Za’atar Honey Butter Rolls

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There are countless ways I use za’atar while snacking or cooking, and if you love it as much as I do then you would totally understand why I want use it in almost everything including these soft honey bread rolls.

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I’ve baked these bread rolls a couple of times especially at dinner gatherings because not only are they easy to make but also every person who tastes them says that they’re light, fluffy, and airy. I just love a good home made bread recipe that always gives consistent and reliable results. So after mastering the basic recipe I decided to add za’atar in the dough (that always seems to be a great idea to me). The result is incredibly delicious – the combination of the sweet honey and earthy thyme flavor makes it so hard to eat just one roll!

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Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

240ml (1 cup) whole milk, 110°F
21g (2¼ tsp) instant dry yeast
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
85g (¼ cup) honey
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
60g (¼ cup) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
½ teaspoon salt
450g (3½ cups) bread flour
45g (½ cup) za’atar

30g (2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature very soft
15g (1 Tablespoon) honey
Extra za’atar for sprinkling

1. Pour warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar on top of the milk. Give it a light stir with a spoon and allow to sit for 5 minutes. The mixture will be frothy.

2. Turn on the stand mixer running on low speed, gradually add the honey, egg, egg yolk, melted butter, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Beat for 1 min and add remaining ½ cup of flour. Beat for another minute on low speed. The dough should be thick, slightly sticky and pulling away from the sides of the bowl as it mixes. If the dough is too sticky add more flour 1 Tablespoon at a time.

3. Form dough into a ball and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes, then place into a large bowl greased with olive oil and coat all sides of the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a slightly warm oven to rise until doubled, about 2 hours. For this, I turn on the oven to 200°F (93°C) for a minute only then turn it off. I also place a bowl for boiling water to increase the level of humidity and keep the oven lights on (helps create a warm environment),

4. Once doubled in size, punch down the dough to release any air bubbles. Remove dough from the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a dough scraper, cut the dough in half. Cut each half into 8 evenly sized pieces for a total of 16 pieces (the balls have to be equal in size to bake uniformly). Shape into balls and arrange in a greased 9×13 baking pan. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in size and puffy, about 1 hour.

5. 30min before baking, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Bake the rolls for 20min until the tops are golden brown and the edges of each roll look cooked. While the rolls bake, mix the topping ingredients. Remove the rolls from the oven when they are done and brush a generous amount of honey butter onto each warm roll and sprinkle with za’atar.

6. Cover leftovers and keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months, then thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Warm up in a 300°F (149°C) oven for 10 minutes.

Make ahead tip/overnight: After dough has risen two hours in step 3, punch down the dough inside the mixing bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days, then remove from the refrigerator and continue with step 4.

Mini mana’eesh with homemade labneh

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There’s nothing better than a hot manousheh right off the saj, a domed large cast iron griddle. The flatbread dough recipe is a mix of water, flour, yeast, and salt, rolled out and smothered with a za’atar* olive oil paste or shredded white cheese. Sounds very simple right? But it’s not common to make homemade mana’eesh (plural of manousheh) in Lebanon since local bakeries have the best tools and techniques to create a perfect manousheh every single time. It’s also very fresh, cheap, and accessible in Beirut city or the suburbs. It’s available literally everywhere for breakfast, lunch, or at dawn after a long night of partying.

*za’atar is a mix of dried thyme, sumac, roasted sesame seeds, and salt. It’s one of those ingredients that can be used in any meal – sprinkled on eggs, dairy, meats, or roasted vegetables.

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When taken off the saj, the flatbread slightly deflates then it is topped with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and mint leaves and served rolled up in parchment paper. The key characteristics of a great manousheh is a flat bubbly surface, crisp edges, and most importantly a very chewy center with just the right amount of filling.

My favorite way to eat a za’atar manousheh for breakfast is usually with sour labneh and cherry tomatoes. I posted step by step instructions at the bottom of the page explaining how to turn regular yogurt into creamy and tangy labneh. I almost never eat labneh without a good amount of za’atar, olive oil, and fresh hot bread –making it a wonderful accompaniment to manousheh. You can sweep it, mound it, shmear it, or eat it in a spoonful. It’s THAT good.

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I used to eat mana’eesh on a weekly basis back home in Lebanon but it is hard to find a fresh manousheh bakery in NYC, and sometimes all I want are just a couple of bites of that magically chewy dough in the morning with Arabic coffee. So I found an easy and quick way to make mini mana’eesh that hit the spot every time.

A lot of recipes online call for eggs, milk, or butter for the dough. But the truth is you don’t need any of these ingredients to make a traditional manousheh dough. Also, try to avoid all-purpose flour because the secret for a wonderfully chewy bread texture is gluten, lots of it. That’s why a high protein strong bread flour is essential here; it results in a more elastic and dense dough.

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Manousheh – Recipe adapted from Mediterranean Cookbook, makes about 44, 2.5″ mana’eesh
7g instant dried yeast (¼ ounce package, about 2¼ tsp)
½ tsp sugar
15ml lukewarm water
450g (1lb) strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
300ml lukewarm water
6 tbsp za’atar
4½ tbsp olive oil (or just enough to turn za’atar into a paste)

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 20ml lukewarm water (85°F to 95°F). Leave to cream for 10 minutes.

2. Sift the bread flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the creamed yeast. Gradually add 300ml lukewarm water and draw the flour in from the sides to form a dough.

3. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic (alternatively, you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook) then shape into a ball. Pour a drop of olive oil into the base of a bowl, spread around with fingers, then roll the dough in the oil to coat it all around. Cover with a damp cloth or cling film and place in a warm place for one hour until it has doubled in size.

4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) for at least 30 minutes before starting to bake. In a small bowl, pour olive oil over the za’atar until it turns into a paste. You don’t want the mix to be too oily. Knock back the dough and knead it lightly, then divide it into 44 parts (approximately 15g each) using a bench scraper or sharp knife. Space out the equal parts of dough and cover with a damp cloth to prevent forming a crust.

5. Take a small piece of dough, shape lightly into a ball and roll it out into a 2.5″ inch circle using a rolling pin. Smear about 1/2 tsp of the za’atar paste on top and, using two fingers, create a small indent in the middle. Lightly dab the edges with olive oil to give it a golden color and place on a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Continue working with the rest of the dough to fit as many as possible on a single sheet. Bake in batches, one sheet at a time to prevent the prepared mana’eesh from rising.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, until barely golden. Do not overbake the mana’eesh or they will turn out very tough and crispy and instead of soft and chewy (I usually like to test the baking time for one manousheh before proceeding with the rest). While the first batch is the oven, start shaping the rest of the dough balls into mana’eesh and place on a second parchment lined baking sheet. Proceed with baking until you’re all done.

7. Mana’eesh can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature, or frozen for up to 2 months. Simply heat them up for a few minutes before serving.


Homemade Labneh
32 ounces of organic plain yogurt (I like Seven Stars Farm)
generous pinch of salt
tsp fresh lemon juice

Directions:
1. Line a mesh strainer with 3 to 4 layers of cheesecloth and set over a deep bowl.

2. Add the salt and lemon juice to the yogurt and stir. Pour the yogurt mixture into the cheesecloth-lined strainer and gather the edges of the cheesecloth together to tie with a string or elastic band.

3. Place the bowl as it is in the fridge. Alternatively, you can place a long piece of wood or 2 sturdy chopsticks across the top part of the bowl and tie the cheesecloth in the middle to let it hang without touching the bottom.

4. Strain for 8 to 12 hours for a smooth and soft labneh consistency or 24-48 for a thick and firm consistency (I prefer the latter, but it’s really up to you!).

5. Take out the labneh from the fridge and transfer to a glass container. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

 

Homemade Croissants

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I’ve always been very curious about baking and the art of pastry. That’s mainly why I started this blog– to pursue my passion, take risks, experiment with different recipes, and write about the most successful ones. It’s not just about sharing recipes, but also building a portfolio and documenting my progress over time.

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Homemade croissants have been on my to do list for a very long time and I finally had some free time– and by free time I mean a whole weekend!– to prepare them. I was kind of nervous and worried that they won’t be successful on my first trial because I don’t have a professional pastry background or anyone to guide me through the whole process. But after reading several blog posts and watching a few videos about making croissant, I felt like I was ready to give it a shot. I fell across Top with Cinnamon’s homemade croissant recipe, and I after seeing her gorgeous pictures and step by step gifs, I had to try it out.

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The process of making the layered yeast-leavened dough is time consuming. It basically involves layering the dough with ALOT of butter through a “rolling and folding” technique. If done right, the croissants will have crispy flaky exterior and a tender layered interior when baked. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing and eating the result of your hard work! 😀

Note: I posted my detailed hourly schedule for preparing croissants at the bottom of the page!

Preparing the dough

Ingredients: Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
1 cup (250 ml) cold milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) boiling water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
3 ¾ cup (500 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (9 oz/ 250 g) butter, frozen, then left at room temp. for 20-30 minutes

Directions:
1. Have all your ingredients measured and ready.
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2. Pour the milk and boiling water into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and sugar, leave for 5 minutes until frothy.

3. Add in the flour and salt to the milk, incorporate it with your hands into a shaggy ball.

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5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.

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6. When your dough has been in the fridge for 30 minutes, take your frozen butter (which has been left at room temperature for 20 min), and grate onto a piece of cling film

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7. Disperse the butter, and flatten into a 8″ x 5″ (20 x 13 cm) rectangle. Fold up in the cling film and pat together well (make sure it’s nicely compacted).  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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8. Once the butter has been chilling for 25 minutes, tip the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle.

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9. Unwrap the chilled butter block and place into the center of the dough. Fold the dough into thirds over the butter. Seal all the edges by pinching the dough together.

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10. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, use the rolling pin to make regular indentations in the dough. Roll into a 16″ x 10″ (40 x 25 cm) rectangle. (I used toothpicks as a reference for the measurements).

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11. Fold into thirds like a business letter. Wrap the dough in cling film, and refrigerate for 1 hour.  (steps 10+11 make “one turn” of the dough).

10. Remove the dough from the fridge, unwrap and complete 1 turn (repeat steps 10+ 11, roll out dough then fold again). Re-wrap in the cling film, refrigerate for 1 hour.

11. Fold two more times, so you have done a total of 4 turns.

12. Cut the dough into quarters. Wrap the quarters tightly in cling film and refrigerate for 8-12 hours, or freeze for up to 3 months (if you freeze it, let the dough defrost in the fridge overnight before shaping).

Shaping the dough

1. Remove one quarter of dough from the fridge, unwrap it, and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 16″ x 6″ rectangle.

2. Cut into thirds, forming 3 smaller rectangles. Cut each of these rectangles in half diagonally forming 6 triangles.

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3. Take one triangle of dough (putting the others in the fridge to prevent the butter from melting).

4. Pull on the corners of the shortest edge, to even up the base of the triangle. Then gently stretch the dough a little

5. Cut a small slit in the base of the triangle, stretch it, then roll the dough up.

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You can add different fillings to the croissants, like chopped chocolate, zaa’tar, or almond paste.

7. Place it, tip side down, onto a lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the triangles, placing them 2″ (5 cm) apart.

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8. Cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise in a cool place for around 2-3 hours ( if you’re making these the night before, you can actually shape them and leave them to rise in the fridge overnight instead).

You can also freeze the shaped croissants on the baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer them to a plastic bag and leave in the freezer for up to 3 months, then defrost in the fridge overnight and proceed as below.

Baking the croissants:

1. Once ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450°F (220°C).
2. Brush the croissants with a beaten egg using a pastry brush and put into the oven.
3. Immediately lower the temperature to 400°F (200°C), and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Reduce the temperature to 350°F (180°C) and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until well browned and puffy.
5. Let cool on a wire rack.

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All of these steps might seem daunting at first, that’s why I wrote down my personal schedule for making homemade croissant. This will help in not missing any step! Bon Appétit!

Time Schedule:

• Day 1
8:00 AM
Place butter in the freezer.

8:00 AM
8:10 AM
Measure ingredients.

8:10 AM
Combine cold milk, boiling water, yeast, and sugar together.

8:15 AM → 8:20 AM
Mix in the flour and salt, then mix to form a ball. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, and refrigerate for an hour.

8:30 AM
Take out the butter from the freezer.

8:50 AM → 8:55 AM
Grate the butter, shape into a rectangle, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

9:30 AM → 9:35 AM
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, add the block of butter, complete turn 1, and refrigerate.

10:30 AM
Turn 2.

11:30 AM
Turn 3.

12:30 PM
Turn 4 – Cut the dough into quarters and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate the dough for at least 8-12 hours. You can continue baking at 9 PM, or wait until the next day to complete the rest of the steps.

• Day 2
8:00 AM 8:20 AM
Roll out a quarter of a dough, cut into triangles, and shape into croissants.

8:20 AM 10:20 AM
Leave the croissants to rise.

10:00 AM
Preheat the oven to 450°F (22o°C).

10:20 AM 10:25 AM
Brush croissants with beaten egg

10:25 AM
Bake in the oven, following the instructions above.

10:50 AM
Croissants are done!

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