the case w/ the Green Zatar.  I know from what little research I did before posting, Green Zatar, also spelled Zaatar, and Zahaatar and probably other derivations, contains at a minimum wild thyme, hyssop, sumac and salt--most lilkely a sea salt. 


Volumetrically, I would say 75g. is very close to 3/4 cup.  I will try to post some photos I just took of what 75 g. looks like in a one cup measure. I also took photos of the raw mix to show you the consistency of the Zatar that I used.  Also, I should stress that Hussain told me there were other zatars, but it was the green one, that was eaten daily for flavor and medicinal purposes.


Clazar, I should tell you, I just toasted a 1/2 inch slice of this bread and sprayed it with olive oil and the results are fantastic.  This bread truly comes alive with olive oil which is how it is consumed in the Middle East.  I think the addition of a smear of goat cheese, especially goat cheese brie would make this bread heavenly.


You may view the photos of quantity and ingredients at: 


[img]


http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=57223&id=1172499599&saved#!/album.php?aid=57223&id=1172499599


[/img]


Finally, one thing Mini Oven mentioned when I asked her to  review my first posting was that one can always taste the bread dough if you think it may be too salty, or whatever.  Don't know why, but in my wildest dreams I never thought of tasting unbaked bread dough, but its a great idea.  Because this mix has a lot of salinity, I would wait adding any salt and taste it after the zatar has been mixed in.  Then, add whatever other salt you feel should be put in above that contained in your zatar mix.  The mix I used has a lot of salt, but it must have been "washed" in because there are no salt crystals that I can see.  If you decide to make this bread, please let me know how you liked it and whatever changes you made.  Happy flour trails. 


Bernie Piel


 


 

eviltigerlily's picture
eviltigerlily

Zaatar is also brilliant on top of pitas and bagels. I baked some pitas with it and some olive oil today (if Passover break is when I have time for baking, then that is when I will bake). I've never tried adding it to the dough before. Interesting.

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Yes, you're correct, the traditional way is with pita and olive oil.  This recipe tastes just like the flavors obtained when using it with pita.  Can you tell me the source of your zatar and the general ingredients?  My package does not list any of the ingredients although I can see flax seed, sesame seed, taste strongly of thyme, and that's about it.  Thanks for your input.


Bernie Piel

eviltigerlily's picture
eviltigerlily

I know sesame seeds are in there and sumac is traditional, but deciphering the precice nature of the hreb used as the base is harder. The different herbs used are related so there are similarities of flavor. I live in the Middle East and baked goods with zaatar are obviusly common. the flavor is always recognizable. I don't know if that is because the same basic herb is used in the mix here, or because different herbs produce similar flavors when mixed in with the other ingridients.


I think it's the Origanum syriacumthat (ezov) that gives it the distinctive taste, because the flavor is very similar to that of the finished mix (I've tried it, the thing grows wild here). I could, of course, be wrong.


What we need is a comparative study of zaatar mixes around the world (or possibly not, I have now put Way to much thought into this).

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

I bought some more of the mix, but from a supplier in San Francisco since I could not get John's Import Foods to respond to my inquiry.  So it will be interesting to see what this batch tastes like.  It's great that you have access to the "real stuff" living where you do.  Have you, too, heard or know of the alleged "health benefits" from eating zatar?  Is it also true that many women mix their own zatar recipes and keep them very much like a trade secret, sharing them with no one? 


I am not familiar with the herb Origanum syriacumthat (ezov).  Indeed, in my first post on this subject I mentioned that the Saudi young man who gave me my packet of zatar, Hussain, he and I had difficulty naming the many herbs I have in my home.  He would bring home sacks of different herbs every time he returned to Saudi Arabia.  Needless to say, he left them with me and I have a twenty year supply of some herbs which I can't identify.  However, I can associate the smell with certain foods he made, like lamb or chicken--same with the color.  I'm intriqued enough that I will try to do some research on the Origanum  (wondering if this is our Oregano?).  Thank you for taking the time to add your knowledge to this, I much appreciated it.  Bernie Piel

eviltigerlily's picture
eviltigerlily

The Origanum syriacum is of the same genus as Oregano (O. vulgare). It doesn't appear to have an English name, only the Latin. Ezov is what it's called in Hebrew. I remember the plant from a field trip. There is a sort of national park where plants mentioned in the bible are grown (some still grow all over, but some have become more rare since biblical times). They showed us how they used to mix spices from some of the herbs.


Zaatar is avaliable comercially, but I'm sure there are people who mix their own.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

http://www.ellenskitchen.com/recipebox/arabic/spicemix.html


She has collected recipes for different herb/spice blends from different countries and she does have a green zaatar recipe.


I think I will put this bread (or a variation) on my list for next weekend.There is a spice store and a persian grocery store in town I will have to look at for the zaatar.


You use so little sourdough starter in your recipe! Do you use a firm or liquid starter? Mine is a thick pancake batter consistency-prob 100-125%. I don't use precision when refreshing it.


The bread sounds like it would be very aromatic. Looking at the ingredients and long fermentation, I take it that this loaf is dense,chewy and a little sour?

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Clazar,


While making more of Lahey's basic bread dough, I measured my "two tablespoon fulls" and found it is equivalent to 1/3 cup; also, my sourdough starter is quite thick, but foamy and sticky.  When I refresh, I stay pretty much to a 2 : 1, flour to water ratio.  However, I am not precise and if I use a cup of flour, I'll estimate 1/2 cup of water and then stir everything together.  Works for me.


The bread is quite aromatic, much more than I realized it would be.  Well, to be quite honest, I didn't know what I was in for when I decided to make this bread.  But, I for one love it.  Also, I had a chance to read the link on Wikipedia that you provided earlier, and I thank you for it.  It was most iluminating, especially the almost ancient lineage of this product.  I think the next time I'm in NY to visit my children, I'll try to find an excellent source for this wonderful mix.  I was intriqued, as well, to the remarks the Wiki site made about the medicinal nature of this mix of herbs.


I'm anxious to see the link from ellenskitchen.com and see how she makes her zatar bread.  Also, the Wiki site had a one line reference to a bread being made in Yemen, I believe, where the herb was incorporated into the bread dough.  I like this bread very much and, as I thought about it this morning, I was thinking that this could replace my concept that the fine, chewy Jewish light Rye w/ Carraway seeds was the best all around bread for a home baker.  So, I'm anxious for you to try baking some next week and let me know your verdict.


Bernie Piel

KathyHo's picture
KathyHo

My zaatar that I bought from a Lebanese pita baker is brownish.


Mix zaatar an olive oil (1 tablespoon of each), spread on pita and grill on barbeque for a few mins until bubbly.


Fantastic.


 


(also good on chicken)

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Kathy,


There are many kinds of zatar according to my friends from the Middle East and the traditional way to eat it is on pita bread.  I think the coloration is due to the type of herbs that are in your zatar mix.  Earlier in this thread there is a link to a wikipedia article on Zatar or Zataar or Zaatar, (all correct).  It's an ancient herb and herb mix.  Fascinating. 


Bernie Piel

rolls's picture
rolls

hi this is a regular staple in our homes. also zataar manooche  (pizzas) are an amazing breakfast. zatar also nice mixed with some sumac. you can try it like a focaccia jus mix wiv  bit of salt, sumac and olive oil. yum and don't forget to dimple ur dough.

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Hi Rolls,


Thank you for this posting.  This morning I tried a 1/2"+  slice of my Green Zatar Bread and sprayed it with olive oil then spread a good bit of goat cheeze and topped with fresh chopped chive from the garden.  I put it on my oven stone which had been set for 350.  I took it out after about 3 or 4 minutes, the goat cheese was hot and soft and the fragrance of the chives was wonderful with the fragrance of the toast bread.  I could see starting each morning with this wonderful and health breakfast and just vary the contents, maybe tomorrow some sundried tomatoes! 


When you add sumac, about how much do you add?  For example, if I had 1/2 cup of zaatar, how much sumac would you add to it?  Also, don't some of the commercial zaatar mixes have sumac already in them?  I have been using the Diana brand of Green Zatar.  The package doesn't list the ingredients so I don't know whether sumac is included.  It is so tasty and removes my craving for something sweet in the morning which is great for me because I'm a borderline diabetic, so the least amount of sucrose or sugar, the better for me.


Again, thank you for your posting, I'm going to try the zataar manooche on my regular pizza dough mix.


Bernie Piel


 

Jessica Weissman's picture
Jessica Weissman

As others have said, there are various types of za'atar.  The one I like best contains hyssop instead of thyme.  After making Maggie Glezer's Za'atar pita with great results, I've tried adding za'atar to various plain sourdoughs.  The flavor doesn't seem to be as strong when the stuff is mixed in rather than added as a topping.


But maybe the key is no-knead method.  I'll try and report back.

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Hi Jessica,


I used 325 g. of KA's bread flour and 75 g. of Green Zatar.  Because there are so many different kinds of Zatar, I don't know that there will be consistent results.  I'm only familiar with the Green Zatar that was given to me by my Saudi student, Hussain.  I understand that are brown, red, and green zatars and that it is very difficult to find the same tasting zatar even in villages because it is sometimes blended in age old traditional recipes that are not freely shared.  The method of using the zatar may be shared but not the ingredients of the mix.  To complicate things even further, I understand there is a separate zatar herb, maybe even several types of herbs that are called zatar.


 


The bread I made tasted exactly like the mix.  It was interesting to me how the aroma and taste was so infused throughout the loaf.  Actually, I even thought next time to cut back on the amount of zatar because it seemed stronger when cooked in the bread.  The texture of the bread is like a heavy, whole grain rye bread.  Makes great toast or foccacia when toasted on a hot oven stone and sprayed with olive oil before putting it on the stone and lathered w/ some goat cheese and chives or basil or sundried tomatoes or regular tomatoes makes this a great little treat.  As you can tell, I love this bread.   Hope you try to add it to the flour and get some great results.  I've even had people here suggest taking some loaves to the Farmer's Mkt on Saturday and test market it.  An interesting idea, but I'm not sure where or how I'd find the time to do that as well as my lawyering, baking, gardening and acting.  I've got my hands full.


 


Bernie

rolls's picture
rolls

hi will try to get back to you on exact measurements for sumac as i've never actually measured, jus someting we grew up on, and its more 'by eye'. will let you know. we also have cheese manooche, mainly halloomi, tho you can mix it up. also, half cheese/half zaatar manooche which is delicious. also, if you end up making the zaatar manooche, try it as a wrap with a filling of labneh, capsicum, tomatoes, olives, fresh mint, onions if you like it. its delicious, healthy and filling.

BerniePiel's picture
BerniePiel

Thank you, Rolls,


The zaatar manooche sounds excellent.  I ordered more Zatar from a group in CA, I'll let you know how it compares to the one I was given and packaged in Chicago and imported.  I'm anxious to try your sandwich. 


Bernie