The first time I bit into a warm manouche was with my best friend Amanda. Though the circumstance is fuzzy in my head, I remember the toasty pita was covered in blend of spices so fragrant you could taste them with a hearty inhale. Za’atar, I later learned, was that deep, herbal spice blend that made the manouche so aromatic and irresistable. I haven’t been able to get enough since that fateful day.
Za’atar is generic name for a blend of spices native to the middle east. The mixture varies by region but the base of spices is typically the same; thyme, oregano, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. Sometimes with savory, sometimes with marjoram. I prefer mine made the way my best friend’s mom makes it (or at least how I think she makes it based on the many times I’ve eaten it) with the occasional addition of some fennel pollen which really pops with the earthy spices.
When added to the dough of these Whole Wheat Za’atar Bagels, it’s magic. Warm, yeasty Montreal-style bagels flecked with aromatic za’atar and sprinkled with a bit of extra tangy sumac and sea salt to really bring it home. They’re as special right out of the oven with butter as they are with homemade labneh and fresh tomatoes. They freeze extremely well, especially if you pre-slice them before freezing. Toast them up and pile them high with your favourite toppings. Whatever you do, be sure to breath them in good and long before eating. That’s the magic of za’atar.
Montreal-Style Za’atar Bagels
adapted from NYTimes
Makes: 15-18 bagels, depending on size
Time: 15 minutes hands-on time, 40 minutes resting + baking
Notes: If you don’t like za’atar, feel free to leave it out. Instead, drag the bagels through sesame seeds when they come out of the boiling liquid and they’ll be very simlar to a Montreal-Style bagel.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp (8oz, 1 packet) dry active yeast
1 tsp white sugar
2 tsp salt 3 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp za’atar*
3 cups all purpose (unbleached) white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat all purpose flour
1/3 cup honey or maple syrupTo garnish:
Use the rest of thiz za’atar to sprinkle over roasted vegetables or to mix into cottage cheese, soups, over eggs or a warm baked pita with labneh.
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 cup sumac
4 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano is especially good here)
1/2 tsp salt pinch fennel pollen (optional)
Stir all ingredients and pour into a glass jar. Store in a cool dark place for 2 months.