An enriched, soft bread swirled with a filling of za’atar and olive oil makes excellent toast, a beautiful presentation at any table, and a lovely gift. The recipe makes two loaves, so you’ll have one to share. Be sure to wrap well and freeze the bread if not eating within a day.
SERVINGS: 2 15-INCH LOAVES | RECIPE BY: MAUREEN ABOOD
FOR THE DOUGH:
1 packet active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons
3/4 cup warm water, about 105 degrees
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
FOR THE FILLING:
3 tablespoons za’atar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
FOR THE EGG WASH + FINISHING:
1 large egg, beaten
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Wajd or Maldon
1. In a large mixing bowl (in a stand mixer or by hand), dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water until it is creamy and foaming, about 10 minutes. Blend in the olive and eggs with a spoon or the hook attachment in the stand mixer. Mix in two cups of the flour, one cup at a time, along with the 2 teaspoons salt. Beat or work with your hands for 2 minutes. Slowly add the remaining flour ½ cup at a time until you have a soft dough that is only slightly sticky.
2. Knead the dough until smooth on a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding flour to keep the dough from sticking, 5 to 10 minutes. Even if you’re using the stand mixer to start, do this by hand to enjoy the full experience of this wonderful dough. Place in a clean large, lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes.
3. In a small bowl, stir the za’atar and olive oil.
4. When dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a large, lightly floured work surface. Taking control of the dough and using a measuring tape, roll the dough into a 9×30-inch rectangle. Spoon the za’atar filling over the dough and spread to about an inch around the perimeter, leaving that perimeter clean.
5. Starting along a long side, tightly roll up the dough, pinching the edge against loaf to seal it. With a sharp knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise. Gently turn the halves so the cut sides are facing up, and then loosely twist the halves around each other, keeping the cut sides up. Pinch the center of the long twist to separate the twist into two even lengths. Pinch all of the ends of the loaves to hold the twists together.
6. Line a baking sheet with parchment or non-stick baking mat. Carefully transfer the ropes to the baking sheet by picking up portions and moving them gently a bit at a time. Leave as much space as possible between the loaves. Brush the tops of the loaves with the beaten egg. Let them rise again, lightly covered, in a warm place until puffy, about 45 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the loaves again with the egg wash, and this time sprinkle the tops evenly with the sea salt. Bake the loaves until they are light golden brown in spots, about 25 minutes.
8. Cut into slices and serve warm.