Za’atar spice is one of the most aromatic and versatile spices of the Middle East. It has become very mainstream in the United States and a variety of blends can be found in Middle Eastern stores and even traditional grocery stores these days. The variety of the blend can be vastly different depending on the region it is packaged. It is generally a combination of wild thyme (hyssop – that grows throughout the Middle East), oregano and/or marjoram as well as sumac, salt and toasted sesame seeds. While you can certainly make your own za’atar blend it often won’t taste like the mixtures you’ll find in the Middle East. Za’atar is actually a wild herb in the thyme family and is much harder to find in the states to get that authentic flavor you know and love.
How to enjoy
Za’atar is bursting with flavor – bright, lemony, herby and salty, it really can stand on it’s own as the only spice you need when seasoning. The most common way to enjoy is traditional Man’oushe– a Lebanese pizza/flatbread that is made with homemade dough and topped with an oil and za’atar blend. It’s the pizza of the Middle East! Adding za’atar to a fresh tomato and cucumber salad or topped on labneh is another easy way to enjoy.
Za’atar blended with oil can also be a wonderful marinade for chicken or even beef. I’d add some toum and additional salt and sumac as well to get optimal flavor. Adding sumac will give you a more lemony flavor and can absolutely be subbed for lemon in dishes.
It’s not uncommon to take some fresh pita bread, slather it with za’atar and olive oil and bake until crisp. A quick and easy way to enjoy that za’atar flavor and use these delicious baked treats to dip in labneh or snack on. I first had za’atar crackers from my friend Lulu – she makes these perfectly round, incredibly flavorful za’atar crackers that I just can’t get enough of. I know making crackers sounds like a daunting task but it’s actually easier and faster than traditional dough. No yeast, no rise time – just mix, roll and bake!
Besides your za’atar mixture, some oil and a quick dough recipe will get your these delicious crackers to snack on anytime of day.
Za’atar spice blend – I recommend purchasing a blend over trying to make your own – the flavor is going to be more authentic. You can always add additional toasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt to punch up the flavor a bit to your liking. Here are a few options you can purchase online: Z&Z Za’atar Ziyad Za’atar NyShuk Za’atar
Oil – You’ll need to mix your za’atar spice blend with oil to create a paste. You can use any type of oil for this from canola, vegetable to olive oil. The heat will activate the za’atar with the oil giving it that aromatic flavor.
Flour – All-purpose or a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat flour. Crackers are pretty versatile and not fussy.
With simply a bowl, spoon, rolling pin (or sub in a bottle of wine to roll if you don’t have one) – you have yourself a cracker dough.
Bake and Enjoy
This is such a great project to do with kids, almost like making playdough. You can absolutely sub in other toppings in place of za’atar if you’d like:
Other topping ideas
everything bagel spice
simple flake salt and pepper
Whatever way you decide to enjoy – I think you’ll be on a kick making homemade crackers all the time.
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3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour – or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon of kosher salt*
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 450 degree. Prepare a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper or very lightly brush with olive oil.
In a small bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp prepared dry za’atar and 2 Tbsp olive oil – set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients: flour, sugar, kosher salt and your remaining 2 Tbsp of dry za’atar.
Finally add in your remaining 4 Tbsp of olive oil and water – mix together until a cohesive dough forms.
Dust your work area with flour and divide your dough into 2 equal balls. Set one aside and lightly coat with flour.
Begin rolling the other dough ball into a large rectangle – making sure to keep your rolling pin and the space underneath you floured.
Roll, lift and roll again until you achieve a thin dough (about 1/8″ thick or thinner). If your dough begins to stick or shrink, allow to rest for 5 minutes then repeat. Your dough should be about 14″x16″.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush your dough with the za’atar and oil mixture – be sure to mix before using. Coat until evenly spread.
Next, cut into squares using a pizza cutter or sharp knife – any size you’d like but ensure they are not too small.
Using a thin spatula or bench scraper – lift each cracker onto your prepared lined baking sheet. You don’t have to worry about placing them too close – they will not expand.
Prick each cracker with a fork to prevent puffing.
Bake for 12-15 minutes on the bottom 1/3 rack of your oven. Thinner crackers will bake faster, thicker may need additional time. Remove crackers as they begin to brown.
Make your 2nd half of dough while the first batch bakes.
Allow crackers to cool completely! They will be soft at first and will begin to crisp up as they cool. Store crackers in airtight container for 3-5 days.
sub 2 teaspoons of table salt in place of kosher salt
If using other toppings – brush top of rolled dough with a bit of water and sprinkle toppings on top. You may also add into the dough mixture and replace the za’atar.
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