An Italian flatbread featuring a Middle-Eastern herb? Why not?
Italy and much of the Middle East have a lot in common. They share the Mediterranean climate. Both love olive oil. In both regions, people bake a variety of flatbreads. And za’atar’s flavor is closely related to oregano, the spice dusted over those iconic Italian dishes, pizza and lasagna. Here in Israel, most pizzerias leave big shakers of both oregano and za’atar out on the counter for customers to flavor their pizzas as they wish.
We liked this easy recipe for olive and za’atar-topped focaccia very much. My family couldn’t wait to tear into it as soon as I took it out of the oven. Use your preferred olives, just make sure they’re pitted. In spite of olives’ saltiness, don’t forgo the final sprinkling of flaky salt for the delicious crunch it gives.
Olive and Za’atar-Topped Focaccia
2¼ teaspoon (1 packet) active dry yeast; or 50 grams (2 oz) fresh yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1¾ cups warm water
5 cups (600 grams) bread flour plus more as needed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more as needed
½ cup pitted black or green olives
1 tablespoon za’atar, or to taste
Flaky salt, to taste
Dissolve the yeast with sugar in the warm water.
Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Alternatively, you can make this dough by hand. Note that the dough will be tacky. Add the water and yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the flour mixture.
Turn the mixer to stir, and allow it to mix until a shaggy dough is just formed, 5-6 minutes. If the dough is too moist to cohere, add flour, a tablespoon at a time, while mixing, until a smooth, elastic dough forms.
Remove the dough from the mixer, gently form into a ball, and transfer to a well-oiled bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl to cover it with a film of oil.
Cover the dough with a recycled plastic bag or plastic wrap.
Place the covered dough in a warm part of the kitchen and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.
Spread 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet.
Punch the dough down, then transfer it to the baking sheet. Gently press the dough, spreading it into the edges of the baking sheet to form a rectangle. Flip it over to cover both sides with the olive oil.
Poke dimples all over the dough with your fingers. Cut open a plastic bag to cover the dough, or use plastic wrap. In either case, brush the inner surface with oil so it won’t stick to the dough. Let the dough rise again for 45 minutes to an hour.
While the dough is rising again, preheat the oven to 425°F. – 220°C.
Scatter the olives over the dough and push them in lightly. Sprinkle za’atar and flaky salt over all.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown with a crisp crust. Dribble a little more olive oil over the hot focaccia and allow it to cool slightly before serving.
Want another cool recipe? We have one for za’atar-topped pita, another variation on the bread/za’atar combination.
Adapted recipe and photo from The Nosher.