Middle Eastern Za’atar(ish) Bread

One night a few weeks ago, I had planned to make some soup for dinner.

You know what goes well with soup?

Bread. (Duh.)

I was looking for a bread with a bit of substance – like the red pepper coques I made a little while ago – and settled on the recipe for Middle Eastern za’atar bread. I’d never heard of it before, but the write up in the Bread Illustrated cookbook tells me it’s a popular Arabic flatbread and assured me that “you can find za’atar in the international foods section of your supermarket or at Middle Eastern markets.”

Za’atar is a blend a thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds – and it is not easy to find in the international foods section of my local supermarkets. No problem, I thought – I’ll just make my own blend. Right – except where does one find sumac in Squamish? Not at Craig’s or Nesters, apparently. I probably should have gone and foraged in the woods. Except, wait – doesn’t sumac have poison ivy-like qualities?

I ended up making a blend of sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, and salt – so definitely NOT real za’atar. At this point, I have to wonder – am I even reviewing the real recipe? It reminds me of those recipes I see online – something like “Orange Poppy Seed Loaf”, and some brilliant commenter will write, “I’m allergic to citrus and we didn’t have any poppy seed, so I replaced it with banana and walnuts. I’m also gluten free so I omitted the flour. The recipe was way too gooey and I didn’t even get the taste of orange! One star.”

Back to the flatbread.


Pre-bake. In my Googling research, it appears that real za’atar bread has a thicker layer of topping. And, you know, actual za’atar.

The dough is pretty straightforward and the best part about it is this line: “Refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days”. Three cheers for some flexibility with a bread recipe – I often find myself calculating backwards to try to time my bread just so (see: Auvergne crown). I was able to make this recipe two days in advance – woohoo!

Although it is made with bread flour, I found that the bread had a whole wheat kind of finish to it, including its darker colour throughout. I baked it as instructed and although I can’t tell you what actual za’atar tastes like, this bread still turned out well. It’s definitely a substantial, filling bread – the perfect complement to a light soup.


The book suggests serving it with yogurt – it was tasty both with and without.

Perhaps one day I will locate some za’atar and I can try this recipe anew. Actually, there is a new Middle Eastern restaurant in town that I’ve been meaning to check out – maybe I’ll see if they can spot me some sumac!



6 thoughts on “Middle Eastern Za’atar(ish) Bread

  1. Lesson on sumac: All the berries of the red sumacs are edible. The white ones are poison. Sumac trees grow pretty much every where in North America, so I don’t know why we buy the berry. I buy sumac in very small quantities in a bulk food store, but I really should look into collecting some myself when I’m out for a walk. Find yourself a local forager. I’m sure you will be amazed at what you can get that way.


      • Well, this one was easy. I needed sumac one day and I knew where to get some on trees, so I looked it up. I chickened out though and ended up skipping it, but every time I see a sumac tree, I feel like grabbing some.


  2. The first time I made a recipe with za’atar I also had trouble finding it at the grocery stores. Like you I also tried to make my own and could not find sumac😝. What do you know one day grocery shopping I stumbled upon sumac. Maybe it will pop up for you!


  3. Pingback: Baguettes! Or, Fou du Fafa | Out of Bounds Squamish

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