“But then Oma tells me of bread, of the six hundred kinds made throughout her homeland, white and gray and black in color. Loaves heavy with pumpkin seeds. Pumpernickel. Rye. All with long, dense names like ‘Sonnenblumenkernbrot’ and ‘Roggenmischbrot’. Each word is music to her. She has never eaten a tinned bread bagged in plastic with a little twist tie, a pride she wears all over. ‘It matters,’ she tells me. ‘Wes Brot ich ess, des Lied ich sing.’
Whose bread I eat, his song I sing.” – Christa Parrish, Stones of Bread
Blame it on my German heritage but I love bread rolls. And bread in general. I grew up eating bread for breakfast, dinner and sometimes lunch. In the morning I would go to our neighbourhood bakery and pick up a bag of freshly baked rolls. At home, my mum would slice each roll in two half and I would start eating the soft middle part first before spreading butter and plum jam on it. In the evening we would eat sliced sourdough bread or leftover rolls from the morning topped with cold cuts and cheeses. I don’t remember that we had much else for breakfast and dinner. No salads, no warm meal (because these were reserved for lunch), no Mexican or Indian or Thai or Italian food. Just good old German bread and rolls.
Nowadays I eat much less bread. Or I eat it in different ways. Like pizza, wraps or flatbreads. However, I still find it amusing to see how much the bread-eating habit is ingrained in German culture. Especially that of eating bread rolls. No matter if it’s a croissant, French baguette, Indian Naan or thin pita, we Germans need to slice everything in half and smother it with a thick layer of butter. I myself had to learn that it’s perfectly fine to spread some jam in the bottom part of a croissant without dissembling it first. Or that pita bread is meant to be dipped into hummus rather than slicing it open and spreading the hummus with a knife.
I’ve come a long way food-wise from my early childhood to now but I still love bread rolls. I still love slicing a bun in half, covering each side with my favourite toppings or eating it like a sandwich.
Since moving to Dubai I’ve had my fair share of wonderful Lebanese food. Lebanon and Beirut is one of my favorite food destinations in the region and my go-to comfort food. Whenever you ask for good local restaurants in Dubai, chances are at 99% somebody will either recommend an Indian or Lebanese place. So I basically live in food heaven right now and I wouldn’t even dare to make an attempt at baking Lebanese flatbread at home when there are local bakeries with proven family recipes just around the corner. However, the thing with flatbreads is that you can buy one or two but never keep them longer than a day because they dry out.
Not so much with buns. Or at least, they are easier to freeze. That is, in my German brain they are easier to freeze and de-freeze. So I made Za’atar Man’oushe Buns the other day. Manoushe is the local name for Lebanese flatbread. It’s usually a slightly sweet white dough but I replaced parts of it with whole wheat flour and less sugar to make it more hearty. Instead of butter, I smothered it with hummus, a good drizzle of olive oil, some mint leaves and sea salt. That’s all I need to be happy. That and a cool breeze on a weekday evening at the beach.
Lebanese Za’atar Man’oushe Buns
- 360g / 2.5 cups wholewheat bread flour
- 150g / 1 cup white flour
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 300 ml / 1.25 cups lukewarm water
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 60 g / ½ cup za'atar
- 118 ml/ ½ cup olive oil
- In a small bowl mix za'atar with olive oil and set aside
- Start by mixing lukewarm water with sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle with yeast. Set aside and wait for 10 min or until you see some foam on the surface. That means your yeast is activated and ready to go.
- Sift the bread and white flour, oil and salt in the large bowl with the yeast water mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon and kneading everything into a shaggy dough.
- On a lightly floured surface knead dough for 5-7 min...knead, knead, knead until its smooth or use a stand mixer for about 5 min.
- Form a big ball and grease the inside of the bowl with a little bit of oil.
- Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and put it in a warm place for at least 1.5 hours, preferably 2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Once the dough has at least doubled in size, punch down the dough.
- Place dough on a lightly-floured surface, knead gently for a few seconds. Divide dough into 6-8 equal parts. Form 6-8 balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a damp kitchen towel again and let them rest for 30 min.
- Turn on oven to 200 C° / 400 F°
- After 30 min, brush with 1-2 tbsp of za'atar spread.
- Bake until golden brown for about 10-15 min.
- Cut in half and serve with hummus, olive oil, sea salt and mint or your
favoritetoppings and fillings like avocado, cheese or even jam.
Recipe inspired by and adapted from A Shaggy Dough Story’s “Manoushe -Lebanese flatbread“