Over the years, I have written a lot about breads from different parts of the world. And in different areas there are 'styles' which are typical for that place. Many times the kind of bread is pretty much determined by geography and climate. So, for instance, in Eastern Europe, with its long. cold winters and short, hot summers, the breads include lots of rye flour, since it grows in that relatively harsh climate. The breads tend to be heavier, denser affairs, sometimes with dried fruit or imported spiced to 'liven' them up a bit.
Another example might be the breads of Asia. I know, Asia is huge. In fact it is the hugest. But in terms of bread, almost all breads from this massive continent are flat breads. Even breads using yeast tend to be fairly flat. In fact, the first breads are likely Asian, baked on a hot stone or in a stone oven. Maneesh is no exception. Originating in the Middle East, and super popular in Israel, Jordan and Lebanon, this bread is typically baked in a stone oven slathered with olive oil and covered with sesame seeds and za'atar (hyssop). You can find it in any open market and it is definitely street food. For very little money, you can buy one and gobble it up while doing your weekly market shopping! The za'atar, btw, is a native herb closely related to the oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, marjoram family of herbs in terms of flavor. If you can't find it, at a Middle Eastern or Greek grocery, any or all of the these can easily substitute.
Here's What You'll Need:
- 500g/1lb 2oz AP flour or bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 10g/¼oz salt
- 25g/1oz powdered sugar
- 10g/¼oz instant yeast
- 20ml/4 tsp olive oil, plus extra for kneading
- 360ml/12fl oz tepid waterAlso for the topping:about 1/3 cup toasted sesame seedsabout 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs or 3-4 Tbs. dry herbs (za'atar or other Mediterranean herbs)olive oilHere's What You'll Need To Do:1. Mix together the flour, yeast salt and sugar. Then add in the olive oil. Gradually add the water (you may not need all of it) mixing by hand to form a soft, not sticky, dough.2. Spread a little olive oil on the tabletop, then remove the dough and knead it on the oiled surface. It will be shaggy at first, but after 5 to 10 minutes will become very smooth and supple. Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, covered, to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.3. Remove the dough from the bowl, punch down to remove the air, then divide into 3 fairly equal pieces. Stretch the dough, using your fingers, into a rough circle, then cover with plastic to rest about 25 minutes. The dough will puff up but not double.4. Preheat the oven to 450 F (220 C). 'Dimple' the dough with your fingers carefully so as not to deflate too much, then brush the top with a paste made from the remaining oil and herbs. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow. The bottom should be deep brown and crispy as well. B'tayavon - Bon Appetit (in Hebrew)!