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:
- 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:
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.
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:
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