Oh, how I love bread.  I wish I could say that it was a casual thing – just a fling and it doesn’t really mean anything.  But, no.  My love of bread is a deep, abiding, spiritual thing.  No passing fancy, here.

Which is why I respect a good loaf, roll, or flatbread.  Why I hold in high esteem anyone who can take water, flour and yeast and turn it into something both beautiful to behold and satisfying to chew.  And, why I can’t just foist making bread off onto some machine that will take up valuable counter space and deprive me of actually getting my hands in and feeling the bread develop.

Because, there really is something to the art of kneading bread and feeling it go from being shaggy and sticky to something smooth and elastic.  Then, watching the yeasts in action as the bread goes through its first rise – it’s magical stuff even if you know the science behind every step of the process.

This recipe comes from Paul Hollywood’s cookbook, How to Bake, and is an absolute doddle to make.  Maneesh is somewhere in the hinterland between a flatbread and focaccia and is topped with one of my favorite middle-eastern spice/herb mixtures, za’atar.  Now, if you can’t find za’atar at your local grocery, you can easily order it online or simply make it yourself.  Whatever you choose, make sure you order or make plenty, because this recipe will require about 6-7 tablespoons of it.

As always, because this is a bread recipe, the measurements are in weight not volume – if you haven’t bought yourself a digital scale, this one is very similar to mine and does an excellent job.

Maneesh

  • 500 g bread flour
  • 10 g salt
  • 10 g instant yeast
  • 25 g sugar
  • 320 ml warm water (about 1 1/3 cup water)
  • 6-7 Tbsp za’atar
  • olive oil

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, salt, yeast and sugar before slowly adding the warm water.  When the dough comes together (it should feel slightly tacky, but not sticky), remove it from the bowl and prepare to knead.  On a clean counter, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and use your hands to smooth on the counter.  Tip the bread onto the oiled counter and knead for 10 minutes by using the heel of one hand to stretch the bread while using the fingers of your other hand to hold the bread steady.  Gently roll the bread back and repeat, occasionally turning the bread by 90 degrees.  You’ll feel the dough slowly get smoother and more springy.  When you’ve hit the 10-minute mark, test the bread by poking it gently and seeing if the dimple springs back – if it does, you’re ready to let the bread rest and rise.  Lightly oil a bowl and turn the dough in the oil to make sure it’s coated on all sides, then cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let it sit for about an hour, or until doubled in size.  In a small bowl, mix the za’atar with just enough olive oil to form a nice paste and let sit while the bread does its thing.

Preheat the oven to 425F and prepare two baking pans by lining with parchment

Once the dough is done rising, tip it out on a clean (not oiled) counter then do something completely insane – knock out as much air as possible by kneading for 2-3 minutes.  When you’re done, divide the bread into 4 and either form into a round (which I never do) or just flatten it into whatever shape it happens to form (my usual MO).  Divide the za’atar paste among the 4 loaves and use the back of a spoon to spread evenly, slightly pressing into the dough.

Maneesh - uncooked

Let the dough sit for about 20-25 minutes then bake for 12-13 minutes.  Let cool about 10 minutes or so before serving with hummus, baba ganouj, barbecue or even a nice tagine … totally yum!!

Maneesh - cooked

 

 

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